When my oldest child entered kindergarten, I remember walking through the very same halls I spent my elementary school days and thinking to myself, I’m going to volunteer for everything, sign up for every field trip, this will be how I dedicate some of my free time and I will LOVE IT.
I was looking forward to being the chaperone queen. Being at his school — seeing how it still felt the same, looked the same, smelled the same — made me so nostalgic I figured it would benefit everyone, especially me, to be at every last school event and outing. I knew this transition of not having him with me at home all the time was going to be tough on me, and volunteering in the classroom or for school trips would help that transition.
Or so I thought.
As soon as I signed up to chaperone my first field trip, I had high hopes it would take the edge off and help me remember my carefree days of being a little girl and getting lost in the moment. But I quickly realized the only thing I was losing was my patience. All of it. By the end of the day, I had absolutely nothing left to give to my family. Nothing.
That first field trip took me on a trip all right — a trip to a place that made me feel like I needed a 2-day nap when it was over. It gave me a new appreciation for all those teachers do, and I was only with those 5-year-olds for part of the day. It was nothing compared to their daily lives.
I told myself it was my first time; maybe I just needed more practice, and in no time I’d be the chaperone queen I knew I could be.
To my dismay, the second time was even worse and I realized I had no idea how to handle kids who were not my own. My head was spinning and the noise (so much noise!) cut right through me.
The kids were well behaved, the teachers ran a tight ship, but when they left the classroom and took students out into a public place, all hell broke loose. They needed people to help keep an eye on those precious kids and keep certain situations under control. And I wasn’t fit for that job by any means.
I kept trying to fall in love with being the chaperone mom. But after going to The Nutcracker with my daughter’s third grade class, I realized it was time for me to retire and pass the torch to someone who actually enjoys it. My days were over. There was no need to be a martyr, and this was not a hat I should be wearing.
I wish I could have leaned into it and enjoyed myself, but no matter what I did, no matter how well rested I was, no matter how many fun snacks I packed for myself, I just didn’t want to be doing this. There were so many other things I’d rather be doing — and that’s okay.
Did I feel like a horrible person admitting that the next time a slip came home asking for volunteers to accompany kids on a trip? Yes, I did. I was riddled with guilt because by the time my third child was in school, my days of volunteering to go on field trips were long over.
Look, I’m happy to volunteer in other ways. I can be the classroom copy mom. Give me stacks of paper and leave me alone with a copy machine for a few hours and I’m in heaven. I love labeling students art projects and have helped out behind the scenes to put together an art show. Need someone to bake something for a fund raiser? I can do that. They might be store bought cookies disguised as freshly baked, but who cares, it’s the same difference to those kids who don’t care how they get infused with sugar that day.
But chaperone the class field trip? Nope. No way. Nuh-uh.
By now, my guilt is gone. I’m not the person for the job. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and I found out I am just not cut out for school field trips. No can do. It’s all about knowing where your sweet spot is, I guess, and everyone is better off if I stay off that bus.
And to those parents who do chaperone and do it with a smile, I salute you.