Today was a test of patience...and I failed miserably.
I didn't have to start work until noon today, so I had some time to go back to bed after family scripture study. Since I've been recovering from a cold and have felt rotten and been extra tired for several days, this should have been a huge boon. Unfortunately, the moment I was horizontal, I started coughing like crazy! And the medicine I'd taken didn't help, so there was nothing for it but to deal with it. Ergo, my extra nap was not as restful as it should have been. Bad omen.
Right after I arrived at work, my boss sent me to my normal classroom (the three-year-olds), where I don't usually take over until 3:00. Again, that shouldn't have been too bad: the kids were all down for naps, most of them were already asleep, the few who were still awake would probably fall asleep quickly, and most of them wouldn't wake up until after 2:00. That was the theory, anyway. Unfortunately, two of the three kids who were still awake were the ones who are hardest to get to sleep. That would have been fine if they had just lain quietly on their beds. But they weren't exactly being quiet, and they all but completely ignored all of my requests to be quiet and hold still. Not only did I not manage to get even one of those three kids to sleep, but they were so noisy that they eventually woke up the other kids! Kid 1 woke up kid 2, they started chattering and laughing (ignoring all my efforts to stop them, even when I separated them), and their noise woke up kid 3 and kid 4. It all kind of snowballed from there. By 1:30, all but one of the eleven kids in the room were awake. So much for nap time. And of course, the rest of the day was slightly more frazzling than usual because all of the kids were grumpy from their shortened (or, in the case of some of the kids, completely absent) naps. Joy.
The biggest problem I have with this scenario is that I didn't handle it the best way I could have. I was so tired from being sick and from working 8 or more hours Monday through Wednesday, and I was beyond frustrated with the fact that the kids basically weren't listening to me at all. That pulled to the surface my discouragement with the fact that never once have I really succeeded in getting the kids to sleep, even including all the times I worked during nap time last summer. I was feeling totally useless, wondering how on earth other teachers could do this and why I couldn't. I snapped at a couple of kids, including one who, despite being a pain during nap time, is one of my favorites. The hurt look on his face was the straw that broke the camel's back, and I sat down and cried, there in the classroom. I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried, but I am ashamed to admit that I snapped at the kids. I know that patience has never been my strongest attribute, and I've been trying really hard to work on it, but I just don't feel like I'm improving. And then, of course, nasty nagging thoughts and doubts started to creep in, as they always do when one is in such a mood. I started to think, "How can I do this all summer if I'm already to the lost-patience point after three weeks of working here? How can I enjoy my job if I let the kids get to me like this? Not only that, but if I can lose patience with a couple of kids during work after only an hour (when I only have to see them for a maximum of ten hours a day), how can I possibly be a good mother? How can I be nurturing and loving to my own children if I snap at the first sign of resistance from them?"
Several hours after nap time, with a few happy play time moments and then some time at home, I am able to look on this experience with a little more perspective and a little less emotion. However, the discouragement is still there. Perhaps when I'm working full-time in the three-year-olds' room, I'll be able to get some advice from the other teacher on how best to get the kids to sleep, or at least quiet. For now, I'll just have to remember that the teachers I've been watching, the ones who seem to be able to get the kids to bed with little trouble, have been doing so for a lot longer than I have. And I also need to remember that they probably have their fair share of difficulties with these kids too. Maybe by the end of the summer (just before I quit :)) I'll be able to celebrate a successful nap time too.