While working at the mall, I met a lot of freshly-minted teachers who were trying to pick up some extra cash in their spare time. The teachers I met there seemed to love their day jobs and I started to think that I'd like to hang out with little kids all day, too. So I signed up for a bunch of early childhood education classes and forged ahead with my newly-formed plan... until I dropped out of community college halfway through the semester so I'd have more time for working at the mall and reading Stephen King novels. Priorities, yo.
|My parents need to chill. I got my life all figured out!|
But more on my misspent youth later. I've told you the partial tale of my educational shenanigans so I could lead you to a recent Monday, when I chaperoned Daughter2's Kindergarten class to the pumpkin patch.
It was a beautiful fall day in Southern Maryland, full of sunshine, cool breezes, and ragweed. A perfect day to load up on Claritin and visit a local farm. I've been at this parenting gig for nine whole years now, but this was my first class trip and I was excited. I envisioned a day of fun, learning, and memory-making with Daughter2 and her little friends.
There were enough adults on the trip that I only had to keep track of two kids: Daughter2 and a sweet little girl who could not sit still to save her life. Yes, 5-year-olds are typically wiggly little creatures, but this one did the wiggling of at least three or four kids all at once. Must be why she was my only other charge.
Anyhoo, we did the standard pumpkin patch stuff - going on a hayride, picking out a pumpkin, and trying not to get stung by ginormous bees who did not appreciate our visit. Before we knew it, it was time for the one part of the trip I actually dreaded: the corn maze. And this wasn't just any old corn maze - it was a 9-acre corn maze full of twists, turns, and little nubby things poking up out of the ground that make you trip.
Before the tour guide let us into the corn maze, she told us there were two paths to the end: the short way to the left, and the long way to the right. Among the grown-ups, you could hear murmurs of, "Short way, go left." Among the kids, you could hear exuberant cries of, "Long way!! Long way!!! Mom, is this my right?" There was one energetic Mom among us who took pity on the kids and offered to take anyone who wanted to go the long way to the right. She counted heads, memorized faces, took names, and led the charge.
It was late in the day, we'd been in the sun for a few hours, and my blood sugar was starting to tank. I knew deep down that traipsing through a 9-acre corn maze was NOT a great idea. Did you know that low blood sugar can cloud your thinking and completely eff up your judgement? Yep, that's how I ended up following the herd on the long route and hoping for the best.
Since I could hear the kids' enthusiastic shouts and Energetic Mom's periodic head-counting, I let myself slow down. Right about the time a handful of adults said, "Screw this," and led their disappointed kids out of the corn field and onto the farmer's driveway, I decided to start taking left turns so I could meet Daughter2, Little Friend, Energetic Mom, and all the others at the end of the path.
Shortly after I started taking left turns, I found myself alone. And lost. In the middle of a 9-acre corn maze. Seized by Mommy guilt for letting Daughter2 and Little Friend out of my sight, and kicking myself for not stocking up on enough emergency Skittles, I just kept turning left until I finally made it back to the start of the maze. Defeated, I walked to the side of the corn field (quickest way to the finish line!) and waited with all the other parents who had bailed.
I found a shady spot to sit, scarfed down a granola bar, and wondered how Daughter2's little legs were holding up. I imagined her tired and scared, crying because her Mommy had abandoned her. (Mommy guilt is a strong emotion.) Just about when I decided that I was the worst field trip chaperone in the history of the world, Energetic Mom emerged from the maze with all the kids who had gone with her.
|See what corn mazes can do to you?|
I believe that children are our future. I also believe there's a special place in Heaven for people who voluntarily spend oodles of time with multiple pieces of our future every single day. Because if it were me, I would totally look like this at the end of each day: