I recently chaperoned my very first school excursion. It was a half-day primary school venture out to the Kortright Centre on what was likely the wettest winter day in Ontario ever. I have three children, and I have never chaperoned a excursion before. I wish I could blame work commitments (which is almost always a valid excuse) but to be honest, it wasn’t something I had ever considered doing. I do a lot as a parent. I drive carpool to the movies even when I’d rather be at home in my pyjamas. I volunteer on pizza day. I watch swimming lessons from an uncomfortable bench in an over-heated viewing area. I lace up figure skates in stinky hockey change rooms. But I don’t chaperone. Maybe it’s in my DNA…my mother never chaperoned either.
My kids get so excited about visiting museums and Amish country and conservation areas and the zoo and I can’t say I blame them. When I was their age, there was absolutely nothing better than spending a school day somewhere other than school. But now that I am no longer in school, these things are decidedly less appealing to me unless you are asking me to be a chaperone at, say, West Beverly High’s senior ditch day.
There are so many factors at play here, really. There’s the I Still Look Like a Kid factor. I look like a kind-of-large child, who is going to listen to me? (Answer: no one who is 9-year- old.) There’s the OPK (Other. People’s. Kids.) factor. Kids are loud and sticky and touchy and easily distracted and thirsty. They have trouble making a straight line. They are messy and they always seem to have to pee at inopportune times and sometimes they even barf, especially in January (hello, stomach bug season!). And don’t even get me started on the SCHOOL BUS FACTOR.
I don’t even remember signing the sheet, offering up my chaperoning services. I don’t even remember. My youngest daughter is tricky.
But then one day Isabella bounced through the doors all “YOU WON MAMA! THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER! MY TEACHER PICKED YOU! YOU GET TO COME ON MY TRIP! YAHOO!” I doubt she was this happy in Disney World. She told every person she saw that week, including the bank teller and the pizza delivery man.
“My mama is coming on my trip…” she sang in her best sing-song voice to anyone who would listen, half excited, half neener-neener. My mama gets to come and yours doesn’t. Her face lit up like Ryan Seacrest on New Year’s Eve when she saw me turn the corner with my fluorescent pink VISITOR sticker affixed to my rain gear.
She held my hand the entire day—she had never been so proud. She never stopped smiling, even though it was cold and wet and it was a little squicky to hold the muskrat pelt. She introduced me to all of her friends and classmates who told me adorable stories and wanted to hold my hand and actually listened to me and told me I was pretty. They were hilarious and nice and sweet and fun (and no one barfed) and even though OPKs can be loud and sticky and touchy and easily distracted and thirsty and so on, they can also be quite lovely, even if they *do* have trouble with the straight line thing.
And even though the bus smelled exactly the way I remembered it — like feet and desperation and cheese and Axe body spray — I got to sit next to this face for the entire ride there and the entire ride home.
Don’t look now, but there might be a second—and maybe third—class trip in my future.
There just might.
Photo: Ali Martell