When the form comes home, there is that little section along the bottom asking for chaperones.
The options should be:
_____ Not if I was the last living, breathing parent in the universe after the apocalypse.
_____ I would rather walk barefoot on hot coals but I haven’t chaperoned all year so if no one else signs up then, yeah, I guess so.
I love my kids. I even love some of their classmates. And I bow in utter awe to every teacher on the planet … but chaperone duty is exhausting.
I know field trips are part of the curriculum and necessary and blah blah. But there is something about embarking off school grounds with other people’s kids that pushes my buttons. My Bad Mommy buttons. Here are my least favorite parts of every field trip:
1. The Professional Chaperone: This mom is the first one to turn in her form with handwritten notes and exclamation points everywhere.
See you then!!
This is her niche. She has been the field trip bomb-diggity since kindergarten, and she makes sure you know that before your butt meets the hard seat of the bus. She has snacks for the hungry. Wipes for the messy. And the patience of Mother Teresa. Which makes her untrustworthy to normal, slacker moms. No one loves other people’s kids this much without getting paid. You pop Advil anticipating the hellish group singalong she is sure to lead on the way home.
2. The Peeing Machine: Every class has one kid who spends the entire excursion in the bathroom. A tour including a fountain, or any running water, ups the urgency level. No one needs the bathroom this much unless they’re scheduled for a colonoscopy. The only thing worse than visiting germy restrooms is changing the pee pants of someone else’s kid. So you trudge off. With each return, the professional chaperone springs into action with the hand sanitizer clipped to her backpack.
3. The Interruptor: This child interrupts the tour guide with embarrassing, personal details that are related to the subject matter at hand. At a wild animal exhibit, for example, this kid is likely to shout, “A cougar can be a nickname too. My dad calls the lady next door a cougar all the time.” These admissions momentarily stun the guides and send teachers scrambling. The entertainment value increases if the child has a parent on the trip. #kidssaythedarndestthings
4. Lunch: Field trip lunches should be bubble wrapped and packed in padded envelopes. Instead, those flimsy brown bags are tossed into an old basket and the food looks like roadkill when it’s time to eat. Capri Sun pouches explode. Someone’s lunch disappears. A kid wants you to save his chip bag with exactly two Funyuns left. You forgot to pack anything for yourself so you grab a stick of gum. The only problem is the gum tastes like Funyuns from being in your purse with the leftovers.
5. The Lagger: On every trip, one chaperone has to be the “caboose,” a phrase surely coined by the first, overzealous professional chaperone. The caboose is JAIL. The worst version of solitary confinement. You miss every nugget of information, every demonstration and generally the only parts that make a field trip remotely interesting. You miss them because you are bringing up the rear with some kid who. Just. Will. Not. Walk. Fast.
6. Counting: Losing your own kid is bad. Losing a kid that is not yours is really, really bad. Or a word that is worse than bad. So, you count. Over and over. You count as they get on the bus, each time you leave a location and each time you enter a location. Then you recount because no one stands still while you count. And if you pass a gift shop, then you need to triple count because, you know, all the shiny things. Just when you think you can’t count again, it is time to count for the bus ride home. The most stressful count of all. There is no recovering from the white-hot light that shines on the chaperone of a wayward child delaying the ride home.
7. Downtime: This is a classic example of a good idea totally hitting the skids. The teachers really, really, scouts-honor believe that unscheduled time is a good thing. But it always leads to chaos and tears. Sometimes the tears are from exhausted chaperones that need an unscheduled Starbucks. The kids chase pigeons, pretend to sword fight, play sweet-or-sour with innocent passersby and generally suck the oxygen out of their environment until it is time to push and shove their way to the bus.
That bus might as well be a spaceship carrying these alien children back to whatever planet they came from. Oh, and that includes your kid, whom you see in a totally new, bratty light.
Each and every time you survive the chaperoning experience, you confirm that teachers have earned one-way tickets to heaven. Because the fact that they have your kids for seven hours a day is the only thing keeping you out of parenting hell.
This article was originally published on