My new identity

Back when the kids were small, I wondered what would happen when they started school: would I be bored, or would I find things to do? It turns out that once they started school I was the opposite of bored; I started volunteering a crazy amount at the school and working from home part-time, and my days were busy and full. Then, when I resigned as the School Council/ Parent Association chair, I wondered if I would have a bit of an identity crisis; I had performed the role for so long I wondered if I would adapt to not being the “go-to” person at the school.

Apparently not; it seems when there is a change in my life I tend to hit the ground running, and then I continue to run. What I’m saying is that now, I’m a Field Trip Mom.

Last week I went on a field trip with Jake’s class to a nature preserve within the city. This field trip was to tie in with their “Forest” unit in Science, and so we were going to be looking at trees. It sounded like a snore, and there was the dreaded bus ride to deal with, but I’m Field Trip Mom now. This is my new identity, come what may.

The field trip itself was a success. I was pleased to discover that two of the other parent volunteers were good friends of mine, which is always pleasant. The bus ride wasn’t too terrible as my friend and I were able to sit in the front of the bus, chatting, while Jake and his buddies sat behind us. I learned that at school, he talks even more about Star Wars than he does at home, and his friends – who were in my group – are similarly obsessed.

As an aside, it’s really gratifying to meet your children’s friends and discover that they are really nice kids. I’m not even saying that because one of them said “All hail Jake’s mom!” when it was time to go to our small groups for an activity designed to identify local trees and shrubs.

But there’s always something about a field trip, isn’t there? This isn’t a negative thing, but our guide on this trip around the nature preserve was exactly what you might imagine a person whose entire life circulated around forest cycles to be. She had a stiff British accent which made some of the things she said even more bizarre.

First, the guide – whose name rhymed with Mrs. Devil, so that is what all the children referred to her as – informed us all that once we left the parking lot, there were no washrooms. She gestured to the washrooms in front of us and said that if anyone had to go while we were in the preserve, they would have to go behind a tree. Further, if anyone pooped, they would have to use one of her doggie waste bags to pick it up and then carry it back at the end of the day. I cannot imagine any fifth or sixth grader actually doing this; I’m guessing they would all die of intestinal explosions before that happened. All the children looked at her in horror, then they went to use the facilities prior to the start of the tour.

The guide then took us to the edge of a very, very steep slope overlooking the beautiful valley of colourful trees and streams. Unfortunately, it was basically a cliff, and there are a couple of children with impulse-control issues and I felt like I was going to have a stroke, worrying about them. One little boy would seem to be fine and then suddenly dart quickly towards the edge, while the teacher and aide took turns grabbing the back of his sweater. Child falls to his death during school field trip; parent volunteers incredibly ineffective. After fifteen minutes of this, the guide finished her long monologue about tree habitats and started walking the group down a paved pathway. Unfortunately, the paved pathway was shared with bikes, who sometimes sped down the hill with incredible speed. My friend told me a story about a field trip that ended badly with a collision between a bike and a student, earlier in the week.

Suddenly, all those waiver forms I’ve signed in the past seemed much less crazy.

At the bottom of the hill was a sign, written on which was a description of the use of natural areas for weapons testing during past wars. Sometimes, the guide said, grenades and other explosives wash up on the shore. If we see such explosives, we should not approach them. “At least once a year someone gets blown up, absolutely blown to pieces, by handling such explosives,” our guide said, alarmingly. Now, I would think that “at least once a year” did not mean in this area particularly. Personally, I’ve never heard of such a thing happening in this city, so I’m hoping the guide meant “somewhere in the world.” That would make much more sense, but now we will never know.

Her morbid turn of mind did not stop there. We were examining a white spruce tree, and our guide informed us of all the incredible uses for white spruce. Spruce sap is antibiotic and antifungal, and if we ATE it, we would be very healthy indeed.

Note: do not tell fifth and sixth graders that they can randomly eat things in the forest; more on that later.

Anyway, we found out that the white spruce is an incredible tree, not only because of the antibacterial/ antifungal sap, but also the nuts inside of the cones are edible. “So,” our guide said, in her crisp British accent, “If you are ever involved in an horrific plane crash, and you are the sole survivor, what you will need to do is find a spruce tree, and you’ll be able to find everything you’ll need to live.”

Survival skills 101: find a spruce tree if everyone around you has died in a plane crash. Then all will be well.

After lunch – and after several children had to go behind trees and one got chased by an illegally off-leash dog – we were busy in our small groups, identifying different trees and shrubs using a descriptive key. Several of the shrubs have berries on them: silverberries, we were told by the guide, are edible. The same kids who were interested in eating spruce sap suddenly got very into harvesting silverberries. I was pretty alarmed by this, since these kids weren’t actually experts on which berries were which. I was right to express my alarm, since the guide seemed to remember that silverberries look very similar to snowberries, which are poisonous.

Telling children that some berries are perfectly fine to eat, as long as they know what the shrub’s leaves look like, was not perhaps the guide’s finest moment. After probably twenty minutes of random children sneaking random berries into their mouths, the guide thought it was right to inform the kids that snowberries, as opposed to silverberries, will cause vomiting and diarrhea. Better late than never, but we were less than an hour from being on the bus for thirty minutes, and the thought of children suffering vomiting and diarrhea ON THE BUS seemed like too much to bear. Thankfully, this did not come to pass, at least on my watch.

The hike back to the parking lot was very long, and the path dotted with several piles of bear scat, which was a bit unnerving. We all made it to the bus in one piece, with no one being poisoned, eaten by a bear, or run over by a bike, so I guess the day was a success.


  1. Guess what I am doing tomorrow morning!

    Go ahead! Guess! 😀

    *high fives*

    Field Trip Moms rock!

  2. Has Mrs. Devil ever actually *been* around any children? Ever?? I think she may need some remedial touring children lessons…

  3. bibliomama2 says

    Ah, field trips. I miss them.

    *dies laughing*. *comes back to life* *eats the wrong berries and dies again*. That guide was kind of a dumbass, no?

  4. If all your field trips are that eventful and hilarious, I for one, hope you keep going on them.

  5. Thanks for your hilarious account! I am becoming “library mom” which is not nearly as funny (but less stressful, too.)

  6. This sounds like it was a roller coaster of a field trip, Nicole! I’m a pizza mom at my kids’ school, and do the occasional field trip but I have to admit, my experiences have never been like this. Looking forward to reading about your future field trip adventures 🙂

  7. I’m so excited! I just got a slot as a library mom!

    (I have no idea what this entails, but my mom was a library volunteer in my school. My son is very excited – he will be less excited once he realizes that my slot is not his class’s library day).

    I think my husband will be a Field Trip Dad. That should be interesting.

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