Archived Story

Children delight and scare at the same time

Published 9:53am Friday, December 13, 2013

Column: Things I Tell My Wife, by Matthew Knutson

“We’re probably not quite ready for kids,” I reminded my wife as she showed me a particularly adorable photo of her matron of honor’s son. She had that longing look in her eyes.

I’m certainly not opposed to us having children, but I’m far too practical to actively want one at this stage in our lives. Beesly, our puppy, provides more than enough sleep loss for the both of us.

We talked about having kids before we got married, as all couples should do. While Sera would like a slightly larger brood than myself, I’m sure we’ll find a happy medium. Until that time, I get to experience children every Wednesday at church serving as the first-grade faith formation teacher.

That weekly hour both guarantees my sainthood and is the perfect birth control method for this Catholic. I simply don’t know how anyone can be a parent of a first-grader.

Within a span of two minutes these kids have gone from saying the “Hail Mary” prayer to making zombie noises and pretending to eat each other’s brains. I don’t know how anyone can prepare for something like that.

I first started teaching faith formation when I was in high school, and my favorite story is when a second-grader proudly shouted, “I’m not Catholic!” Being slightly puzzled as to why his parents enrolled him in my classroom, I asked him what religion he practiced. “I’m not Catholic,” he repeated, and then proudly proclaimed, “I’m American!” He was happy to discover he could, in fact, be both.

We’re currently working on our Christmas program. This week my first-graders learned “Away in a Manger” with actions and the classic “Silent Night.” We’ll be performing these two selections next week with the preschoolers, kindergartners and second-graders.

It’s a decent-sized bunch of tiny humans, so of course rehearsal was chaotic. When they did calm down, I had to hold in my laughter due to their incredibly disinterested facial expressions.

There may in fact be nothing funnier than 30 bored-yet-adorable faces looking at you while not even attempting to sing or do actions to the song we’ve rehearsed for the past 20 minutes. Contrasting with their disinterest, the other teachers are acting like the stage moms from “Toddlers and Tiaras” in hopes that one of their pupils starts rocking their arms back in forth when we get to the part in the song where Jesus should be asleep in the hay.

Next week will certainly be interesting when the parents come to see their children and find out their’s is the son who insists on lifting up his shirt and drumming on his stomach even though “The Little Drummer Boy” is not included in our song selections.

The fun of teaching these kids isn’t limited to the Christmas program. A few weeks ago my first-graders were told that the Rev. Paul Lippstock would be visiting our classroom, and they could ask him questions on whatever they wanted to talk to him about. These ranged from, “Where do you get your clothes?” to “Will you tell God hello from me?” My first-graders apparently save the difficult questions for me. So far this year I’ve been asked, “Who created God?” “Who chose Santa to deliver all the presents?” and “Where do babies come from?” I’m beginning to learn that some questions are best for their parents to answer.

What will I do when that parent is me? Certainly my future little rascal(s) wouldn’t ever want to know who hired Santa, right? If these kids are wondering such complex questions, clearly there is far more to parenting than I ever imagined.

I realize that just by writing this column about children, Sera and I have likely quadrupled our chances at becoming pregnant within the next month. You’ll certainly be reading about it when that happens, and I expect letters filled with parental advice when that occurs. Until that time, if you hear who hired Santa, feel free to pass that piece of information on to me.


Matthew Knutson is a marketing specialist at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa. Find him online at