Tommy’s mom always goes on field trips. She volunteers in the class three times a week. Her brownies won first place in the Betty Crocker Cook-Off, and she donated her prize money to the school. She recently received the Nobel Peace Prize for her unselfish acts of charity. She’s always smiling. She never yells.
You’re nothing like her.
OK, you’ll take the day off to go with the class on a field trip to the museum, the tide pools, the farm, the fire station, the White Cliffs of Dover or wherever the teacher deems to take the little darlings to enlighten their developing minds and get them out of her hair. Allow me, as a veteran of countless field trips (each time swearing I’d never go again), offer you some handy tips for survival.
Take along a mild sedative. Or at least some aspirin. This is for you, but after a few hours you might be tempted to slip some to the kids. Since you haven’t been on a school bus since high school, you’ll have forgotten the noise, the mayhem, the reasons why bus drivers receive more hours of training in the art of yelling than they do in how to operate a commercial vehicle.
The last field trip I was forced into, the bus driver positioned my daughter and me at the emergency exit with strict instructions that I was to sit on the window side. My daughter was less than pleased with this arrangement. As we got rolling, I tried to stifle her tears by explaining the sensitivity of the bright red emergency door latch.
“Look,” I said, placing my hand on the latch, “a child could very easily open it by accident.” As the words left my lips, accidentally open it did, setting off an alarm, causing the driver to come to a screeching halt, and everyone to turn around to glare at me. I then took the only logical action a first-grader would take: I ducked down in the seat.
Your group assignment will consist of the 10 most hyperactive kids in the class. Your clue here will come when the teacher announces the children’s names who are in “Lainey’s Mom’s group,” and your daughter moans each time a name is read. Momentarily excuse yourself to take your medication.
Don’t expect to see or learn anything. Each time I remember going with my son’s kindergarten class to a dinosaur exhibit, I get the hives. My group consisted of five active boys who held a secret meeting beforehand to decide that they would each race off in separate directions once we arrived at the museum. The place was packed and my heart pounded with the fear of possibly losing one of them. It wasn’t long before I began to sound like a bus driver. After an eternity (I know we passed from one geological era to another), I was able to herd the boys into the final room of the exhibit where I turned them over to the care of their teacher.
My son was disappointed, frustrated and completely livid. He turned on me and seethed, “I didn’t get to see anything. I didn’t get to do anything. This whole field trip sucks. You’re the worst mother in the world.”
An older woman stood nearby, a horrified witness to this tender moment between mother and son. I simply chuckled before explaining, “I don’t suppose I’ll ever win ‘Mother of the Year,’ but I can rest easy knowing that I’m a top contender for ‘Worst Mother in the Universe.”’ She slowly edged away, eyeing me suspiciously in case of a future police lineup.
Have caffeine immediately available upon returning home. You’ll be amazed at how spending an afternoon with a group of kids will sap every last ounce of your energy. Since you took the day off to perform this motherly duty, you’ll have a stack of catch-up work to do once you get home. “An espresso, please. Make that a double.”
You might think that going on one field trip in your life is enough to fulfill that part of your parental function. Are you delusional?
If you have two kids, you’ll have to go on at least two trips. That is, until they stomp their feet and cry that you never do anything for them and so and so’s mother always does everything with her kids.
Did they forget about childbirth? About those midnight feedings? About how you stayed up all night the last time they had the flu? They only remember what you didn’t do for them. And that you’re not going on this field trip. No, you’re not. OK, maybe this one last time. But you’ll need to stop off at the store first to get your prescription filled.
MEMO: Kate Erickson is a free-lance writer based in Fort Bragg, Calif.