Thursday, October 27, 2011

On Visiting Teaching

I totally believe in the theory and principle behind visiting teaching. Really, I do. But here's a secret: visiting teaching pretty much makes me feel bad all the time. If I'm not feeling anxious and guilty about not going yet, then I am feeling guilty while I sit in my visiting teachee's house and thinking to myself "she can see right through me."

I genuinely like my visiting teachees and I want to be there for them, but does that come across at all? Because I just feel like a big phony every time I call them to schedule an appointment (which inevitably is couched with four hundred apologies and excuses for why I am not calling until the last week of the month). It's like I am sorry for calling them at all, but I'm also sorry for not visiting them earlier, and I am sorry for not just knowing what they need and then giving it to them.

I am sorry when I run into them at church. I am sorry when I run into them at the store. I am sorry when I see their husband. I'm sorry when I see their kids. I'm sorry when all I can think of to say is "how are you?" because that just seems so trite and cliche. I am basically just sorry that I exist at all when it comes to my visiting teachees. I am so sorry that when they allow me to come visit them I gush and say thank you so much over and over again like a little sycophantic fool.

And then when I am not feeling sorry about either not doing it yet, or doing it, but possibly coming across as insincere (last day of the month, anyone?), then I am feeling horrified by something my companion has just said. You can't always keep your companion from saying things like the following:

"Your child is just average, but my daughter is advanced"

"I would never let my kids have a play date this late"

"Who would want to live in this apartment?"

What does one do in this situation? Sit in silence, try to catch the other person's eye and perform a discreet eye roll? Look down and act like you didn't hear or aren't in the room at all? What?

I'm not really asking for advice, here. Just giving my thoughts. I'd talk about hating my neck or my purse or something, but Nora Ephron already did that. So all I have left is visiting teaching.

Or parenting, but you should really just read Kacy for that.

Or being pregnant, but you already know how I feel about that.

Once I went to some sort of training for people in Relief Society presidencies and Sister Beck told this extremely horrible story about a poor woman who had recently had a baby, and whose husband had two broken legs, and whose kitchen was covered with cheerios and milk, and whose kids were not being attended to, and whose newborn was wailing in another room of the house . . . all while her visiting teachers were sitting in her living room delivering the monthly message, completely unaware of what was happening. I shudder when I think of this story. Because that is probably how thick-headed I come across as a visiting teacher.

"Thank you SO much for letting me come," I say, grabbing my purse for a fast get-away. "If you need anything, please let me know. I really mean that. I do."

I do, really. Really!


  1. I really want to do visiting teaching right but I don't think I do. I mean, it's supposed to be like having a friend, but I would never make appointments to visit my friends like that. But if you become good authentic friends then you're like a clique and that makes other people feel bad and excluded. My social needs are very low so I think 10 minutes is a great visit, but some people might thing that's rude and short. I don't know.

    One thing is for sure: Your friend Erin seems cool.

  2. One time I actually became friends with my visiting teachee. We traded babysitting, hung out, invited each other over for dinner. I thought it was perfect! Then one day she says to me "are you ever going to come visit teach me?" and the magic was broken. You can't win!

    Erin IS really cool. And she's right about your parenting post, Kacy.

  3. I wish you were my visiting teacher. I would look forward to your call on the last day of the month and save up things to tell you, knowing how predictable you'd contact me. It would be a great relationship.

  4. I applaud you for going at all. In the 15ish years that I've been in Relief Society, I've only had one set of consistent visiting teachers. And that only lasted about three months before they got changed. I'm not needy but I would love a visit, even a short hey-where-you-from or a let's-make-small-talk-and-then-muddle-through-the-lesson kind of thing. When I had my daughter I had terrible postpartum depression and I could have used somebody (even whom I didn't know very well) to talk to or to leave my baby with for a quick hour.

    I feel you on the awkwardness of visiting teaching but I guess it's there for a reason. I am by no means an exemplary visiting teacher but I figure that by going I could potentially be the person who's there in a bind or the one to answer a desperate phone call. This comment ended up sounding preachy. Sorry. I groan about it each month but I go hoping that one day my visiting teachers will get with it and at least call me.

    BTW, not to diss the Lord's annointed, but I think Julie Beck's story is slightly augmented. Just sayin'...

  5. Katy, I would probably want to come to your house twice a month if I visit taught you, just to see all your cool projects and adorable daughters (and son!)

    Oh, Mar. Why can't I visit teach you? It sounds like you require so little! It's nice to know that there are people who just want someone to say "how ya doing?" and be somewhat consistent. I always feel like I can't do enough! I hope I didn't come across as a visiting teaching hater. I just have severe psychological issues that prevent me from being super awesome at it.

  6. I have opted out of VT as a program. I realized that I don't do it, don't really care if I have them, etc. So, instead of feeling bad about it and all the rest of it, I just say "not for me thanks". My RS presidents don't love it but what can you do? Some say I'll opt back in ( we don't do it with companions, which is kind of great) when I'm in a different phase.

  7. No, I'm afraid you'd see my messy house, my noisy kids and realize I'm not so great after all. Maybe it's best I keep up this facade.