Tag Archives: Field trip

Son’s Trip Benefits Worrying Mom

When I got the letter in May, my heart sank. I didn’t get a spot. I had wanted to chaperone the two-night field trip that my son would be taking this week. He admitted he couldn’t wait to go without me. My heart sank a little more. My baby, OK my oldest, was growing up. As much as I needed him to need me, he just didn’t.

I think mothers and fathers differ greatly in how much they worry about their kids. In some families maybe the dad does all the worrying. But I think there must be some balance. One parent has to worry so the other can have some sense of reason. The other can say, “It doesn’t matter how many hours you obsess over pajamas. He isn’t going to wear them.”

In our family, I am that worrier. For the past five months, I have worried about everything from my child falling off the mountain his class will be hiking on to not drinking enough water. In some sort of cruel, maternal way, I worry that my son will miss me.

I have lost sleep over things that could go wrong, causing migraines and stomach issues. The chaperones will keep an eye on my son. I know them. They are great parents, but they’re not me. But I have to trust my son and let him go. Despite a few jitters, he’s ready for this even if I’m not.

My son has always been the kind of kid who jumps into things when he’s ready and not a moment sooner. I try to remind him about all the things I won’t be able to when I’m not there—use your manners, change your underwear—but I shouldn’t overwhelm him. My gut says to back off. I know if he forgets, it’s not the end of the world. This independence will be good for him, boost his confidence. On the parenting scale of free-range to helicopter, I find I’m pushing myself more to the middle these days and this trip will benefit me too.camp gear

My husband will start to think about packing the bag days before. I have been thinking about it for two months, worrying about the best way to pack three outfits, sweatshirts, gloves, extra shoes, a pillow, a sleeping bag, sheet, and just extras in a way that my son can carry them from bus to lodge in one load. I’ve always been a planner.

I won’t be able to drop my son off at school the morning of the trip. Even though I’ve been preparing him for this independence, I haven’t really prepared myself. I can only put my brave face on for a short time before I turn back into Mom at the stroke of 7 a.m., and I don’t want him to see that: a quivering lip, me lingering for too long, turning back for just one more hug.

I’m proud of him. Some kids won’t go without their parents. He’s a little nervous, mostly excited. I know he’ll have a great time.

I’m embarrassed of me. I won’t sleep. I’ll worry every second. And when he gets off the bus brimming with details of the trip, I’ll tear up in relief. I’ll shed the worry like a heavy coat.

My months of worry will have been for nothing. But for both of us, it will have been a practice run for the many more times I’ll have to let him go.

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Who Learned More on the Overnight Trip: the Chaperone or the Kids?

I recently chaperoned a two-night third-grade field trip and lived to tell about it. Previous field trips have left me exhausted and irritable, so I was nervous. Never having experienced an overnight camp as a child, I set out with another mom, our kids, and a carload of more crap than we needed not knowing what to expect. I felt certain we’d get no sleep, I’d be grumpy, the boys would be wild, and it would rain to the point where we’d need canoes to get around. I was wildly mistaken, pleasantly surprised, dry, hot, hungry, tired, and eager to learn.

Here’s a recap:

1. I learned how to read a compass and follow a course through a horse pasture. Each point we found led to another point and so on. Thankfully, we found nothing else.

Thanks to a compass course, at least I know what to do if I get lost in the woods now, or a horse pasture.

2. I learned there are more than 70,000 types of U.S. soil. The kids talked about viscosity, porosity, horizons, and permeability, which is not “when you get a perm,” in case you were wondering.

3. A field of geese is an open invitation to a gaggle of boys who just had to sit quiet and still for 30 minutes and listen to a cool bird presentation. They couldn’t upset the birds being shown inside, but no one said anything about the geese outside, who I’m pretty sure won’t return to that field for a while.

4. I learned that a dark, quiet, blow-up astronomy dome showing the night sky offers a perfect place to catch up on missed sleep. Just be aware when the instructor points the laser in your direction and you’re suddenly in the constellation spotlight.

5. I learned that I can’t sleep to the sound of 11 sleeping bags swishing and plastic mattresses scrunching all night after day one, but after day two, I can sleep through almost anything.

6. When given the option, boys who don’t have their moms with them will not shower for three days, regardless of how sweaty they’ve gotten, how much grass and sand they’ve rolled around in, and whether they splashed around a little too much in the stagnant water in aquatics class.

7. When allowed to go through the dining hall line alone, boys will return with a plate full of carbs, cheese, and not much else. When you point out they could have made a salad with the lettuce, they tell you they didn’t see that.

8. When asked about the coolest thing they’ve ever done, half the kids say going to that camp, fishing for their first time while there, or catching their first fish there. I learned that for some, in their short lives, it was a lifetime experience.

9. Third graders are really smart. They knew answers I didn’t expect them to know and made conclusions I didn’t expect them to connect.

10. During the course of our stay, the parents struggled a bit to keep up, wished for better sleeping accommodations, cursed bathroom stalls that required feats of contortionism to use, and yearned for gourmet food. I didn’t hear the kids whine, fuss, or complain about the heat, the long days with no breaks or snacks, the gross food, or little sleep. For them, it was thrilling hands-on learning outside the classroom.

The camp may have been geared toward kids, but I know I learned a lot.

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Field Trip Anxiety: Two Nights, 80 Kids Equals Panic for This Chaperone

A father and I talked on the school playground the other day about an upcoming overnight third-grade field trip we are chaperoning. We both admitted to being a little nervous about it. We’ve both chaperoned field trips before. But as the conversation continued, I realized he had not thought this overnight thing through as much as I had.

I began to talk about kids who may not have ever been away from home before and homesickness and worry about how to get them to sleep.

“Gee, I hadn’t thought about that,” he said.

I talked about how exhausted I am after just a few hours on a regular field trip and what will two nights and three days of constant yammering and nonstop drama and incessant whining do to me?

Then I mentioned that I hoped the stomach bug that was going around didn’t plan a surprise attack in the bunks one night.

His face scrunched up. I’m sure he wanted to run from me.

“I was excited for this trip, but I hadn’t thought about all this,” he said. I think I took a pin and popped the air out of his balloon.

I think too much. There’s no doubt about it. I can think a topic to death. I think about every possible terrible thing that could happen and how I can possibly handle it, and then I’m pleasantly surprised when things go smoothly or things are just boring, as my life so often turns out.

But I must say I was surprised that this father hadn’t thought about these things because being with so many other people’s kids for two nights will be a challenge whether or not anything catastrophic happens.

The last field trip I chaperoned didn't require sleeping bags, just snacks evidently.

Doesn’t he remember what a normal field trip is like? The last field trip I was on, I had five boys in the rain for four hours with no snacks. In the end, I’m not sure who was grumpier, the boys or me. For four hours they griped, whined, complained, and fussed about being hungry. Like zoo animals, I really was not supposed to feed them. My blood sugar was getting low. I get headaches when I don’t eat. I had a snack. But I didn’t have enough to share with five boys and I felt too guilty to eat in front of them. So we trudged through mist and misery. The boys didn’t want to look at the historic buildings or listen to people dressed in colonial garb talk about life with no computers and no TV. They saw corn cakes cooking in the fire and wanted to reach their weak arms over and steal one out of the hot pan. The only respite of the morning: a paper-thin Moravian cookie that made our mouths water more and our stomachs pretty stinkin’ mad.

When lunchtime finally did approach, the boys had only strength enough to mosey across the entire colonial village back to the bus squatting, giggling, and cocking their rears side to side in an all-out potty-talk fest. “Pffft this” and “Pffft that.” “Oh, that was a good one!” I did not have energy or patience for this. My stomach had turned inside out and through a forced smile I begged them to catch up to me, stop that nonsense, and COME ON! My hands were shaking and food was minutes away. No silly boys and their bathroom talk would keep me from my lunch. I was ready to ditch them.

That night, my conscience got the better of me. “I feel bad,” I told my husband. “I kind of yelled at the kids today.” I decided that in the heat of their third-grade foolery, they probably hadn’t noticed or cared.

I hope this trip next week goes smoother, though I’m bracing myself for no sleep, cranky homesick kids, and whatever the days may bring. I’ll sneak snacks if I have to, for my own sanity. And I’m gearing up for lots of fart jokes. Please send happy thoughts my way.

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