One of the best parts about working from home, to me, is the flexibility. I can drop into my son’s kindergarten classroom for the daily reading time. It’s not the end of the world if one of my kids is sick, and I’m not left scrambling for childcare on a snow day. Plus, I can do things like volunteer to go on field trips.
My own mother was a stay-at-home-mom until I was in grade three. She walked me to the bus stop every morning, volunteered in my classroom, and would often be one of the parent drivers on my class field trips. I enjoyed that. By working from home, I get to share that with my own kids, only instead of walking them to the bus stop I’m walking them to school. I know that I’m very lucky, indeed, to be able to do this.
Lucky and wise aren’t always the same thing, however. In the past I’ve only gone on walking field trips. I accompanied my daughter’s class to sing at a local extended care home or walked them to a nearby high school to see a play. Yesterday, I stepped up my field trip game by volunteering as one of the parent supervisors for a trip three classes from my daughter’s school were taking to Science World in Vancouver. The kids travelled by bus, which excited my daughter immensely, as it was her first time on a school bus. I drove myself in my own car, which actually worked out because I’m sure my trip was far more peaceful than it would have been otherwise.
When those kids came pouring off the bus at Science World, the excitement was so thick that the air almost crackled with it. I rounded up my group of five kids, who I would be supervising. I marshalled the eight-year-olds over to the area where they dropped off their lunches and coats, and then tried to lead them upstairs away from the crowds. This is when I got my first taste of what the rest of my day would be like. They all agreed to follow me, but no more than 15 seconds later when I turned back only one child was still with me. The rest had all been distracted by one display or another, and had wandered a little bit off track.
Me: Hey, team! How about we go check out the nature exhibit?
Me: Great! This way!
Me: … one, two, three … I’m missing two kids. Which two am I missing? Sarah! There you are! Come back here! Now, has anyone seen Mitchell? Okay, you guys, stay right here. I’ll be right back.
Me: Mitchell! There you are. I know this place is exciting, but I need you to stay with the group. They’re right over there … well, two of them are. Who’s missing now?
And so on, and so on, and so on.
I’d say that it was like herding cats, only I suspect cats would be more cooperative. Plus, you can always put cats inside cat carriers and lock the door if you really need them to stay in one place. You cannot do this with children.
It turns out ancient beavers were really big
In the end, only one kid on the field trip went missing long enough that the staff started looking for him, and he wasn’t in my group. We managed lunch and bathroom visits and exhibit exploration, and I managed not to raise my voice once. My head only hurt a little when it was over, although I was more tired than I’ve been in years. I think that counts as a fairly successful field trip, all told.
When I mentioned my post-grade-three-field-trip fatigue on Facebook, the fabulous Allison a.k.a. Bibliomama said, “I’ve done that. Twice. And then again in grade four. And then I started burning the permission slips.” She is a wise woman, Allison. Although, truthfully, I’d probably do it again. I didn’t volunteer in order to have a relaxing day, or for my health, or for a free trip to Science World. I volunteered for my daughter. Yesterday evening, when she gushed about how much fun she’d had and how glad she was I came along, I knew it had been worthwhile. Long after my fatigue has worn off, Hannah will remember that I went with her class to Science World. That’s the part that counts.