I spent Thursday on a field trip with my kids’ classes. We went to the Timber’s soccer game in Portland. Now, for those of you who may not understand the ins & outs of chaperoning field trips let me just explain a few things.
First, the field trip encompassed grades 4-8 which covers all three of my kids’ grades so I technically volunteered for all three classrooms at once. That is what’s known as looking like a good parent without exerting too much time & energy.
Second, it was to a Portland Timber’s soccer game. Come on people…a soccer game for a field trip?!?! That’s the best field trip ever! And believe me I’ve been on some serious field trip snoozefests. I spent an entire day walking the Oregon Gardens with a group of third graders. A group of third graders who live on farms…they already knew what the plants were and what animals made the ‘neat-o’ animals tracks. You should have seen our guide’s face when all the kids finished identifying their plaster molds of tracks in record time and then threw in a few stories about killing some of them.
Let me recap: I volunteered for all three kids at one time and got to see a Timbers game. That’s golden…in fact that, my friends, is what’s called ‘Winning the Field Trip Chaperone lottery’!!!
So, we arrived at school that morning on time (which already made it a stellar day by my measure) and I found out who my group of chaperone-ees was to be: all the 6th grade girls. Which sounds like a lot until you understand that this is a little country school that has 185 students in a K-8 building. The grand total of my group was 8 and that included my daughter Kate. A wonderfully manageable number and, knowing all the girls fairly well, I was stoked to see that my job would be an easy one. Sweet! Off to the game!
We loaded onto the busses…one for the 6, 7 & 8 graders and one for the 4 & 5 graders. (My bus contained Kate & Wyatt while Abby rode with the other 4th graders) And then we sat. On a bus. For about 20 minutes. With roughly 52 kids. Not fun.
Let me rewind 26 years to when I was 12 and tell you why it was particularly not fun for me. When I was a 7th grader at Victor Point I developed a bit of a phobia. It was like claustrophobia but not quite. I was always self conscious and afraid of being made fun of by other kids. That morphed into being afraid of being somewhere where I couldn’t get away from people if I was too be sick or have something equally embarrassing happen. It became a fear of being in overcrowded places, from concerts to the mall to Costco…they all became places I hated. And it became a big fear of riding the bus. I was afraid of being sick on the bus and then having to endure the rest of the hour long ride with that granule-covered puddle beside my seat and the jokes and pitying looks of my fellow students. But where we lived, the bus was the only option. So every morning and afternoon I faced that yellow monster and gutted out (no pun intended) the ride and tried not to let anyone else know how hard I was struggling. Because for my friends to know that I had this phobia was almost as embarrassing as the original fear itself. I mean really, how do you explain that your afraid of the bus?
My Mom took me to some kind of psychologist or psychiatrist or counselor or something…I don’t remember the guy well but Mom says I pretty much clammed up and wouldn’t talk to him except to be snarky. Hhhmmm…doesn’t sound like me at all. Anyway, she read up on stuff and then decided the best way to handle it was to make me face it. She didn’t alter our day to day living to pander to my fears, she just taught me how to work through it when I was somewhere that I felt panicked. And God bless her for that. She would make me go to Costco with her and then distract me with conversation or silliness so that I wasn’t focused on the fear. I was still encouraged to go to concerts where I would loose myself in the music and only have to get through the intermissions when I could see how many people were actually in the arena with me. She taught me that the mind is powerful and you can talk yourself through difficult situations instead of giving into panic. Over the years, it’s become a valuable mental trait that I’m indebted to her for making me develop.
So, I made it through 7th grade and two hour-long bus rides a day and the fear started to ebb. It was never as bad as it was that year. I would still have momentary panicky times later on in high school when I would have to ride a team bus to games but I could always get myself through them. By the time I was out of high school, it wasn’t an issue anymore.
And then 26 years later I found myself sitting on a bus full of 12-14 year olds in front of my old school. Nostalgia is a powerful thing. All of a sudden I was 12 again and facing another hour long ride in front of the most judgement people in the world: junior highers. And this time not only would I embarrass myself but also my kids. I began to panic a little. I was about two seconds from standing up and telling the teachers I would just drive my own car and follow them to the stadium. And from the cobwebs in my head came the phrases I would tell myself when I battled this feeling so long ago. “I’m fine, I will get through this” and “I’m OK, just breath”. I let go of the seat in front of me and sat back. I cracked the window to get some fresh air and breathed deep. “I will face this and I will be fine.”
The bus began to move and I had one more surge of wanting to bolt for the door. I texted Mike that we were headed out and that I was having a harder time than I thought. He responded with “if it gets bad call me and I’ll come get you”. He was willing to drive to Portland to rescue his ridiculous wife from her fear of busses…that’s love, people! As I put my phone away I turned toward the back of the bus and caught Kate’s eye. She smiled her silly smile at me and that was exactly what I needed to ground myself. I settled back into the seat and resolved that I would make it through this bus ride.
An hour and 20 minutes later we were pulling up in front of Jeld-Wen field and while I was anxious to get off the bus, I was OK. I gathered my 8 chaperone-ees as we got off the bus and made our way into the stadium. The game was great with the Timbers winning 4-0. I even managed to keep my usual yelling-like-an-idiot-at-sports-events self under control for the sake of my kids.
Because I had made it through the ride up, I wasn’t dreading the return trip and even had a nice visited with another mom while we rode back. When we exited the bus back at the school I felt good. It was nice to know that even though I still had that irrational fear lurking in the recesses of my mind, I also still had the ability to conquer it. Funny how something as silly as overcoming a childhood fear can make you feel invincible…even when you are middle aged when you do it.