Hail the conquering hero!

There’s just something so satisfying about conquering something that you had previously thought unconquerable. Climbing the mountain, running the marathon, or – in my case – going on a field trip.

As you know, over the years I’ve been incredibly adverse to field trips, with the single exception being the preschool trip to the fire hall. I think we all can understand why, without my getting into any details about the heroically strong firefighters. In fact, the last field trip that I chaperoned was nearly three years ago and I volunteered under extreme duress. It was just as terrible as I had thought it would be; given the sheer amount of volunteering I do at the school, I felt that it was perfectly acceptable to say no more field trips. Never again.

But there have been several changes in my life since the ill-fated trip to the museum. For one thing, I am no longer chairing the school council and parent association, which has left me with extra time. For another thing, my children are now in grades five and six, and children this age are much less likely to run away or get separated from the group, and that paranoia of losing someone else’s child has long kept me from chaperoning field trips. Buoyed up by my friends Catherine (HI CATHERINE) and Allison (HI ALLISON), who are seasoned field-trip veterans, I signed up for a walking trip to the nearby Whispering Woods, a nature park attached to a nearby school, which features an outdoor classroom, several pathways, and interpretive signs.

I was assigned a group of nine boys, and I am just going to go out on a limb here and say that my group was superior to other groups. For one thing, these nine boys were quite studious and full of information that they seemed to enjoy divulging to me, from their country of origin and interesting things about it to the house with big windows that was listed for sale that we all admired on the way to the woods. Other than one slightly hyper boy who enjoyed randomly squirting his water bottle on the sidewalk and then laughing hysterically, the group was – I thought – extraordinarily calm and well behaved.

As a small digression, I can’t help but note that the girl-heavy groups were the ones who were constantly eye-rolling and making sarcastic comments about the useless-ness of the information gathered and the field trip in general. Also, while we were in the outdoor classroom supposedly making notes about what defines a tree, a daddy-long-legs spider crawled beside one of the girls, who took that opportunity to FLIP THE FUCK OUT, thus inciting a general scream-fest with the other girls in the class.

So I was pleased with my group, and they were pleased with me, as I overheard a few of them say to Mark “You have a really nice mom! You’re so lucky!” which spurred me to rashly volunteer for more upcoming trips, including one in a few weeks with Jake’s class, in which I will have to ride on the school bus. I feel I will have much more to say on that topic at a later date.

The field trip itself only had one snag – other than the spidery scream-fest – and that is that it was evident, upon wandering through the paths, that some of the itinerant population seem to be camping in the little woods. It was further evidenced by the appearance of human feces, plus toilet paper, right on one of the middle paths, at which I could only think, really? We can talk about social issues and homelessness, but seriously? Right in the middle of a path frequented by children? In a woods attached to an elementary school and within walking distance to four other schools? Could we not go off the path to defecate, homeless people?

Anyway. I’m sorry to bring up such a gross topic, let’s take our minds off that with a socially awkward moment of mine. Last night was the Welcome Back BBQ at the school, which is a great opportunity to meet the teachers or – if you’re like me – just chat with all the teachers and parents in a casual, sunny setting. The boys had mentioned to me that the assistant principal had changed her name, to which information Mark added “I guess she got married.” Of course, as soon as I saw her last night, I said in my most effusive and excited tones, “Oh, I hear congratulations are in order!”

She looked at me somewhat blankly and asked why. At this point I knew. I knew exactly where this was going to go and what mistake I had made. I stumbled blankly for a moment, saying that I thought I’d heard, well, her name changed…at which point she said “Oh no, I didn’t get married. I got divorced!”

I had a deer-in-headlights look for a moment, considering my awkward social gaffe. She was extremely gracious, saying that it was a GOOD thing and that I probably COULD congratulate her on it, and everything was FINE, but still. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a rewind button? Note to self, check out left hand PRIOR to congratulating someone on their recent nuptials.


  1. Congrats on your field trip victory. And I’m sure the assistant principal knew you were just trying to be friendly. But as long as the story doesn’t end with her breaking down in tears, it’s kind of funny.

  2. *pins a medal on you*. I like having boys for outdoor field trips too – the girls tend to wander around holding hands singing Justin Bieber songs and, yeah, flipping the fuck out over bugs and spiders, and I’ve just hugely and offensively over-generalized based on my field trip experience, I guess I’d better never run for office. And apparently one of Eve’s teachers introduced herself as newly divorced. Um… yay?

  3. I’m so glad that the field trip was a success for you, especially with such a name as “Whispering Woods”. I’m also happy that the boys did not have to bring bread with them to leave a trail in hopes of finding their way back (my Goldilocks reference).

    Sorry to hear that someone did their business right in the middle of the path, at the same time, I’m sure that could lead to another good discussion for the boys.

    Glad to hear that your son’s friends approved of you as a chaperon, that is always a major plus! Good luck on your next field trip – the dreaded yellow school bus (don’t sit in the back, the bus usually has bad shocks and the ride is far bumpier back there). Hugs

    ps Thanks for the shout out.

  4. I am glad that you had a positive volunteering experience, during which not one person asked, “How much are the posters?” That is excellent.

    As for the excrement in the pathway, that mostly makes me feel very, very sad. I can only imagine how desperate a person would have to be to make that choice. Certainly not the preferred method of doing one’s duty, is it? And very sad that it is a path used by children, so close to schools. Is there a public restroom anywhere? Sad. (and yes, also gross, but mostly sad)

    I think congratulations probably were in order, so don’t even sweat that little gaffe with the VP. Onward for you – and for her!

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