Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Constant Chaperone

I don't chaperone every school field trip but when I do, you better believe I'm on high alert like a meerkat keeping watch over his hole in the ground.  I am reared up on my hind legs looking around anxiously with wide, dark, impossibly cute eyes.

this was me on a recent field trip to the Asian Art Museum

There are parents out there who have never chaperoned a school field trip.  They are the lucky ones, as they can continue to live in safe cheerful bubbles.  For those of us who've chaperoned even one time, we feel compelled to chaperone forevermore from that point on because we now know the truth; the whole thing is a chaotic near disaster every single time and it's a miracle anyone returns to school in one piece.

After knowing what chaperones know,  it's hard to go about your normal routine on a Field Trip Day with the knowledge your kid is on a school bus hurtling towards a very uncertain future.

I've chaperoned field trips to the zoo, to museums, to farms, to theatres, to goddamn corn mazes in the middle of the state, to puppet shows and beyond.  I have written some chaperone tales before, here and here and here and here and here and here.....

(...Lord... so I just now realized it may be a bit old to hear me talking about this topic. I didn't even link to all of my previous chaperoning mentions.  There were too many.  I apologize, I hadn't realized how redundant I'd gotten and how being a chaperone is now apparently closely linked to my identity as a person.)

me at the Gold Rush National Historical Park

My favorite part of any field trip comes when the teacher says, "Make sure you keep your group with you at all times," then hands you half a dozen six-year-olds who immediately take off in different directions.  Yippee-ki-yay, let the games begin -- and by "games" I mean a lot of rushing around yelling for kids to come back to you until your voice is hoarse.

I am proud to say I have always returned with all of my charges. I've never had a vomit (others have not been so lucky) and I've only had one peeing-of-the-pants.  When I show up at the end of the school day on a field trip day, it's common for a small child to point at me and tell his mother, "That's Coco's mom, I runned away from her!" and I have to smile at the mother like, "Isn't your child just delightful" but what I'm really thinking is, "You  have no idea how big you owe me, that kid nearly wound up in Idaho."

I volunteered Alex to chaperone the biggest field trip of all -- the Mount Saint Helens (it's a volcano!) trip with the 4th Grade -- because he's got a can-do attitude. They left at 7:00 a.m. and returned at 9:00 p.m.  We non-chaperone spouses awaited their return on our back porch with bottles of scotch at the ready. The brave souls were glassy-eyed and numb when they finally stumbled into the house.  Alex rocked a bit as he continually counted to five, over and over, occasionally jumping out of his seat to yell, "Holy shit, I can't find Henry, has he fallen into the caldera?"  Sshhhh, I know baby, it's ok, it's over now...

My most recent chaperone excursion was to the recycling plant.  It went pretty smoothly all in all.  The place was very educational and we learned a lot about recycling, reusing, composting.  The kids were quizzed about what items go in which bin and I felt very good about the whole thing indeed. We're raising good little environmentally aware citizens.

But I'll be damned if, after lunch, Coco didn't try to walk over and put her banana peel in the garbage can instead of the compost bin.  I saw her hand hovering over the garbage, her fingers beginning to relax their hold, and could not believe what I was seeing.  Had she learned nothing just moments before? Was it all in vain? Well, not on this chaperone's watch. I sprang through the air like a cat and batted the banana peel out her hand just in time while yelling, "Do not bring shame upon this family!"
All that to say I actually kind of like chaperoning.  It's a crapshoot but it's nice to spend time with all these kids while they're still young enough to look up at you with innocent faces and prattle on and on nonsensically about their pet turtle, Drip.

Until next time, all.  We remain your constant, serious chaperones on high alert.

(except for Merle there in the middle, he's always f*cking around.)

I am sorry for beating a topic to death.
But chaperoning is serious business.


  1. As long as the meerkat photos keep coming, I'll keep on reading chaperone posts.

    1. Hi Scott. That's a fascinating idea, trading all photos of everybody and everything for photos of meerkats. Vive la meerkat revolution.

  2. Hard work, this chaperoning thing. Reminded me of my years as a preschool teacher in Korea and Finland... *Shudders*

  3. I chaperoned a couple of class trips but when I volunteered to do it again I was told they had plenty, thank you anyway. I think maybe I was Merle!

    1. Haaa. You're Merle. Thanks for the laugh, Tara.

  4. I love your posts, MJ!
    I did the Franklin Institute in Philly this year. Since it was my second time, I knew to keep the kids busy in the sports section throwing balls and trying to outrace the Philly Phanatic. Otherwise it's a free-for-all with kids running into every exhibit, like the brain and the heart.
    But the IMAX movie was nuts.... kids going to the bathroom, adults getting nauseous, with Robert Redford telling us about our National Parks for an hour.
    Tell Al I feel for him!