I went on a field trip this week. It was just me, a couple dozen other moms, and as many teachers. Oh, the entire first grade at my daughter’s school was there too. Seven buses pulled up. Walkie-talkies were involved. Kids were counted and recounted. And then, seven buses pulled away.
Right away, I was happy- or relieved, I should say. We won the bus seat lottery and got the 2nd row. This is because Marin is the self-nominated line leader serving a no-limit term. We were next to the teacher and a bunch of other ponytailed girls. I sent a little “see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya” wish of luck to my co-chaperone: Mom #2 in the back with the boys.
As I do when I’m the passenger in any moving vehicle, I immediately grabbed my purse and dug for my phone. This move got Marin’s attention.
She said, “Do you have your water bottle?”
“Yes, are you thirsty?”
“No, I just want to make sure you don’t drink it. There’s no drinking on the bus,” she said pointing to the black and white sticker above the driver. She read it to me. “No eating, talking loudly, or getting up.” She went on (adlibbing), “You have to face the front at all times. And, no singing.”
“You made that last one up.”
“Yeah, well. I don’t like when you act crazy in front of my friends.”
“What if I sing quietly?”
“No. Let’s play the animal game.” She seemed anxious to get me engaged in some productive, non-embarrassing activity.
So, we did.
Then after some stops and starts in traffic, we arrived. All gazillion of us got off the buses and started the 14-mile trek to the theater. It was 3 degrees, and the winds were whipping at, like, 40 miles per hour. It was cold.
As I do when I’m trying to pass the time, I got curious and started to interview those around me. I hung back in the line to ask the other kids what they were looking forward, whether they’d ever been to a show, what their moms packed for lunch, etc.
The line leader gave me this look.
She was not amused. I looked at the ground and hurried back to my place at the front.
The show was the show. It was a musical about a monkey making meatballs. It eventually ended.
We made our way back to the bus and reclaimed our 2nd-row seat.
This time, I was determined to make Marin proud and follow the rules. For her, that’s having a good time. And, of course, when she's happy I'm happy. I wanted her to be glad I came on the trip. It’s both about enjoying the morning together and one of those motherhood box-checking exercises. I must admit that part of this is me wanting her to remember me going on field trips- and following the rules.
Chaperoning is part of a long, complicated equation that weighs fairness, school involvement, kid wishes, and other stuff. My hope in the end is that I've strung together enough experiences that add up more than they subtract.