If you ever want to feel better about your parenting, chaperone a field trip. I recently chaperoned my kid’s second-grade class on their field trip to the theater, and it was an enlightening experience to say the least. I discovered there are many parents who are perfectly content to send their kids on a school field trip with unbuttoned shirts, ill-fitting pants, untied shoes, stinky breath, tangled hair, and boogers crusted all over their face. And it’s not even a regular school day – it’s a field trip! And it’s the theater!!!
Perhaps these parents already know what many of the rest of us have yet to learn: Kids are gross, and there’s no use in fighting it. But regardless of the reasons their kids are gross, I want to thank these parents, because they made me feel so much better about my often less-than-stellar efforts at parenting.
And so I say thank you:
To the parents of the kid who had about two days’ worth of snot crusted on his face: My first thought was, did his mother even look at him this morning? But that gross kid made me think to look at my own kid’s face, and I’ll be damned if he didn’t also have boogers crusted around the edge of his nostrils. I know I told him to eat his breakfast and brush his teeth, but you know… I’m not really sure if I ever actually looked directly at him this morning…
To the parents of the adorable kid who sat right next to me on the bus and told me the riveting and oh-so-recent tale of how her mother spent ‘practically all day’ combing lice and their eggs from her hair: Firstly, you’ve never seen me slick my hair back in a ponytail so fast. But secondly: thank you. I feel so much less trashy about the six times I had lice as a kid, plus I’m slightly less mortified thinking of the inevitable God-only-knows how many times my kids will contract that repugnant parasite during the next fifteen years. Annnd now my head itches.
To the parents of the kid who told me all about his new motor home, his new four-wheeler, his new computer, his new house that has a ‘really big’ pool with a slide… and about how his uncle is living in his ‘old’ house, you know, ‘the one the bank took away’: I’m feeling a lot better about that short-sale we did seven years ago. So when can we set up a play date with our kids so my family can play with your family’s toys?
To the parents of the kid whose lunch is packed with a pre-packaged PB&J, super-long fruit roll-up thingy, chocolate rice crispy treat, cheez-its, and chocolate milk: You’re making me feel pretty good about myself for not feeding my kid absolute crap. Really. I don’t know what else to say to you. I admit I’m feeling a little judgy on this one. Although, to be fair, maybe your kid doesn’t gnaw on the dog’s tail or scrape the paint off the walls when you feed him sugary chemical-laden junk, like my kid does.
To the parents of the kid who ran ahead of the group and was momentarily lost, lagged behind the group and was momentarily lost, hid from the group and was momentarily lost, and tried to head-butt everyone in the group and everyone wished he were lost: Oh, wait… that was my kid. Nevermind.
To the parents of the kid who needed water like, every 10 seconds, and kept nagging me to hold his hat and/or his jacket: Thanks for making me feel justified in making my kid wait for stuff and doing things on my schedule rather than caving in to his every little whimper and whine. I feel so much better for forcing him to be independent. Except for when it comes to tying his shoes. He just learned to do that like two weeks ago. (It’s not my fault the Velcro shoes are always on sale!)
To the parents of the kid who bragged loudly on the bus ride home that her breath stunk, and when one of the other children asked if she brushed her teeth this morning, not only did she say ‘no,’ but she pulled her lips back and opened her mouth really wide like in that toothbrush commercial with the flip-top head so that we could see her FIVE silver crowns: Thanks for inspiring me to put both my kids in headlocks tonight and brush their teeth twice. Seriously dude, that shit looked hella expensive. I think I’d rather have lice.
To all of these parents: Each one of you in your own way made me feel so much better about my parenting. Thank you so much for making me feel, if only for one day, that I am not totally shitting all over this astonishingly sticky job we call parenting.
Or at least that I’m not the only one.