Ever since my oldest started school, I’ve always had the excuse of having a baby at home so I was never really able to volunteer much in my kids’ classrooms. Until this year. This is the first year that my youngest is in school long enough that I’m actually able to run more than one errand if so desired. So this year during the initial classroom information night I did the unthinkable – I put my name down as someone who was “willing” to help out at some point in the classroom. I don’t know if it was out of guilt, or curiosity, or simply out of pure insanity. Anyway, fast forward to a few weeks ago when I got the email – you know the one. The sweet request from the dear teacher asking if I would be interested in chaperoning a field trip. Well, F@*^, I thought. But of course I lied through my teeth like any respectable mother would do and responded that I’d be more than happy to help and to please keep me posted on details.
I told my daughter I was going to be going with her on her field trip, and she seemed at least semi excited. That sparked a little hope that we might not only get through it unscathed but maybe even have a little fun. So the morning of, I drove my kids to school and ended up waiting with a few other fellow moms who volunteered. One of them just happened to pull out this long, detailed instruction page of all the WORK we were expected to do. Say what?! I pretended not to panic and asked where they got it and if I could read it. Because of course my daughter hadn’t brought home anything for me to read. And if she did, it was still buried in her backpack stuffed with random JoJo bows, Sqeezamals and other very important stuff that every kid needs to attend first grade. But ok, I still thought, “I can do this. I’m 41. A mother of three. I even have a Masters degree in education. I. Got. This.” So I simply smiled, made some stupid joke about having to work and pretended I hadn’t already sweated through my sweater.
The bell rang and we headed down to the classroom. We were handed clipboards with our responsibilities written down and an iPad. Great. I was responsible for kids AND school property. We were divided up into groups and then so began the excruciating ordeal of “last-minute bathroom trips” – which of course consisted of pretty much the entire damn class. Meanwhile in my group I had four girls, including my daughter who had barely acknowledged my presence, and one boy. After what seemed like an hour of bathroom trips, we herded our groups out to the bus.
Of course the girls were already being dramatic about who sat with who and my daughter wouldn’t sit with me because “her friends were there.” Fine. Whatever. Thankfully the boy in my group didn’t protest about sitting with the random old lady. Now I have not ridden in a bus in over two decades. You forget about all the noise, the completely upright seat backs – the SMELLS. I kept getting whiffs of vomit, and let me tell you it was touch and go for me more than once but I didn’t dare look around to see if I could find the source. Between that and the high-pitched screeches from all the girls, that 15-minute ride might as well have been five hours. But we made it.
Once inside the museum, I was handed yet another clipboard to carry (on top of my first clipboard, iPad and my purse) and we started making our way through the museum. My luck it was a history museum about one of the first farms in the area so of course I was enamored with all of the antiques and informational pieces…that I couldn’t even look at or read because of All. The. Jobs. I had to do with the kids. [But seriously this farm girl died a little inside when one of the first questions the kids were asked was, “What is this a picture of?” Um, it was a FARM. Is there even a remote possibility that any kid wouldn’t know what a farm looked like or was??]
Anyway we spent the next hour or so “exploring” the museum. I sweated quite a bit more trying to juggle all the things, remind each kid every five seconds or so that, “No, you cannot hold the iPad, sorry” and do my best to get the appropriate 10 plus pictures that were required. Meanwhile, the kids were constantly wanting to run in different directions, one of the girls got sick and the other three girls were having “issues” about who they were wanting to hold hands with. I felt like a damn Nazi constantly yelling, “Guys, wait. We need ONE more picture. Look at ME. Is that a NEED? Or a WANT? Just STAY TOGETHER.” But we survived. I survived. And most importantly no one was lost or injured…and only one got sick.
During the final wrap up with the museum instructor I stood in the back and simply observed the students. One was rocking back and forth with such intensity he seemed on the verge of flying away. One wanted to the play the harmonica so badly I thought he might explode in desperation. The poor sick girl in my group had tears in her eyes from her ear hurting so much. And the majority of the kids were sitting in ways that I can only dream of contorting my body. But all in all, bless these little energetic first graders who were doing their best to pay attention and stay focused.
The bus ride back was pretty much more of the same. My daughter refused to sit with me. I held my breath as much as possible to minimize the whiffs of vomit. And my back ached for even a three percent decline. When we got back to school I wistfully watched other moms get nice long, appreciative hugs from their child whereas mine bolted ahead with her friends with me desperately yelling, “Bye, enjoy the rest of your day.” But alas, with that, I too, bolted to my car and headed out for coffee.
Despite my daughter ignoring me. Despite me needing a second shower from all my nervous sweating. Despite barely surviving the bus ride from ALL the bus things. Despite it all, I enjoyed watching the kids. Seeing their genuine curiosities. Listening to their questions about the “old dead people.” Experiencing their willingness to explore…even if that exploration was playing with a typewriter and a rotary phone, you know, all the primitive “antiques.” Despite it all, it was a memorable adventure for me. And it made me appreciate my children’s teachers even more.
So go ahead. Thank a teacher. Volunteer to chaperone. Earn a “Good Deed Mom Badge.” I dare you. Just don’t forget to bath in bleach afterwards and say a little prayer that you don’t catch the plague from the cesspool of germs you encountered. And hope that one day our kids will remember and appreciate all the things we did for our precious little darlings.