If you’ve never tried to score a chaperone position for an elementary school field trip, let me tell you: It’s basically the Hunger Games, at least at our school. I am the recently retired president of our PTO. Typically, you can only wrangle a small handful of volunteers for fundraising events and book fairs, but the volunteers flock to a field trip opportunity like wild hyenas to a fresh carcass. I think there’s something about getting a sneak peek of your child in their school environment that makes everyone wanna throw their hat in the ring. When I got the email that my daughter's kindergarten teacher was looking for two chaperones for the upcoming farm field trip, I signed myself right up. But it turns out I got a little ahead of myself.
The next day, a large group of us received an email: “Thank you all so much for your willingness to volunteer for the upcoming field trip,” her teacher wrote. “We have a lot more than two people interested, so I will be making a selection this afternoon and notifying those who are chosen.” I want to say I played it cool that afternoon when I received the email letting me know I was picked, but I’m pretty sure I let out an audible squeal.
In my excitement, I ran to tell my daughter. I was sure she would be over-the-moon. I thought we’d both won the kindergarten parent lottery. “Guess what?!” I sang as I rounded the corner into her room. “I am going to come with your class to the farm next week!”
And this is where the story takes a turn. My daughter’s face looked instantly serious, and she paused for a moment. I sat smiling, on the edge of my seat with excitement, and then she responded: “Oh, no. Mom, I am really sorry, but I do not want you there at all.”
She told me how excited she was about riding a bus and exploring the farm with her friends and how she would really like to do that without her mom there. And boy, it felt like a real f*cking plot twist.
The first thing I felt was sadness, along with some feelings of confusion and frustration. My independent little firecracker and I speak very different languages and sometimes I feel like we were born on different planets. I was a clinger as a kid, and I would have loved to have my mom along a school field trip at her age.
But after that first wave of feelings washed over me, another one came roaring in. I felt proud and so happy for her. How amazing for her that at 6 years old, she’s confident and independent enough to enjoy life’s fun adventures without me tethered to her side. She is everything I am not: brave, socially secure, and free of the little anxieties that can turn something fun into something scary. She wants to ride that bus and explore that farm with her newfound school friends. She wants to feel like an independent big shot who doesn’t need her mom. I mean, how cool is that?
So, as she continued to apologize to me, I made sure to turn my frown upside down and let her know how proud I was of her for being so brave, and how happy I was that she felt so excited about her field trip, even if I still really wished I could be a part of it.
And when the day comes, I will sit at home and enjoy the photo texts sent to me by one of my mom-friends who was allowed to attend the big day. I will marvel at my little independent farmer girl. And I will continue to volunteer as field trip chaperone – just in case she ever changes her mind.
Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.