Last week was Little Boy K’s last field trip as a kindergartener (ah – sigh!) and Baby S and I had the pleasure of being chaperones. (There’s nothing like having a 15 month old chaperone six-year-olds.) Being a “helper” on K’s field trips has been one of the most joyful consequences of jumping off the Lawyer Mommy fast-track. I love that I know most of his classmates’ names and several of the other children’s’ parents. I love that his classmates know mine (“Little Boy K’s Mommy” is what I go by – in the end we are all defined by our children, aren’t we?)
This was our third field trip of the year. I’m not sure these jaded little rugrats appreciate that. I will repeat – this was our third field trip of the year. When I was growing up we were pretty thankful to have one field trip. The first was to a farm and the second was to a play. Our third and final Kindergarten field trip was to the zoo.
After having tackled three of these excursions, I have a few tips for parents who may want to accompany their children on their school field trips:
1. AVOID THE BUS – Never, ever be the parent designated to ride the bus. This should be avoided at all costs. Not only will you likely arrive at your destination nauseous and with a headache but you will witness things that will haunt your dreams for years to come. You will be thankful you live within walking distance to your child’s school and vow to never let your precious cargo onto one of these death machines if it can be avoided. I saw children falling off the seats and into the aisles (in fact, I think they were in the aisles more than they were in the seats). I saw them rolling down said aisles, bumping body parts all along the way. I saw atrocious driving skills and spectacular feats of “creative u-turning”. You will have nightmares about letting your child on a bus after this – it is something a parent is better off not knowing.
2. BRING LOTS OF WATER – Children get thirsty on field trips. They get much more thirsty than they do in school…apparently. They are also Water Snobs. If a child should happen to see you pull a bottle of Ozarka out of your purse to quench your own thirst, he or she will immediately play the part of the beggar who has spent the last two weeks wandering the desert, pulling at your clothing and grabbing for your bottle and begging for a “sip”. And when the other little beggars hear that someone has water, it’s like Christmas has come early and your water bottle is the coveted toy of the year. Keep a scrap of paper with information relating to several ghastly diseases transmitted by drinking after each other that you can claim to be infected with in order to protect your water supply. Even if you thought ahead and brought a few extra water bottles, you will never have brought enough water.
3. THERE WILL BE A STAGE 5 CLINGER – Someone, usually a soft-spoken little girl who does not belong to you, will insist on holding your hand throughout the entirety of the 6 hour field trip. Your own child will probably be shooting daggers at this little girl who is “hogging” his Mommy. It’s all very sweet, if not just a little bit sad and it makes you hope there’s enough love being handed out at home for this gentle child. Regardless, you will be in charge of handing out the love on this particular day.
4. PREPARE TO BE ON PANTY PATROL – There is usually one little girl, you will see her in every class, who dresses a little bit maturely for her age (even when the school uses uniforms). In Little Boy K’s class, this particular little nugget liked wearing butt-crack jeans and insisted on lifting her field trip t-shirt up and tying it in a knot (80s style) in order to expose her midriff. This is a lethal combination and one that requires the chaperone to be in a constant state of vigilance lest these innocent little kindergartener get an anatomy lesson along with their zoology lesson.
5. BRING PROTECTIVE HEADGEAR FOR YOUNGER SIBLINGS – Children love babies. Children love to touch babies. They love to pinch their cheeks, pull on their curls, and poke their noses. They love to put their germy little breath right in baby’s airspace and cough – often. They like to make them laugh and they like to make them cry. Bring a helmet and possibly a bat (with spikes on the end) so that baby has a fighting chance.
Our final Kindergarten field trip ended up being lovely. The weather was perfection (rare for our hot, humid and mosquito-ridden corner of Texas). The children were much more interested in playing tag and stretching their legs on this beautiful day of freedom than actually seeing any of the animals but what does it matter? They had fun and I think, at this age, that is just as much the point of a field trip as anything else. We spent a lot of time in the bathroom and playing on the playground and a little time looking at animals.
I loved the contrast I found in my memories of the slightly terrified younglings who clung to their parents’ hands when they began school last fall to the independent “band of brothers”, full of attitude and personality that they have become.
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