Who knew children can be stressful?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 17, 2006

Nov. 16, 2005

Kids are stressful. That&8217;s a new revelation for me. I&8217;ve been an in-demand babysitter since I was 13 and a repeated kindergarten Bible school teacher, and I&8217;m helping with kindergarten through second-graders on Wednesday nights at my church.

I love kids. And for someone who&8217;s never had kids, I think I know them pretty well.

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And to me, hanging out with children has always been a good way to relax.

But last week, they were stressful.

Fresh from getting a little tense as the result of the Wednesday night church group, I headed to Ms. Bell&8217;s class Thursday for my favorite part of the workweek.

Man, were they in a mood.

It seemed like everyone was talking out of turn and all at the same time. The fourth-graders were nitpicking at each other &8212; Ms. Bell he took my paper; Ms. Bell she isn&8217;t doing her work; Ms. Bell he said such and such.

Five minutes into it I had a headache and was on the verge of telling them all to hush myself.

In the hour I was there, three were sent to stand in the hallway, one was reprimanded by a teacher who didn&8217;t even know him and about five had lost recess for the next day.

It had been one of those days, Ms. Bell said. Her trip across the room to turn on Kenny G music wasn&8217;t lost on me, though I doubt the kids realized the music was a stress reliever.

Ms. Bell has a mantra of sorts that the kids have memorized. Paraphrased, if everyone would mind their own business, take care of their work and let others take care of themselves, &8220;the world would be a better place,&8221; the kids chime in.

She says it all the time, Sidney told me. But it wasn&8217;t sinking in Thursday.

For some of us that is a hard rule to live by.

I caught myself Friday night at work getting mentally caught up in what another staff member was (or wasn&8217;t) doing instead of finishing my own past-deadline story.

Ms. Bell&8217;s mantra rang out in my head, and I tried hard to refocus on my own business.

Being a self-appointed monitor of the world is a fulltime job. There&8217;s simply no time to fulfill your own obligations, like completing fourth-grade class assignments (or writing newspaper articles).

But I think Ms. Bell has the right idea. Just keep saying it. One of these days it&8217;s going to sink in.

&8220;Stress out the adults day&8221; was a school-wide event, I found out from Principal Karen Tutor at the school board meeting that afternoon. Behavior simply wasn&8217;t at its best.

Mrs. Tutor wasn&8217;t surprised and attributed the problems to the upcoming Thanksgiving break from school. (They get a whole week off.)

Plus, Thursday was progress reports day. The grade reports had already been printed, so it&8217;s as good a day as any to act up.

The kids who ended up with all As and Bs were nervous about seeing their grades. The ones with low grades hardly seemed phased.

Though I think it goes without saying, the A/B students knew they&8217;d soon be answering to someone at home.

In my informal poll, the students with the good grades said they&8217;d face major punishment if they brought home a C. Anything lower than a C was unthinkable. Some of the kids with the Cs or lower weren&8217;t expecting any punishment at all.

Most of the time Ms. Bell&8217;s mantra is applicable in life, but not always. It&8217;s a parent&8217;s job to butt into their child&8217;s life, check their grades and punish low ones.

Parents who mind their own business tend to have children who&8217;d rather monitor their classmates than complete their own assignments.

Julie Finley is the education reporter for The Natchez Democrat. She writes a weekly column based on experiences with Marty Tuccio&8217;s homeroom class at McLaurin Elementary. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or