I Survived Chaperoning Outdoor Education (Barely)

Momservation: A chaperone on an overnight field trip is as good as CIA trained.

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Arden Middle School 6th graders at Sly Park

One hundred and sixty 6th graders.

Twenty-four girls in my cabin.

Five days and four nights in Sly Park.

One exhausted chaperone.

It’s possible I might have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I uncurled myself from the fetal position just long enough to write this and eat some Xanax like they were M&M’s. I turned down a Halloween party the night we got back and a Date Night to dinner and the movies with Hubby the next night. I stumbled through Halloween a shell of my former self randomly yelling, “I said turn those lights off and be quiet!”

For those of you just joining our regularly scheduled program, I volunteered last week to chaperone my son’s outdoor education field trip to Sly Park because, unlike 95% of his 6th grade class, he actually wanted me there and wasn’t embarrassed to be seen with me.

It was non-stop supervision – making sure kids were where they were supposed to be around the clock and keeping them in line. 6:45 a.m. – time for breakfast cafeteria duty, 7:30 a.m. time for breakfast, trying to get kids in and out of showers in 20 minute windows, organize skit practice, now organize songs, 9 a.m. now it’s time to go on a hike to the lake or to the planetarium, or the animal room or hike to the creek, who’s got lunch duty? Where’s Elizabeth? Has anyone seen Elizabeth? Who’s crying? Again? What now? Okay, everyone be quiet so we can be excused to eat first, 1:30 p.m. let’s get the groups together for afternoon hikes and activities, free time on the blacktop – but wait, they got back late so get them ready to go to dinner. No, no time for showers now, maybe before bed.

Me and my Black Oak girls cabin

Who’s got telescope training? Who’s going on the night hike? 6:30 p.m. finally, some down time – nope you need to go to a chaperone meeting or go help set up Carnival Night. 9:15 p.m., everyone 15 minutes until lights out – no time to shower, just brush your teeth. Who’s still up? Who’s got the light on? I said be quiet! Who’s crying? No, you can’t go home, go back to bed, it’ll be okay. Who’s flushing the toilet in the middle of the night? No I can’t move your bunk, just put a pillow over your head to drown out the snoring. Time to get up – who’s got breakfast duty?

This is just a fraction of my day for five days.

There were homesick kids crying every night. More boys than girls.

And let me just tell you, it is a sight to behold, observing the wild 6th grader outside of their normal habitat engaged in the ritualistic dance for social dominance and desirability.

There were clusters of girls whispering and giggling the 11 & 12 year old mating call:

“I’ll tell you who I like if you tell me who you like.”

“Okay, but you can’t tell anyone.”

“Okay, I promise.”

And then later there would be dramatic tears, girls clustering the wounded girl, some feigning compassion simply to get close enough to collect gossip and spread it. “What’s wrong? What happened?”

“She told everyone I like him and now he knows!”

(Collective gasp and end of world as they know it.)

My son, Logan, on kitchen duty

The boys would be walking on the trail, kicking rocks discussing cute factor like baseball stats.

“Do you think she’s hot?”

“No. Do you?”

“He thinks she’s hot.”

“She’s okay. She was hotter last year.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. What do you think is for lunch today?”

Truly, I did have a good time and enjoy bearing witness and being a part of a trip these kids will remember and talk about forever. My son had a blast, as did most of the kids and my girls’ cabin was great – we had a lot of fun together. It was just simply exhausting.

My daughter will be in 6th grade next year – it just might take a full year for me to recover enough to consider doing it again two years in a row.

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