I hate field trips.
There. I confess. I have three children, the oldest of whom is 13 and, I am embarrassed proud to say, the last time I went on a class trip while any of my kids were in elementary school was, um, never.
Go ahead and gasp. Judge me. I. Don’t. Care.
I have been a class mother for each kid, one more than once (for the child my two daughters claim is the favorite, but shall remain nameless). I was a Brownies Troop Leader (and, no, we didn’t camp out at Bloomingdale’s), I chaired the Girl Scouts Sweetheart Dance (I was kind of inducted involuntarily into that one, but I still count it anyway), and I have volunteered at countless other school events.
It has always been my pleasure to help. Okay, okay, most of the time, that is.
Yet somehow the thought of being trapped sitting on a school bus (actually in our school district it was an air-conditioned charter bus equipped with television screens to play movies, but that’s beside the point) with dozens of kids and no way to escape, has always freaked me out. But Friday afternoon, because of my son’s seasonal asthma, I had to suck it up (no pun intended) and attend, inhaler in hand.
At 9:00 am, I boarded the bus for an hour-long trip each way to what, in my mind, is one of the ickiest and most frightening places on Earth—a bugseum. That’s right. An entire museum devoted to those little creatures I hate and fear the most—bugs.
As the morning progressed, while learning about millipedes, cockroaches, and tarantulas (I politely declined my opportunity to pet one), I was really glad I attended, as I fearfully watched my son grow sicker by the minute.
By the time lunch was done, my son opted to sit with me on the bus for the return ride home, no longer caring if he didn’t look cool sitting with his mom. I knew he wasn’t feeling well because this was the same kid who warned me before getting out of the car for school that morning that I should socialize with the other moms on the trip, stay off my iPad, and not use bad language (I think I permanently scarred the boy when not that long ago I fell into a snow embankment on the walk from school to my car and instinctively yelled, “Shit!,” as I landed flat on my ass in front of some of his classmates).
I never claimed to be June Fucking Cleaver.
When we got home that afternoon, I settled my son on the couch with a cup of tea and administered his allergy medication. And a few hours later after an early dinner at home, we wound up in the hospital emergency room, the field trip no mother ever wants to chaperone.
As I looked around the ER while my son uncomfortably endured three rounds on the nebulizer, I recalled all of the other times I waited with my children in the ER, without my husband, for various reasons—fractures, sprains, high fevers, and stomach pains—and began to feel that familiar tinge of rage, irritation, and sadness as to why I must constantly go it alone, even during the days when I was married.
But that night I stopped myself cold.
Listening to your child struggle to catch his breath is one of the scariest and worst sounds in the world. How I must have sounded to others after all of these months as I exasperatingly vented each time I become angry or felt disappointed in my ex’s behavior, behavior I cannot control or change. So, on that night, I caught my own breath and stayed silent. When my son asked for his daddy, I simply dialed the phone, handed it to him, and quietly continued reading my book without a second thought.
We returned home a few hours later, my son breathing easily. And for the first night since I can remember, I slept soundly.