I teach the Sparks, which includes Kindergarten, First Grade and Second Grade. Tonight, I was teaching a lesson about Joseph (he of the fabulous coat and jealous brothers; not Mary's husband). I was trying to make a point about how Joseph's brothers must have felt about their father having a "favorite" son.
I went to Gabby, one of the older girls in Sparks, ahead of time and explained to her what I wanted to do. "I'm teaching a lesson about how Joseph's brothers must have felt when Joseph was the favorite son. I'm going to call you up front and tell everyone that you are my favorite and how special you are, and then I'm going to act like I'm giving you special treats, but it's all just an act and to teach the lesson. Okay?"
She was thrilled, and asked me about six times how much longer until she got to help me with the lesson.
Finally, her big moment came. I called her up in front of the class and told everyone that Gabby was just really special, and that she was my favorite Sparky, and that she was the best Sparky.
At which time, Gabby's younger sister Mattie- who is also in my Sparks class - became enraged and screamed, "That's not true!" and threw her jacket over her head so she didn't have to listen any more.
I told all the Sparkies that I was giving Gabby all the cookies which normally went to all of them and that she would get lemonade while they all got water.
Then, I asked them how they felt about all of this and compared it to Joseph and his brothers. I very carefully explained that they are all my favorites, and they are all wonderful and that we should all share, treat each other kindly, and not do anything to make others jealous.
Then we all lined up to go have our cookies.
Mattie promptly walked up to her older sister Gabby and whacked her on the arm. Then she looked at me and yelled, "You're mean! You said mean things to us!"
I had to sit Mattie down and explain to her that she hadn't listened to the whole lesson and I re-explained to her that I love them all equally and that it was just an object lesson (like we have every week).
Then as we went to get our cookies, I found Gabby incensed that she wasn't getting all the extra cookies I had told her she could have. I reminded her, "Remember before the lesson tonight when I told you that I was going to act like I was giving you extra cookies and lemonade? Remember how I told you it was just going to be pretend and that I was just joking?"
She pouted her way back to her seat. A few minutes later I saw another leader talking to Gabby, who had dissolved into tears. I walked over in time to hear Gabby wail, "She said she really liked me and then she said it was just a joke!"
I had to sit down with her and explain again, "Gabby, I do really like you. That part wasn't a joke!"
"You like me better than all the other Sparks? I'm your favorite?"
"You are all my favorites," I replied. "I like you all the same!"
"But you said I was special," she wailed.
"You are special! You're a very special girl," I told her.
"More special than anyone else?" she asked.
"You are all special, Gabby. Remember how we learned in the lesson that it isn't nice to have one favorite person? It would make everyone else feel bad if I thought you were more special than anyone," I explained (again).
"But I really am THE BEST Sparky," she snapped.
The worst part was, I had this conversation over and over all night. Gabby really wanted me to tell her that she was the best in the class and that I liked her best and that she was the most special girl on the planet. I told her she had beautiful eyes, I told her I liked her hair, I congratulated her on being so smart. None of it was good enough. She was aiming for the top spot.
I eventually had to go find her mother and tell her that I had upset both her daughters and that if they told her on the way home that I was mean and a liar, then I was really sorry.
If I were being graded as an Awana leader, I think I would have failed tonight.