Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Stop Me if You've Heard This One Before

One early morning in mid-June about five years ago, my sixth grade class was going on our end-of-the-year field trip, an all day excursion that included a dolphin-watching cruise and a picnic at the beach. The students had already boarded the charter bus and were busy stowing their bags and towels, happily chattering and settling in for the three hour trip. They were excited—some of them had never even seen the ocean before. I stood on the bottom step of the bus, scanning the parking lot for late arrivals before doing the final head count. The sun was just rising above the school—it was going to be a hot day. Turning to climb on board, I felt a hand on my elbow. One of the mothers was standing on the sidewalk, looking up at me. I stepped down, and she took my hand, clasping it in both of her own. “Today, my son is your son,” she said. “Please take good care of him.”

“I will,” I’d assured her with my teacher’s confidence, but my step faltered as I climbed onto the bus, and the day seemed a little less promising than it had earlier. What if something goes wrong and a student is injured? How would I feel, then? Life is perilous and uncertain, so we can’t indulge our fears, but where is the line between prudent risk-taking and recklessness? All of these thoughts were clouds in the clear June sky, threatening to rain on our field trip.

Of course nothing happened, and all the students made it back safely, but thinking back on it later, I wondered if that was really the first time I had ever felt the full weight of responsibility for another person’s child, and if field trips would ever be the same for me again.


  1. this story sounds familiar...since you asked.

  2. Okay, this bugged me. Not your story--it was terrific--but that mother! Please.

    It's when I hear stories like this I realize that I was either a) a completely neglectful mother, or b) completely normal. I was more than happy when the teachers would take the kids on a field trip. The child would have something new to tell me, to show me and they'd be pretty tired and go to bed early. Always a good thing, I thought, for them to have an experience all by themselves, one that they owned and could share around the dinner table and tell us about.

    I realize that parenting has really changed when I hear stories like this--and some from teachery friends around here. Are we such insecure Moms (not that this one was, but you know what I mean) that our precious darlings can't have a day off from our hovering and caring and breathing down their necks?

    I remember saying something like this to someone, but it was my daughter's new husband. Then I think it needs to be said.

    Okay, done ranting. I feel for you. You're a great teacher and she should be bringing you bouquets (I'm hoping!).