You know, sometimes y’all think I exaggerate and I’m not REALLY that shy or weird and in person I’m probably just fiiiine and completely normal. I don’t know WHY y’all think this, but you do, and I know because you tell me so. I predict a sharp drop-off in that sort of sentiment right about…. now.
I don’t volunteer to do much of anything. But if you ask me, I’ll almost always agree.
I don’t have a problem saying ‘no’ and then listing a million reasons why I don’t want to – it’s just that I prefer the strategy of being invisible first so that no one notices me or thinks to ask me anything in the first place. (brill, I know!)
So when someone asked me to help out with the older kids at church on Sunday, I agreed. Even though I prefer the little ones. Even though last time I was in the 3 yr old room, one of them asked if I would please wipe his bottom exactly five times after he pooped because that was the number his parents suggested. But helping the little ones wasn’t the request.
I showed up at the appointed time, fake smile in place. And there…. there was one of my biggest, oldest, lifelong scariest phobias of all time. I should have expected it. If I’d given it more thought, I woulda known. But I didn’t.
There was a large group of kids singing Christian songs. No problem. It’s kids. It’s church. It’s worship.
But when you add in Hand Motions, I lose all perspective and it affects my breathing. I do not want to see/participate/hear/sense kids doing swishy hand motions to songs. Hand Motions are silly, in an almost unexplainably, highly threatening way. I am not silly. (shut it, I’m NOT. I’m ridiculous, and that is DIFFERENT.)
I HATED that part of childhood. Yes, Hand Motions With Singing is a viable Part of Childhood now.
I was not a silly kid. I was not the child who would grow up to be someone who appreciates Jim Carrey’s humor. Yaknow? I was a solemn kid very busy perfecting the art of Blending Into The Wallpaper. Songs with Hand Motions is totally counterproductive to this, my childhood life’s mission. It was a problem at church, at church camp, occasionally at school, and those 5+ yrs I did children’s ministry. But the other ladies understood and let me stand in the back or hide during that time, so it was fine.
Always, it was something to be endured. Even as a kid, it affected my breathing and I couldn’t stand it. I didn’t get why adults always thought this was a good idea for kids. (And fine, it IS a lovely idea for every single other kid, and even in the name of the Lord, but ooooh not me.) I used to be okay if it was a song with Sign Language. That is a valid, admirable Real Language, and not the same at all. I’m fine with that and always was. But when you have to spell giant letters with your whole body or pretend to swim, or make sound effects, or anything else that is not part of Sign Language — then you have crossed the bridge on over to Silly and that I just cannot do. I cannot find a sense of humor and just go with it. That is impossible. I can’t fake it. I just canNOT do Hand Motions.
So I stood at the back of the room and wished I’d worn something with pockets. It looked hostile the way I kept crossing my arms, but I FELT hostile, and the fake smile wasn’t helping. I finally made myself hold my hands loosely behind my back. In case anyone looked, then maybe that wouldn’t be quite so rude. And no, I did not EVEN briefly consider doing the stupid Hand Motions. I can’t. I couldn’t. I would have passed out. I’m kinda freaking out just re-living in order to type about it, and even now I keep noticing I’m holding my breath. I’ll type faster.
It went ON. And then it went ON. SOME. MORE. Because it was my first (and only) time, I had no idea if this went on forever, or if it just would feel like it. I checked the exits. There was a woman with a nice-not-fake smile standing by one of the doors. I’ve talked to her maybe once. I asked her how much longer with the singing. I couldn’t help it. That was my strategy in childhood as well. Mental countdown. She gave me a funny look but told me maybe ten or fifteen minutes. I might have looked a little like I was about to cry, but I wasn’t. It was just that holding my breath and trying to avoid an all out anxiety attack was making my eyes water. And that’s really so different. “Sorry,” I said. “I’m just really allergic to the singing with the motions and the hands and everything.”
In hindsight, ‘allergic’ was not the right word, but I was kinda out of it with the decreased oxygen to the brain and all. Also, this is one of those times where I wish I were not QUITE so candid where I just don’t know how to sugarcoat something and out comes the Crazy Truth.
She smiled, then laughed, then realized I was definitely serious and so she tried to make a solemn face and pretend she hadn’t just laughed at me and then she told me good luck. And then she got out of there. I think I had the same effect on her that the music was having on me. I wanted to run after her, but I didn’t because she was running FROM ME and if I did then she’d be really scared. And I didn’t want to scare the nice lady.
I returned to the kids and the music. With the motions. And the motion sickness.
I would have rather been wiping a 3 yr old’s bottom exactly 5 times after he pooped because that is the number his parents suggested.
I would have rather been somewhere where toads and frogs and gnats and flies were touching me.
I would have rather been making small talk somewhere.
I only stayed because I said I would. And the person who asked me was RIGHT THERE and I couldn’t sneak out.
I made it. They finally STOPPED. I was so glad. The rest of the kids’ service was fine. They didn’t need me at all, but I enjoyed watching the different kids’ personalities.
I lived. I made it through kids’ church. I learned that next time – if there is a next time – I am asked, I will gladly violate my usual policy of ‘don’t volunteer, but agree if asked.’
Next time I will say NO WAY. Send me to the kids who are not fully potty trained and who tend to wipe snot on me. That I can handle. But keep me away from the kids who can wipe their own butts and sing while spelling “J-O-Y” with their whole bodies because those kids scare the breath right out of me.