The Repeated Lessons of Field Trips

Last Thursday I chaperoned a field trip for my son’s class. It was an all day affair. 2 hours on a bus one way…4 hours at the place with maybe 40 adults and 150 kids. 2 more hours on a bus home. It was a long day spent with other people’s children and manufactured socializing with adults I have little to nothing in common with. One mom at lunch time repeatedly put her arm around my son trying to guide him away from me because she thought he was her son. That’s how attentive these other parents are. The Boy’s teacher, after harping on all the parents to make sure the kids were at school by 7:15 a.m….they better be at school at 7:15 a.m….we’re leaving without them if they aren’t at school and ready to board the buses at 7:15 a.m….showed up herself at 7:25, not only the last teacher there but the last person. She was the last person we were waiting on to leave in the morning. Two boys in the seat behind me on the bus made disgusting noises and refused to remain seated. They came over the top of my seat to touch my actual person several times (and I’m short…so that was some effort to be able to come over the seat far enough to elbow me in the head and bump me on the shoulders). I ate a peanut butter sandwich and water sack lunch at a picnic table alone…it was almost like being back in school myself and being the kid who’d rather sit alone than sit with her peers because she’s less lonely by herself than she is sitting with them, afraid to say anything. The place we went had a gift shop and kids were allowed to make purchases. This gift shop sold cap guns. A few kids bought them and ‘pretended’ to ‘jokingly’ shoot each other for the entire bus ride home. Not a great social anxiety day. Not a great day to be a non-violent parent trying to model and advocate peace and kindness to my son. I didn’t like field trips as a kid…I like them less as a chaperone.


Before this sounds like me bitching, I get a positive takeaway every time I chaperone a field trip with my son.

When I was little, my mother chaperoned one field trip in the first grade because I begged her to. (‘Begged’ is not an exaggeration.) We went to the zoo. She made another kid cry, because they weren’t used to her mothering style. (Ha!) She still complains about it. She complains about that kid she made cry. She complains about the zoo. She complains about me asking her to be a chaperone for me. I’ll be 41 in October, for the record. She never has anything positive to say about that experience. And that always hurt my feelings. Now I’m a mom and I’ve chaperoned every single field trip my son has had for school that I was allowed to accompany him on, because he asked (he never begged…he never had to). I’ve never had fun on one. I’m not sure The Boy has truly, either. But I still love going on them.

I love that my son still wants to spend time with me. He still WANTS me to be a part of his life separate from me at school. I treasure every second of time I get with him.

And I love seeing him interact with his peers and see him alongside his peers. He reminds me so much of J. I’m so proud of him. I love seeing him wait to be the last one to board the bus and the last one to get off, watching to make sure everyone else is safe. I like watching him hold doors for people. I like hearing him say kind things to and about every other kid in his grade. Every kid. I like discovering who his friends are and how happy he is with them and why he chose them as friends and why they chose him back. The repeated lesson I get from field trips is…I have a GREAT kid. My kid is GREAT. I know every parent should think their kid is great, and of course he’s great when it’s just him and J and me, but seeing him away from home…being…GREAT…is pretty great.

Field trips wear me down. This one in particular did for a lot of reasons. And I don’t do a particularly spectacular job hiding my feelings from people who pay attention to me, so The Boy and I had this brief conversation at the end of the bus ride home on Thursday…

Boy: I’m sorry, Mom.
Me: What for, buddy?
Boy: For you being a chaperone today. I can tell you’re tired and…done.
Me: Well, I am, but that’s nothing for you to be sorry for.
Boy: It rained. Kids were loud and crazy. I know you ate lunch by yourself…
Me: Yes, but only say sorry for things you control that go wrong. And all you control is you. Not the weather. Not how other people behave. And you haven’t done anything wrong. You’re GREAT! The best part of field trips for me is seeing how great you are.
Boy: Mo-om! <blushes>

It’s usually sass when I get the two syllable ‘Mom,’ but…not this time. That was a good one. I don’t like field trips. I never have. But I do like the repeated lesson they teach me. I have a great kid. He’s growing into a fine, mature, caring young man. I can’t wait to see what his future looks like, and I’m glad he still wants me in his present.

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