At some point this morning as I was sending out emails to remind parents in my daughter’s third grade class that they had signed up to chaperone next month’s trip to Plimoth Plantation, the thought drifted through my head that before my younger child gets to high school, I should really sign up to chaperone a field trip myself.
And then I realized with no small sigh of relief that I still have five more years in which to procrastinate on that particular goal.
Over the seven years I’ve had children in the public school system, I’ve served as a room parent more than half of those years. And for the most part I’ve kept my reasons to being such an obliging volunteer a secret, suspected by only a very small number of my parenting colleagues: being room parent means you get to delegate and never feel obliged to sign up yourself for anything you really don’t want to do. Which in my case would be chaperone a field trip.
But by late morning, all six parents had responded enthusiastically to my reminder email. Not only did they acknowledge that back in September they had signed up to chaperone the full-day spring excursion to the Pilgrim reenactment site; they sounded genuinely delighted at the prospect. In fact, there’s one mom in the class who routinely reminds me that she’s always available to fill any field trip space left unclaimed by other adults.
Witnessing so much exuberance over the subject of field trips made me reexamine my unwillingness to go on one. My memories of field trips from my own childhood include complicated friendship tangles played out on the bus ride, warm cartons of milk in torn paper sacks, a great deal of difficulty being able to see whatever it was we were supposed to be observing (I was the shortest kid in the class), and the pervasive fear of being left behind. (Fortunately, I was old enough to have lost this particular fear at the time when my father, nearing his fortieth year as a high school teacher, took a group of kids to a theatrical performance forty miles away and reported cheerfully afterwards, “We left with 28 kids; we returned with 26. Not too bad!”).
And besides, I reason with myself, none of those fears hold up to the light of day now that I’m an adult. As long as I don’t sit with any of the other chaperones, I don’t have to worry about friendship tangles. I can pack myself a Thermos of coffee instead of a warm carton of milk. And seeing the exhibits shouldn’t be so tough; I’m taller than at least two-thirds of Holly’s third-grade classmates. Joining field trips would actually be a fine opportunity for me to re-visit some of the educational sites around Massachusetts that I’ve neglected in my adult years.
But the primary reason to do it, I suppose, is that for so many years I haven’t wanted to. Over the past winter, my aversion to going anywhere grew to the point where I worried it might be bordering on agoraphobia. For a variety of reasons, now I’m feeling a little bit more adventuresome (though to be fair, driving to the post office would constitute feeling more adventuresome than I was over the winter), and thinking that I should take advantage of opportunities like third grade field trips.
So maybe there’s some value in establishing a kind of reverse “bucket list” – not things you want to do before you die, but things you resolve to do precisely because you don’t particularly want to. Quite likely a daylong trip to a historical landmark with Holly’s class on a nice spring day would forever cure me of my lifelong aversion to field trips. And that’s why I’m determined to sign up for the very next one that has openings. Right now, I have six parents who are truly excited about their upcoming trip to Plimoth Plantation, so my plan is to pack them a jumbo Thermos of hot coffee and wave them all away as the bus pulls out of the parking lot.