penny in a castle

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Off in left field

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It’s June, which means that teachers are just trying to get across the finish line and are booking a lot of field trips.  This year, I had a chance to accompany each of my children separately on an individual field trip.  This is no small thing as I need to take a day off and by the end of the day I am more exhausted than I would be working a week plus a weekend of overtime.

It’s well worth the opportunity though and I highly recommend it to all parents. It’s a chance to see how your kid interacts in their peer group at school. This is different from a play date where kids usually get along and have something in common. Instead, they are forced to interact with the kids that they normally would not choose to hang out with – but through the fate of registration (and perhaps letter of their last name) throws the kids together in the same class. It’s a good microcosm of the school relationship environment.  As a parent, it’s interesting to watch the kids – who all have to work together as a team towards a single objective – making it to the end of the day with sanity relatively intact.

I have gained valuable experience and perspective from these trips – usually not related to the camp activities, art or culture, but more as a result of taking care of my own child plus four of someone else’s children (who clearly have different personalities and levels of exposure to parental guidance).

Here are a few things I have observed, learned, thought about:

  • Might as well say it now – You will lose a child. Probably more than once. Probably only for a few brief heart stopping moments, during which every kidnapping plot twist known to man goes through your head.  Usually the child is found just around the corner and it will be another child in the group that finds them.
  • You will find someone else’s lost child – and then wonder whether it is better to wait exactly where you are in that one spot to see if the other group comes back – or wander aimlessly, towing along the other child, until you find the other group. The lost child may also tell you that they have already been lost twice that day (and you may or may not be surprised).
  • You will shout out the name of a child who happens to be standing right beside you (who you think is lost) and then feel like a bit of a tool while the child smirks up (or down) at you.
  • I’m short, so some Grade 5s are taller than me. This makes for an interesting authority dynamic (although most children will respect an adult who is louder than they are. Thank goodness for life guard training).
  • You will mix up the names of the children in your group. How teachers keep track of 30 kids is beyond me.
  • Your child is not going to enjoy the field trip if she is the only girl among a bunch of boys. But she will be able to climb a tree just as fast as the boys do.
  • It is a good idea to bring along a lot of Band Aids. Because the camp counsellor assigned to you will have forgotten or not understood how many booboos a Grade One class group can get while wandering in a field.
  • It is helpful if the Band Aids have Sponge Bob on them. It usually cuts down the screaming of “I’m dying!” a lot faster.
  • The field will be full of poison ivy and Lyme disease carrying ticks. You will only be told this upon arrival – at which point you are trapped. With five six-year-olds. Who are unlikely to stay on the path through the field and forest.
  • If your child gets sick on the bus, really try to ride it out before giving them Gravol. Otherwise your child will arrive at the field trip destination high and throughout the course of the day will drift into hang-over/melt down mode which will bewilder other parents on the trip (whose child is that anyway?).
  • Always bring extra water. Especially if it is going to be eleventy-thousand degrees outside.
  • Always bring an extra snack and/or lunch in case one of the kids forgets to bring theirs.
  • Always bring extra money in case the kid who forgot to bring their lunch also did not bring money to buy themselves lunch. And you are going to have to buy them a hamburger. Or you are both going to starve.
  • There will always be kids that bring way too much money with them and will buy everything they see – causing consternation, frustration and jealousy among the other children. If the child themselves does not bring the money, the chaperoning parent or grandparent may do it instead.
  • The same children with too much money will spend it either on weapon replicas or candy – both of which will make the children zippy to the point that all candy and weapons need to be confiscated.
  • If you have a child with an allergy, ALL the children in the class with life threatening allergies will be put into your group. Because you are the only parent on the trip who knows how to wield an Epi-pen.
  • Do not assume that having a life-threatening allergy will make children in the group feel like they are some sort of brothers-in-arms. Because they won’t, and may not in fact like each very much, are tired of constantly being thrown into the same grouping due to an allergy that is not their fault, and will have trouble getting along during the trip.
  • Make sure all the children have their Epi-pen on them before you start (because most children have them buried deep within the nether of their back pack).
  • Not all of the children in the group will want to do the same thing at the same time. Actually, they will usually want to do completely different things at the same time – which will cause wandering off as per lesson number one above.
  • You will blunder into the Picasso exhibit, having not seen the giant sign saying “Not suitable for children due to explicit nature,” and only realize what you have done after the children have marched up to look at the pictures and the security guard comes racing in to escort you out. Which will also lead to a lot of discussion about the number of “naked people” at the art gallery – bringing you way out of your depth as a chaperone.
  • One child will know all the answers to the questions being asked by the tour guide. And trash talk the rest of the children for the rest of the day for not knowing stuff.
  • In a similar vein, one child will have already visited the field trip destination sufficiently enough times to know everything about it, be bored upon arrival, and won’t want to do what everyone else wants to because they’ve “already done that.” This will lead to a lot of cajoling and eventually ordering about.
  • Similarly, if there was a zip line at the destination the day before, but not the day you are there, that is all you will hear about. “It was WAAAYYY better here yesterday…”
  • Some children are better at walking than others. Which means that you have one child who wants to sit down and hang out under a tree while the rest dart ahead into the distance. Usually getting lost in the process (repeat lesson one).
  • Thankfully children can also be incredibly patient sometimes. They will wait for each other, the bus, the next activity. It’s always a bit of a surprise but it’s nice to know that even challenging children can wait for a little bit. Another surprise is that they often bring books with them to help with the wait.
  • Which is good because often the bus is late to arrive for pick up.
  • The bus driver will be playing some awful top-40 on the radio full blast, which will include songs with lyrics you don’t want children to hear.
  • You cut the bus driver some slack because it’s eleventy-thousand degrees on the bus, they have no air conditioning, and this is the third run of the day for them in a bus filled with screaming kids.
  • Children going to a field trip are always louder on the bus than kids coming home. Which is no small mercy.
  • The child you were told is “almost non-verbal” is in fact a veritable chatterbox with their friends but will only respond in quiet sullen one-word retorts when talked to by an adult.
  • Children will be shockingly mean to each other. This may involve trash talk, excluding other children or hitting each other. And it doesn’t matter if they are boys or girls.
  • Children will also be shockingly kind to each other – helping the kids that need a little extra to get their walker off the bus, or sharing lunches or even lunch money. You will feel hope for humanity.
  • Sometimes it is your child that’s the jerk of the group. And you will feel sorry for the teacher and children that have to deal with your child every single day.  You will resolve to buy the teacher a gift card to the liquor store for the end of the year cadeaux.
  • It will be your child who begins the rousing rendition of “99 bottles of beer on the wall” at the top of their lungs as soon as the bus starts moving. Indeed, by the end of the trip, you will be looking forward to “taking one down and passing it around.” Just make sure you have some at home for when the field trip is done.



Written by pennyinacastle

June 21, 2016 at 2:47 am

Posted in Random thoughts

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