A couple weeks ago my oldest little girl brought home a flyer for an upcoming field trip to the Science Museum for which they were in desperate need of chaperones. In past years my job had flexibility that allowed me to volunteer in my little girls’ classrooms often, chaperone field trips, and to be an active member of the PTO. Since taking this job, however, my flexibility has been almost non-existant. This school year I’ve only volunteered once in the classroom of my littlest little girl and I hadn’t yet had a chance to do anything special with my oldest little girl. She was begging, and begging me to go to the Science Museum, and when I said I might be able to go along, she started jumping up and down.
Okay…umm…I’ll be honest. The Science Museum? Not my fave. I haven’t been there in years and it’s just…I mean I remember thinking it was cool as a kid…but now? Oy. I’m more of an art museum, Smithsonian museum, plays and concerts kind of girl. But she was so excited at the possibility that I could go along that I had to. Had to figure out how to make it work and had to decide it would be fun.
The flyer with the schedule for the day came home on Monday. I threw it aside and went about my week. This morning I slept in (until 7am!), got ready, and before leaving for the field trip I skimmed the schedule. That’s when I realized what I was in for. We were to do a scavenger hunt while walking through the museum (I was wearing boots with a heel)…AND…we were to watch a movie at their Omnitheatre. It’s the kind of theatre that surrounds the audience. The kind of theatre in which I get motion sickness. And feel like I have to throw up. A lot. It’s not good.
I drove to the museum feeling a little nervous about the day. I haven’t been to the Science Museum in ages. How would I lead my little group of kids to the right places to successfully complete the scavenger hunt? What would I do if I got sick during the movie? I wanted so badly for my oldest little girl to have a great day on her field trip with one of her moms along with her. Ugh.
After I parked I didn’t know how to get to the particular entrance at which the kids would be dropped off. Another woman asked if I was with my little girls’ school, I said yes, and she offered to show me where to go. As we walked she talked about how her family has passes to the museum and attends often. I suddenly felt incredibly uncultured. As we walked into the large lobby of the museum she spotted a group of parents from our school and went straight over and started talking to them. I didn’t know any of them. I followed them to the entrance and as we walked I noticed that they were all holding yellow pieces of paper with lists of the kids that would be in their groups. I asked one of them about the list, because I hadn’t received one, and she told me they’d come home in yesterday’s folder.
We didn’t have the little girls last night. They spend Wednesdays and Thursdays with their other parents. Sh-t.
When we got to the entrance I sat down to wait for the kids. As I looked around I saw many clusters of parents chatting and found that the only ones wandering (like I’d just been), or sitting alone (like I was), or engrossed in their iPhones (like me) were…well…the dads who had just come from work. The conversations I overheard were about hockey, and spring football, and dance. And everyone seemed to know everyone. And everyone seemed to know everyone’s kids. Seriously…have I missed THAT MUCH in the nine months I’ve been less involved in the little girls’ school?!
I spotted a woman with whom I used to sit on the PTO and she sat down next to me. We started to pass the time talking about books. I’m completely obsessed with the book I’m listening to and I can’t stop talking (and dreaming) about it. As an aside, it’s “The 19th Wife,” and dreaming about it has resulted in my feeling violent in my sleep anytime my husband moves.
When the kids arrived, I found my oldest little girl, and learned that I would be chaperoning a group of seven (SEVEN!) with another mom. Three boys, four girls, one with a severe…no I mean SEVERE…peanut allergy. Can I tell you what I brought in my bag lunch? Turkey roll-ups with SUNFLOWER SEEDS, a baggie of CASHEWS, and dark chocolate with ALMONDS. Great. No worries, we were given the cell number of the woman holding the epipen. Sweet Jesus.
We went straight to the movie and it was…in two words…totally awesome. And I didn’t get car sick (I’ve told you I get car sick on the riding lawn mower…right?). We then started exploring and it wasn’t bad. We broke for lunch and, astonishingly, EVERY kid in our group AND the other mom had nuts/peanut butter/peanut butter cups in their lunch sacs. We had to put the poor little girl at the very end of the table and all sit a couple people away from her. Fail.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent exploring. Sciency stuff. Dinosuars, and river beds, and mummies oh my! We explored and explored and explored until it was time to go and I kissed and hugged my little girl goodbye and sped to the nearest McDonald’s for 32 ounces of Diet Coke.
Another aside…I do not know how teachers do it. Seriously.
Okay so here’s the thing. In the past week I’ve been thinking about the desire and need to be heard. I’ve been thinking about it in the context of work but the desire to be heard is in everyone. I went into today feeling like I would surely be the least appropriate parent to chaperone this field trip. Feeling like I’d fail somehow…either by throwing up in the Omnitheatre or totally ruining the scavenger hunt due to my inadequate knowledge of the Science Museum (or anything sciency). But you know what I spent the day doing? Listening to the kids. Talking with the kids. And exploring whatever they wanted to explore. I raced around that damn museum (in heels) and really listened to the amazing little people with whom I was lucky to spend my day. When I left my little group, all of them were sad to see me go, and I wanted to take every one of them home. They were so sweet, and so kind, and so smart(!), and so so cute! And I might not have failed after all.
TODAY: What if I use the experience of not being heard to be more aware myself when my little girls are talking to me? What if I try to really listen to the people I love so that they feel heard.