So Short has a field trip to the Neat Museum in The Big City, and his teacher asked for chaperone volunteers. I jump at the chance to be around Short and all his four-year-old friends (plus I’ve never been to the Neat Museum, and someone else will drive and figure out parking).
The day starts off well. I get to the school early, and check in at the office. The receptionist gives me my special official chaperone name tag, and I walk down the long hall feeling important and needed. I search for my son’s classroom. Everything is so tiny at this school! The bulletin boards come up to my waist; the water fountains are practically on the floor (for a minute I am wondering if they are intended for large dogs instead of short people).
The teacher greets me warmly at the door, and I notice there are about five other parent volunteers already standing around adjusting their special official chaperone name tags. I’m immediately relieved to not be the sole volunteer, as preschool-age children are notorious for their advanced escape/ hiding skills.
We load everyone onto the bus. We settle in for the long drive, and Short snuggles up to me exactly like all those ads showing moms making peanut butter sandwiches or folding laundry. While I chat merrily with two other mothers, the bus bumps along through rush-hour traffic to The Big City.
Right before we arrive at the Neat Museum, the teacher gets out of her seat, and walks through the aisle of the bus giving the parents lists of who is responsible for which children. I mentally calculate how many children I will be assigned, and for a moment I consider asking the teacher not to give me more than four children to watch. I think four might be my absolute limit.
I decide against relaying this little tidbit (for fear of branding myself incompetent), and instead start wondering who the trouble-maker kids are. Short has told me before that he’s not really friends with Tony-the-biter, so I’m praying that Tony will not be in my group. I notice that the teacher’s assistant is sitting with Tony, and reading him a book about museums, so probably Tony will be in his own petite group of two.
The teacher gets to my row. I nod at her, and I look at her pretty sunshine face expectantly. “Oh, and you,” she says, flustered for a moment. She turns and walks away without giving me an assignment.
Wait—what? What just happened here? Was she reading my mind about Tony, and now she has to shuffle things around so that he won’t be in my group after all? Or is Short considered the trouble-maker of the class, and other parents have told the teacher they don’t want their child to be with him? (In his defense, he’s usually a great kid. Sure, he gets excited, and wants to run a bit, but what little boy doesn’t?)
“Uh, excuse me?” I say lamely to the teacher, “Uh, who do you want me to be responsible for?”
She looks at me kindly, benevolently even (I have seen this look before: when I tried out for the singing group in high school and the singing teacher mentioned how important it was to have a “Props Support Team” to help set up the stage for the singers, and maybe that would be a good job for me), and she says
“You can just be responsible for Short.” She might as well have added, “if you think you can handle watching your own child for 45 minutes.”
Next, she leans toward someone’s great-grandmother (who is wearing oversized glasses that make her look like a smart bug), and tells her to watch Isabella, Noah, and Andrew.
My first inclination is to be offended, miffed, and defensive. These are my go-to emotions. I want to get up and shout for all the other parents and kids and even the bus driver to hear, “Hey Teacher! Not only do I have a four-year-old, but I also have a seven-year-old! That’s right—I am responsible for not one child but TWO on an everyday basis! I feed them and bathe them and drive them to soccer practice and help them with their homework, and most days go okay!”
But this is not what I do. Instead, I lean into Short, squeeze his little hand, and say, “Looks like it’s just you and me, kid. Again.”
(“Miffed Or Vindicated?”)