December 13th, 2006

Holy Moley

All right, I admit it. I didn’t sign on to teach a third-grade catechism class for any great altruistic reasons. I just thought it would be an easy way to work some more kid-time into my schedule—and, I optimistically imagined, garner story idea after story idea.


Oh, the naivete.


My first year, when my class of 23 included 19 boys (among them two Jacobs, a Jake, a Jack, and a Jason), it rapidly became clear that I was in over my head. Once we hit the lesson on sin (venial v. mortal), they wanted to discuss all the fine points: if you are carrying a very sharp pencil, for instance, and you trip and accidentally stab a person in the eye and that person dies, would that be a venial sin or a mortal sin? And exactly how would the police be likely to react to this? (I believe it was after this discussion that I refused to allow anyone permission to sharpen their pencils. You can’t be too careful.)


Last year’s group was more into death than sin, particularly discussions of what precisely Heaven will be like, and whether or not PlayStations are likely to be available.


Along the way, there were some other interesting discussions that I hadn’t anticipated. Discussions that left me feeling like I should have parents sign permission slips before I allowed the kids to participate. Such as:


“Miss D., what’s ‘fruit of your womb?’”

“Miss D., what’s ‘immaculate conception?’”

“Miss D., I don't get it! How can God be Jesus’s father, if Mary was married to Joseph?”


But this year’s group is definitely more fixated on issues of human biology than my other two classes. And they want to discuss it at the strangest times. Like last night, when we were having a very straightforward lesson on the Apostles’ Creed.


“Do priests get married?” Kacy asked suddenly.


“That’s sad.” (The girls are very precocious—and totally fixated on marriage. And associated topics.)

“What about nuns? Do they get married?” This was Kacy again.


“Do they have kids?” I was a little concerned when Troy piped up. You can never tell where this kid is going to carry a conversation.


“What if they just get kids?”

I’m pretty sure I managed to stifle my smile. “You can’t just get kids.” Naïve in the ways of the world I may be, but on this point I was pretty confident. So you can imagine my surprise when all four of the kids immediately jumped into the fray, adamantly declaring that of course you can just get kids. And then Troy overrode the others, as he so often does.

“Like my mom, one time she had a motorcycle accident and she fell on this guy, and she went to the hospital and they told her she was going to have a baby, and it was me!”


Oh my.


It got me thinking about another surprising conversation I had recently, when I was at dinner with the female members of an editorial team, and the editor unexpectedly initiated a rousing round of “Who Would You Do?” (I didn’t think anyone over 15 played that game. I was so, so wrong.)


This rapidly devolved into a discussion of when we each learned The Facts of Life and the varying levels of disgust with which we reacted. I won for funniest reaction when I confessed the depth of my dismay at the whole process, so carefully explained by my mother. I never doubted I’d get married and have kids; I just figured I’d fall in love with some nice guy as repulsed by The Whole Thing as I was, and we’d adopt. Because of course we would never do anything like that. (Funny how opinions can change, eh?)


This is not the track I expected my thoughts to roll along following a catechism class!  


Worst of all, these kids have given me not one single story idea in three years--well, not one I'm likely to sell to the Catholic children's magazine, anyway! It hardly seems fair. But, on the other hand, maybe my teacherly devotion will land me a spot at one of the few PlayStations in Heaven. Guess I’ll just have to wait and see.


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