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October 26, 1999
Today I had one of those quintessential mommy moments: chaperone for a field trip.
When I was growing up my mom was one of the stay-at-home variety until I was in the 6th grade. Even then, she only worked part time until I was in the 8th grade. This made her one of those moms that was always available to chaperone field trips. Fire station, Museum of Natural History, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, you name it, she chaperoned it. Often Sister #2 (who is three and a half years younger than I am) was along for the ride. What's one more?
As a full-time working mom, my opportunity to chaperone field trips is limited. OK, it's not like there have been a lot, but the few opportunities I've had in the past have been thwarted by work responsibilities I couldn't get out of--one type of meeting or another.
Chuck has been a field-trip going dad. Last Halloween he went to the pumpkin patch with the kids. Twice, I think now, he's been to the park to feed the ducks with them. He's driven truck loads to swimming practice.
That is until today.
When I dropped Zoe off yesterday I saw that the annual trek to the pumpkin patch was scheduled for this morning. When I got to work I told my boss I wanted to take the morning off to chaperone. He was totally cool about it. (He's a field-trip- going dad too.)
I called the headmistress at Zoe's school to tell her I would like to chaperone. I could take three children in my car (including Zoe), and one adult. She seemed peeved that that was all I could fit. "I drive a Volvo. No kids in the front seat--there are airbags." She was a bit put out at the limited capacity of my vehicle, but was glad for the help. I offered room for one adult in the front seat to try and appease her.
So, today, instead of the usual morning panic to get us both dressed, teeth brushed, hair brushed (no small feat), coffee made, breakfast eaten, dogs put out, etc., we had a leisurely time getting ready for our field trip.
We got to school at about 9:15. All the kids put on their official "school t-shirts" so they'd be easily recognizable in a crowd (there turned out not to be one), and sat down for attendance and instructions: no running, stay together, and generally behave yourselves.
Then the kids were loaded in the various waiting automobiles. Zoe wanted her best friend Liliana to ride with her so we put that request out there. We took her and another little girl.
The thing is, any time Zoe is going to go anywhere with school, I leave her car seat there for her to ride in. Not one single parent had left a car seat for their child.
So the only kids that were sufficiently protected were those who actually rode with their own parents. About five total.
So I seat-belted my passengers in. Get in. Lock the doors. I have child safety locks so at least I know they won't be opening the doors or some other such nonsense.
As I pulled out of the school driveway a panic was rising from the pit of my stomach. Here I was driving two little children who weren't my own. Not in car seats.
I could have gotten a huge ticket for this but it was the least of my concerns. OK, a Volvo is probably one of the safest passenger cars on the road and mine is bright red so it's hard to miss, but there are lunatics out there. They don't know the precious cargo I'm carrying. I don't think I've ever driven so carefully, or been so hyperaware in my life.
We sang pumpkin songs the whole way from school to our final destination--about three miles away.
Can you say pandemonium?
Imagine, if you will, 40 kids, ages 3 - 5 in a place filled with pumpkins, hay, dust, a train ride, a bounce thing, and farm animals. Toddler Nirvana.
Then to the bouncy-thing. I swear I want one for my backyard. Kids are crazy for them and are totally exhausted after 15 minutes of bouncing around in them. Here's the rub: you have to take your shoes off to go in the bouncer and all the surrounding ground was covered in hay. So, there was a lot of hay in the bouncer. A lot of kids were on their butts, backs, stomachs, heads, and feet in the bouncer. So, the kids were covered in hay. This was especially delightful when it came time to put shoes on five children. It takes quite a bit of time to brush hay off. That stuff sticks like glue.
From there were went to see the farm animals. It wasn't a petting zoo and I can tell you now, those animals should be thanking their lucky stars.
If I didn't know there was a huge difference between boys and girls before the stop at the farm animals I know it now. The boys wanted to pull tails, poke sides, and otherwise generally annoy the goats and pigs. The girls, as a rule, wanted to pet things gently. There was much fascination with the bunnies, and all the girls tried to feed hay to the goats.
Everyone was hot, sweaty, and very very dusty, but I'm here to tell you...a fun time was had by all.
Until next time. . .