I grew up attending Primary. The thing I remember most is singing Primary songs. I can visualize the very room we met in, I can even remember some of the posters the chorister used to help us learn the songs. I remember my favorite songs; and the desire to be called on as a helper is vivid. I remember the challenge of learning a new song by erasing words off the chalkboard as we memorized it. These are great memories.
The other thing I recall most vividly, even now as a mother of my own Primary-aged children, is the difficult transition as each New Year began. I was always a bit frustrated. January 1st would roll around and my school friends would move up into the class ahead of me while I stayed back because my birthday wasn’t until January 7th. I had missed the cut-off by one week. That was a challenge.
My son’s birthday is in February. He misses the cut-off by a month, which means that he was in Nursery until he was almost 4 years old, in Nursery with “the babies” as he used to say, not in a mean way but as a matter-of-fact declaration. I knew this would be the case and always just tried to help him understand how the system worked and that there are certain rules. My son can understand rules.
Now that my own children are attending Primary and learning those same songs I learned, I know the behind-the-scenes time and preparation that goes in to preparing all those song visuals and planning the classroom lessons and organizing the birthdays and talks in opening exercises etc. I also now understand that there has to be a cut-off somewhere in order to organize classes. No matter what date the church chose, it would be one week or one month before someone’s birthday.
What can be challenging is when others don’t play by the rules. I’m fond of rules, I like structure; it’s a key component to my personality type. I think having exceptions to the rules can be tricky in this instance. Well, if one child missed the January 1st cut-off by one week and the Primary decided to let that child move up to the older class, then what about the child whose birthday is the second week of January, and so on?
This can be frustrating. I experienced this very emotion as a child when I was going through it first hand. Now, as a parent I feel the frustration my son has had. As a Primary leader I have witnessed other parents with this same frustration. Apparently, this is a common concern and not one that has gone away as the years have passed.
As a child I had my frustrations each year, but frustrations are part of life. I survived, even thrived in Primary despite those challenges. My son is 6 now and he’s been able to learn from children in Primary both older and younger than him. Maybe the more important thing is to attend Primary, feel loved, and feel the Spirit. If that is happening, the class you’re in doesn’t have that much bearing.