I’m now officially “that” Mom in the eyes of my children’s school. I just burst into the main office, sputtering and gasping for air, all the while holding my daughter’s backpack up in the air like baby Simba from The Lion King. I had on my best “I’m late because I didn’t have my shit together this morning” look, and I didn’t even need to explain myself. Everyone just sort of nodded knowingly as they gently pried the backpack from my hands before patting me on the back and ushering me quickly back out the door. I think they prefer it if the crazy parents stay outside so as not to scare all the children.
You know that feeling when you get out of bed in the morning and your foot has fallen asleep? You stand up without realizing that it has gone numb, then you stagger around like a disoriented zombie, clutching at chairs and walls just trying to propel yourself forward. Then the tingle starts; slow at first, a soft hint of a tickle. You think you can handle it, so you roll your ankle and tap your foot, a challenge of sorts. But then it happens. A thousand tiny pin pricks of misery suddenly descend upon your foot, and you lose all control over your senses. You hold your breath, roll your eyes and flap your hands to hurry the pain along. Then you take tentative steps, boldly pushing back against the ridiculousness of it all until finally you are free enough to run wildly, like a Chihuahua hopped up on speed, ready to start the day.
Now that school has started again, this pretty much describes my daily morning struggle as the parent in charge of getting all three children to school in one piece, all the while maintaining the illusion of being a respectable, responsible adult along the way. It isn’t pretty, friends.
Earlier this week I went with my son and his grade 1 class on an outdoor field trip. I had visions of us spending wholesome, quality time together, bonding over insects, kicking rocks and gathering sticks. What I didn’t count on was the fact that the bus ride there would leave me feeling about as perky as a white trash Tinkerbell after a bottle of lukewarm Jack Daniels. I also failed to realize that when you assemble a gaggle of 6 and 7 year olds, they are about as loud as a cyclone, and twice as destructive.
There were three classes there in total, several parent volunteers and four instructors ready to lead us on our adventure in Forest Exploration. Not long after we arrived, they separated us into two very large groups and dragged us off into the trees without a moment’s hesitation. (I contemplated crawling while I recovered from my bus hangover, but since I was expected to do some adulting while I was there, I settled for leaning on my son’s head while we walked).
Although it has officially been spring here for just over two weeks now, there is still plenty of snow and ice on the ground. Normally this isn’t of any concern (we live in Canada, so we are used to riding moose through snowstorms in order to get a Tim Horton’s coffee before heading over to the local pond to play a game of hockey), but this meant that there was lots of water and ice next to the bridges and boardwalks along our paths. We were told to stay as far away from the icy death traps as possible, but for some of the children, this served as more of a suggestion than a warning. One boy in particular stepped right off the boardwalk and onto a thin patch of ice. I lunged, with ninja-like reflexes, and yanked him back to safety. My heroic rescue left me feeling slightly strung out and breathless, and since cursing and ranting under my breath were likely going to get me kicked out of the group, I opted instead for a heavy-browed scowl for the remainder of the walk.
Eventually we found ourselves in a small clearing, and the children were encouraged to explore and become one with nature. While they busied themselves digging in the snow and leaves, I found myself wondering if anyone would notice if I started a small fire to thaw out my toes. I never did have the chance to find out though, because suddenly there was a loud yelp, and two boys came barreling out of the trees toward me. One of them was hitting the other over the head with a large stick, and screaming something about a bear. I snatched the stick out of his hands, then turned to the other boy to see if he was alright. He mumbled something about me ruining his game, then flipped me off and disappeared behind a tree. I rolled my eyes at this so hard that my left may now be my right.
Eventually we made our way out of the forest and back to the main building where we ate lunch, fought over the washrooms, then bundled back up to head out for the next installment of our forest adventure. The second half of the day passed without any casualties, and was surprisingly enjoyable. I wondered if maybe I hadn’t eaten enough lunch, and was subsequently suffering from low-blood sugar hallucinations.
The bus ride home left me a little green around the edges, and I wondered, not for the first time, if it was a city wide policy that all buses smell like onions. When we arrived back at the school, the other parents were glancing curiously in my direction. I suppose I must have looked suspiciously like an escapee from a preschool production of Peter Pan. I think it’s fair to say that this is probably a standard look for me at the end of all the class field trips I volunteer on.