It was an overcast but warm New England fall day as I was chaperoning yet another class trip for one of my four boys.
Fumbling with my GPS and hoping to make it to the location before the buses full of eager fifth graders arrived, I pondered the many trips had I chaperoned over the last 14 years. Rainy nature walks, apple picking, farms, museums, police and fire stations, zoos and now a YMCA outward bound ropes course. Bring it!
The fit, enthusiastic 20-something YMCA guide came jogging over to our less than enthusiastic circle of parent chaperones who were staring down at their phones probably estimating how long until that first coveted sip of wine. He handed out name tags and lists with our assigned groups and jogged back off, full of pep for the long day ahead.
We spent over seven straight hours doing trust activities, holding hands in a circle, walking on ropes and running back and forth as fast as we could across a soaking wet field. The highlight was when he made me get on a low ropes course in front of the kids. Dude, I’m here to encourage, shuttle kids to bathrooms and maybe help with first aid–NOT this.
Of course I caved due to fifth grade peer pressure (it’s real). At that moment I realized that I was kind of done with all of this and here’s why:
1 | Getting Saddled With the Challenging Kids
Because I have a son with special needs I am pegged by teachers to be extraordinarily patient and able to deal with other special needs kids.
Fair enough, but apparently this also means I’m the go-to gal for kids who bolt, mouth off, have serious behavioral issues, wet (or poop…yes) their pants, are completely nonverbal and more. It’s a banner trip when I also have a few kids who don’t speak English to no fault of their own, but it just adds to the fun and my intense desire to drink.
2 | It’s a Young Mom’s Game
I’m not 30 anymore, I’m 45 with waning enthusiasm and patience–a deadly combo.
I’m sorry, but doing cartwheels across a hot, sunny field as we recite the names of everyone in our group isn’t something I want to do anymore. Ditto for holding dirty, sticky (sometimes snotty) hands through an apple orchard, coaxing a kid to pee in a port-a-potty, cleaning up barf on a bus seat and so help me if I have to open up one more bag of chips or fiddle with another juice box straw. We’ve sent people to the moon can we not improve the juice box straw?
3 | Kids Don’t Listen or Follow Directions
Get kids outside of their routine and classroom and all hell breaks loose namely listening skills and following the most basic of directions like “no” and “stop.”
I was chaperoning backstage at the final evening performance of my son’s school play and it got so bad and the kids were so out of control that I lined the group of Peter Pan pirates (including Captain Hook himself) up against the cinderblock wall and told them they’d never amount to anything in life unless they stopped farting and dropped their nasty ‘tudes IMMEDIATELY. And that wasn’t all.
Yes, I ripped new ones to a bunch of kids who weren’t my own. Not my best chaperoning moment, but they complied after that.
4 | It’s Loud, Dirty and Smelly
Get a group of 45+ kids inside a tin box (i.e. a school bus) and the most deafening live concert you’ve ever attended will seem like a meditation class.
Add a hot day + open bus windows + kids who should (but don’t) wear deodorant + bus exhaust fumes pouring in and yes that makes me and many other parents cranky. And again, please stop farting!!
5 | It’s STRESSFUL
Chaperones are there to make sure the kids make it to and from the field trip location alive. A tall order. On an apple picking trip for my preschool son, I was trying to determine if one of my charges should drink the milk that had been sitting in his hot backpack for the past three hours. Who sends their kid with milk for a field trip on a 90 degree day anyway? One of my other charges (a bolter) wandered off and was about to turn the corner into a very complicated (and very off limits) corn maze. I dropped the warm milk and screamed the bolter’s name and the words, “NO! STOP! DON’T MOVE!” as I went running after him with five bags of apples strapped to my body.
Do I love my kids? Yes. And other kids? Of course, but this is why I’m burned out. There comes a moment in every parent’s life when it’s time to pass the chaperone’s baton on to fresher, younger, more patient hands who are just starting on the journey so here you go. Enjoy! And don’t forget to pack the hand sanitizer and a flask.