Remember when we were young and the big day of field trips? Our elementary school rarely offered this intriguing curricular activity, so when the day came upon us, we were highly enthused. As we jumbled on the bus, spritzed with a combination of anticipation of some stellar location but also the delight in being free from desks and books even for a little while. The bus ride always began with attentiveness but once down the road, the entire ride was a series of fart jokes from the boys and a series of appalled noises and giggles from the girls.
And it seems to be a staple that all bus rides must include songs. Song which ranged from Springtime Rag and Miss Mary Mack when we were rather young to I Love Rock and Roll and We Got the Beat as we topped the 5th and 6th grade years. Do you know which perspective I never considered during these trips? Those of our teachers. These opportunities were not mandatory requirements. And if we were good, they likely applauded themselves for exposing us to culture. If were were awful, well, it was what drove them to make up bad nicknames in the teachers lounge if not nip from the bottle the minute they got home.
In early May, I revisited the field trip concept. MiniMac attends a private early learning school here in Atlanta. I love his teachers so when they asked if JMac and I would chaperone a field trip, my initial thought, how fun! So JMac, who doesn't strike me as the type to willing go to any destination with a group of 4 and 5 year olds, and I meet the kids as their bus pulls in at the local Science Museum. My first plan is to simply and gently guide but really, the teachers are in charge. That lasted for 10 entire seconds after those kids piled off the bus and instead of wanting to stand in line as requested, they looked more like a live version of 52 card pick-up.
So I quickly admonish my own child and all others fell in quickly. His teachers are outstanding and those kids are dutiful and well-behaved, 90% of the time. And MiniMac has been in class with half of most of them for the past three years so I know most of them very well. But big space, excited munchkins, you see what can go down. We enjoy a presentation on the Solar System and I appreciate how attentive and focused they are in addition to shouting out answeres (correct answers) when asked by the presenter. What smart kids!
We then take the kids to a popular Atlanta pizza place for lunch. At this point, my husband peels off. I have no problem working these kids with just the right mix of bossy commands and sweet words for example, "Sweet girl, I am going to need you to sit down right now" and "Baby Angel, you need to catch a bubble" (this is teacherspeak to imply catch a bubble with your mouth. Meaning: zip it.) I eventually hug them all good-bye before they got on the bus. The next day, the teachers tell my husband and the Director of the school, they want us on future field trips. Yes, I felt like a received a shiny gold Mothering Badge of Honor. I did tell his head teacher I was surprised at how bossy you need to be with this age. She said, "Not bossy. Children need discipline." AMEN.
During the summer months, MiniMac's class has field trips galore scheduled. As in, one EVERY week. One of his teachers let me know that I was free to join on any (every) trip. I join them yesterday for a post-lunch trip to tour a local frozen yogurt store complete with demo of making waffle cones AND the freedom to pick any flavor they wanted. This time, I opted to meet them at school and ride the bus. I walk in the classroom and do some crowd amping: WHO IS READY FOR YOGURT? I go outside with one teacher to check the bus. We find multiple car seats and booster seats sitting outside the bus on the sidewalk. Oh goodness kids, apparently your parents can't read simple directions. Put the seats ON THE BUS. Oh, and they have limited memory since this is the same rule applied to every field trip for the past day? week? No, FOREVER. And these particular kids have been in this class since August. Parents, follow the drill.
Once on the bus, I rouse these kids with full permission from the teachers in any and every song they want to sing. Itsy Bitsy Spider? Check. Rainbow song? Done. Wheels on the Bus? Bring it home to Mama. I am pleased with my choice to chaperone these wonderful little tykes.
We get to the Yogurt Shop, and as one teacher got out to check in, one teacher began to unbuckle, these kids want to rush the door like the Fighting Irish hitting the football field. WHOA. Me, at the front, give a big finger snap and one command: BACK. We get them outside in a line, whoops, a line that looks like a triangle. The teachers give strict orders. Once inside, these kids eyes almost pop out of their tiny heads and the sparkling row of yogurt machines but more specifically at the 40+ bins of chopped up candy, fruit and sprinkles that strike me as disaster waiting to happen. They try desperately to listen to Miss Hannah who gives them a tour of the front and the party room.
She then leads us all to the back and wants to show them the freezers, the ingredients and the machines that make the yogurt. When she offers someone the chance to shake the blend to pour in the machine, she is set upon by 12 kids instantly. The teachers work from the back as I provide yet another finger snap and this edict: Children, this is Yogurt Field Trip NOT the Running of the Bulls. Back it up. They do so reluctantly but the constant pushing of one another over the sea of "I CAN'T SEE had me aghast. I don't know if it summer, the pure delight knowing they will receive heaping mounds of yogurt shortly or the fact they are after all, kids but I hadn't experienced this much excess enthusiasm since my one and only visit to a Bridal Expo.
As they pushed, badgered, winced because they couldn't see, I realized that 1. Pre-school teacher would be a poor vocational choice for me. And 2. I was about 3 minutes away from metamorphism into either Archie Bunker or Gargamel. I couldn't tell which way it was going to go but survey said: Either way, NOT kid-friendly. And when I picked up one of my favorite girls in the class because she asked me to, my son laid a look on me that could only be interpreted that I should be wearing a scarlet M for Mom on my chest.
By the time it came to actually getting the yogurt, the crowd had almost a hyena style yowl going. I had to drop some Nadine on this group with a very serious: Hey guess what flavor you are going to get? A giant mix of SIMMER DOWN NOW. This tamed them. Briefly. I then resulted in the old school Mr. Cunningham style of calling those being the biggest rascals by their first and last name. I also asked one boy if in fact, his ears were merely decorations and didn't actually serve the purpose of bringing our words to his brain. He laughed and then bounced away like Tigger.
And they could not have been more delighted with themselves and their yogurt mountains. And repeatedly asking me, "MiniMac's Mom...can I pick the next song we sing." So the bus ride home back was laden with songs until one girl said, "Can we all just PLEASE be quiet?" Yes ma'am. And hallelujah. I was happy to corral them all to oblige.
And I also learned something new today. Not something I wanted to learn or ever thought I would: the literal meaning of watching someone go ape sh*t. I have never even seen ape sh*t so I couldn't begin to process how one goes down the path to go there. But guess what, if you have never seen someone go ape sh*t either, take 12 toddlers to a yogurt shop. Field trip successful but I have honestly earned a glass of red wine tonight. A reward for today and preparation because I have another field trip to chaperone next week.