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.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

I Hate People Days

Nearly every time I'm at the grocery store, usually right after dropping the kids at school, I run into lots of other parents at the grocery store who have also just dropped their kids off at the very same school.  I would prefer a quick head nod, wave, be on my way since we all just laid eyes on each other not 10 minutes earlier.  But to my chagrin, most are eager for social hour in frozen foods. I don't want to socialize in the grocery store. I don't want to chat about summer travel plans. I want to find the peas and purchase ingredients for sloppy joes and be on my way.

I wonder if they are feeling the same way.  Are we all just standing around having conversations we don't want to have out of the same sense of social obligation?  Imagine the freedom if we could all just agree to ignore each other!

Anyway.  It may be the limping-towards-the-finish-line end of the school year fatigue, but it's truth -- I'm experiencing a string of what my best friend in college and I used to call, "I Hate People Days."  I Hate People Days happen when one annoyance comes right after another.  They're usually small stupid petty problems that wouldn't register much on any other day.  But when they start to accumulate, begin to pile on top of each other like freaky people in a Bosch painting, the end result can leave you fuming and looking around like, "Did I seriously just like this world yesterday?"

I will get over it.  I will not remain annoyed with all people forever because I don't want to end up a hermit living in a hollowed out tree trunk.  Until then, being pushed to the brink is kind of useful.  It's near euphoric to unfriend someone on FB without caring if they get mad at you.  The knowledge their oversharing nonsense will never again scorch your eyeballs makes it worth being abrupt.

As uncomfortable as they can be, I Hate People Days serve a purpose.  They limit your patience in such a way you're forced to clean house, get rid of the riff raff on the periphery.  After a few days of seething and making rage-filled adjustments, I can once again watch animal videos online and chuckle without thinking, "I am so sick of everyone telling me to LOL at these animal videos."

Maybe I need a good night's sleep.  In the morning I'll avoid the newspaper article that tells me Trump could easily be our next President.  That would start things off on the wrong foot.  Actually -- I should probably just avoid newspapers and news websites in general for the near future because there's little in there that makes me think, "Way to rock it, World!"  I should also spend the 45 minutes walking the kids to school instead of driving because driving in Seattle during its growth spurt can turn people into serial killers.  That is not a published fact but I'm convinced.

I'll ignore the phone call from the renter who doesn't like the overhead fixture in the dining room of our rental house so wants me to replace it.  I'll also hide around the corner of the house to avoid that neighbor who never, ever gets to the point he's trying to make but still keeps saying, "Like, you know?"  No, I don't know. I have no goddamn idea what you're talking about.

I'll pull out of this seething stretch of days as I've pulled out of all the others.  In the meantime, I'll be the one wearing a ski mask in the grocery store.  It may not end well with grocery store security but still -- incognito.  no talkie talk.

*cape swish*