Annabelle’s class was planning a field trip to the pumpkin patch, and I agreed to go with Baby Carson. This sounded hard and stressful, but Annabelle thinks school is a state mandated institution that sucks away the happy, carefree days of her forgotten youth. So I took pity on her and said I would come.
The day before the trip, the teacher sends home a letter saying that parent chaperones will need to watch four kids and carry their groups’ lunches. Since my plan is to wear Carson in the front pack and lug all of his supplies in my backpack, I’m not sure where any extra lunches are going to fit.
“I need a Sherpa,” I tell Andy.
“You need a Sherpa-rone,” he says because he thinks he’s quite witty.
On the day of the field trip, we get our list of students to watch. The other parents have two kids in their groups. I have four. I also note that two of my kids are on the energetic side. Once, when I was helping in Annabelle’s class, I watched one of them hop out of his chair to do a couple of barrel rolls on the carpet. When the teacher told him to sit down, he ran back to his friend and said, “A monkey just hit me in the face!” I loved it. But how am I going to protect him from these violent monkeys while feeding and diapering a baby?
But it’s fine. It’s only one day. How hard can it be?
When we arrive at the pumpkin patch, the teachers hand out packages of Goldfish as the children get off the bus. One of the kids in my group rejects the Goldfish, which are my favorite snack in the world.
“I have my own snack,” he says, eying my overstuffed backpack that holds his lunch.
“OK. Let’s just walk over here and sit with your class, and then I’ll get it out for you.” The walk is maybe thirty steps.
“I want my snack.”
“Sure, let’s just walk over here.” Twenty-five steps left.
“I want my snack.”
“Yeah. Let’s just sit first.” Twenty steps.
“I have my own snack. I want it.”
We continue this pattern every five steps for the remainder of the walk. Once we sit, I take out his snack…and it’s Cheez-Its!
“You fool!” I say and throw them on the ground. “This is the exact same thing! They’re just shaped like squares instead of fish!”
I do not really do this. Instead, I accept that we all like our unnaturally orange cheese shaped in different ways, even though I know the fish shape is infinitely superior to the square shape. But he is five and young in the ways of the world, so I give him his incorrectly shaped processed cheese and he is appeased. He later becomes my best friend by spending the rest of the trip exclaiming over the cuteness that is Carson’s feet. Carson, who is going through a stage in which he is equally enamored with his feet, is happy to have found a kindred spirit.
I hoist my backpack on again, and someone tells me that it is dripping. I open it to see my water bottle has leaked all over the kids’ lunches and now sits empty. I am sad for the kids, but sadder still for my-soon-to-be-dehydrated-self.
“You are the chillest person ever,” a mom tells me. “I would be freaking out.”
I like that I have successfully fooled her so I pretend to love it that the entire backside of my shirt and jeans is drenched.
A little while later, a high school helper surfaces and says she is in my group.
“Thank goodness!” I say and give her Carson, his diapers, and all of the wet lunches before checking the movie schedule on my phone—because maybe I can still catch a matinee?
I do not really do that. Instead she and I shepherd the kids to some benches so they can sit while a woman talks to them about the life cycle of a pumpkin seed. The woman’s microphone doesn’t work well, and we cannot hear her. My group, including Annabelle, talks, plays in the dirt, and generally ignores her. Carson babbles loudly. The woman reprimands us, and I start to echo her. But then I realize that I am also not listening because, to be honest, her talk is not all that riveting. I think it’s hard that we expect more of five-year-olds than we can do ourselves. So I let the children play in the dirt while Carson continues to babble at full volume.
Once that pesky learning part is over, the rest of the field trip is packed with fun. We see goats and chickens, play in a fun playground, and ride a tractor trailer to feed the ducks.
“I have no idea where any of the kids in my group are,” a mother tells me as the children make a dash to throw food at the ducks.
“Eh,” I say. “I can usually find three out of four of mine.”
She laughs like this is a joke. But three out of four is a C, and if there’s anything I’ve learned from my students, it’s that there’s a special kind of peace reserved only for those who can find complacency in a C.
I want to enjoy the day because I’m the chillest person ever. But in truth the field trip is an exhausting blur of feeding Carson, trying to diaper him while keeping him out of the dirt and hay and animal poop, watching his pacifier land in the dirt and hay and animal poop and wondering if the five second rule applies, Sherpa-ing lunches, and feeding Carson again.
But Annabelle holds my hand and snuggles with me throughout the trip, and at the end of the day when I ask her if she had a good time, she says, “Yes because I spent the day with Mommy.”
Then one of the kids in my group says he didn’t finish his lunch and hands it back to me. But I tell him no, you and that lunch are riding the bus back together—because I made sure he got through the day without any monkeys slapping him in the face, so he can carry his own lunch home. Fair is fair.