Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Chaperone

I was just reading someone else's bloggy adventures as chaperone and it brought me back in mind to my "most memorable" chaperone moment a couple years ago. Thought I'd share....

Between the French toast for breakfast and the peanut butter sandwiches for school lunches, I was working through my 2nd loaf of bread by 6:30 in the morning. My mind was busy dealing with society-fed mental stress: too many carbs for my kids. Plus, what kind of fat is in the peanut butter? Is it that bad kind everyone's talking about -- tranny? No, transparent? No, trans fat. Does peanut butter have trans-fat? Since the kids eat it with gusto, I'm guessing it's loaded with the stuff.

Bella broke my reverie by popping up beside me to remind me I'm chaperoning her field trip today. I told her, "Darlin, I keep telling you. I said I could chaperone, but I never heard from Miss R that I was selected and I never sent any money, so she must have picked a different Mom."

"But Mom", cried Bella, "she said I'm in your group."

Hold the phone. I have a GROUP? That doesn't sound like wishful thinkin, that sounds real.

A momentary surge of adrenaline jerked my head up and I assessed my reflection in the mirror before me. I was clad top to tail in my blue pajamas. The ones with the feathers all over them. Think chicken in distress. I was wearing my fuzzy brown slippers that go ksh, ksh, ksh on the floor. My uncombed hair was sprouting from a ponytail on the top of my head that resembled a Venus Fly-Trap. My unwashed face was still puffy with sleep and a schmear of peanut butter on my chin completed the look.

My mental stress took a giant leap from carbs and trans fats to how'm I gonna pull this off. I remembered my Lamaze from years gone by and decided breathing might be a good thing. After I did that for a while I moved into action. Finished getting the kids ready for school and onto the bus. Dashed off an e-mail to Miss R to verify if I was, indeed, supposed to chaperone.

I was, indeed.

I looked in my checkbook and told her I had paid for Julie and Bella but not for myself. She informed me I had paid in cash. I'm not remembering any of this.

But I showered and dressed and made myself as presentable as was possible and hurried off to school. The buses were pulling out of the parking lot when I arrived and so I fell into line behind them. I followed them down the highway to our destination, all the while frantically calling everyone I know so I can still pull off my afternoon appointment for Daniel out in Wilmington.

By the time I arrived at Longwood Gardens I can proudly say I had caused no traffic accidents by dialing and driving, but neither had I resolved my afternoon dilemma. I rushed over to Miss R to apologize for my screw-up, but as we got to talking we pieced together the puzzle. Turns out Bella, in the hopes of "surprising me", had paid my chaperone fees with her own money and then kept the confirmation paper from me. Bless her soul, I didn't know whether to strangle her or hug her.
Then with my Mommy Vision, I saw behind me Bella's best friend's Mom, who was also chaperoning. Without a shred of dignity I threw myself at the woman's feet and begged her to take my girls home with her after the field trip. She agreed, then peeled me off her legs to go round up her kids.

OK, so now the day was starting to look up. I gathered up the kids assigned to me, then met with the two other chaperones in my group. Both women were blondes with highlights and fashionable boots. Two Barbies and an "It's OK To Be Me Doll". Of the 14 fourth graders in our group, six of them were in my care. There are 350 acres at Longwood, but because it was a nasty cold drizzly day we spent most of our six hours inside. The guides were wonderful. But holy goat berries, they were trying to teach the kids how to read a map and how to measure. We actually measured the same bench 17 times. I'm not lying to you, 17 times. The kids' eyes all had that same glazed-over look you've likely noticed in road-kill.

We finally reached the end of the structured lessons and it was "free-time". Though the kids were all begging to run off to the treehouses, we decided it would be best to let the kids play in the indoor children's garden in the hopes of keeping them dry. Five minutes later more than 100 nine and ten year olds were soaking wet from playing in all the "please touch" water fountains. Whose brilliant idea was it to design those? So we threw our hands up in surrender and took them out to the treehouses, trudging through the mucky mulch and cold drizzle. As all the parents stood trembling in the rain, the kids climbed over the treehouses like termites. A couple children came to me to report one of the boys had peed over the railing. "No habla ingles" I replied.

The announcement came that it was time to load the kids on the bus, thank sweet baby Jesus. I said goodbye to my girls, then drove the 20 miles home in about 10 minutes. Picked up Daniel (and Rosie too, 'cuz she wanted to come along), then drove back out past Longwood again and on out to Wilmington. After Daniel's appointment we drove back, stopping to pick up first fast food for dinner, then the girls from their friend's house. Got home, threw burgers at everyone and told Bella to grab her skate bag and jump back in the car to get out to her ice skating lesson.

Sat in the cold. Again. Got home about 9pm and got Bella tucked in, did some laundry, then headed down to have some quality time with Fred. Quality time, of course, meaning we both stared blankly at the TV for about an hour and then crawled into bed.

I'm sure I'll be called on again in the future to be a chaperone. Today's guidelines are stricter than ever, requiring child abuse clearances, criminal record clearances, and fingerprints run and approved by the FBI. I think the next step planned in the process is retinal scans and DNA analysis. Those of us who hand all that into the school are the few, the proud. The stupid.

I just hope that the next time I'm scheduled to chaperone, I will know about it more than 30 minutes in advance.

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