Today is the day I stop feeling guilty for loathing field trips. Today, I fully admit that I hate these ritualistic school year events. I dutifully show up to school on field trip day, hoping for a fun day that allows my daughter to be carefree and me to soak in the moments of these quickly-passing elementary school years.
But, it never quite turns out that way.
We participated in the annual fall field trip to a local farm this morning. I showed up at school like a good stay-at-home-mom, ready to drive kids to the farm. It turns out all the moms showed up today, and as soon as my daughter realized she wouldn’t be riding with her friends because her own mom showed up, she was disappointed. She was grumpy. She shed a few tears and asked me why I even came.
I was reminded of last year’s farm field trip, me hauling around my colicky newborn, hands full of everything I would need to get us through a day at the farm. As we got on and off the tractor, moving from field to field to pick fresh produce, the baby cried and cried. I wasn’t able to help my daughter collect produce because I couldn’t bend over with the baby strapped to me, and my hands were full of bottles, pacifiers, and blankets. I didn’t have the capacity to carry around bags of carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, and pumpkins. I sat on that tractor, tears in my eyes, wondering what I was doing there.
All the other moms seemed to genuinely be having fun with their small children and I could feel their eyes on me, probably wondering who this mother was that was falling apart. The baby was crying because that’s just what he did and my daughter was crying because I forgot to bring her jacket. The three of us sat there crying, surrounded by happy chit-chat and laughter of the other children. While all the other kids were loading up wagons of produce to bring to their cars, my daughter had one sad bag of tomatoes and a few sprigs of dill. It’s all I could manage that day.
I’m sure my tears could, in part, be blamed on sleep deprivation and erratic postpartum hormones, and possibly from being overwhelmed by trying to manage a colicky newborn while getting my daughter into the routine of her first real year of school. But in all honesty, I was probably also crying because I hate field trips.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy spending time with my daughter and taking her on fun outings, but a field trip isn’t generally the place for genuine quality time together. It’s me with my daughter and her 20 best friends, along with a multitude of kids from other schools, and all the siblings who are tagging along. That’s chaos, not quality time.
Fast forward one year later, to this year’s farm field trip and my daughter’s tears came at me in full force. Crying because she couldn’t ride with her friends. Crying because she didn’t like what I packed her for lunch. Crying because she perceived that the other girls weren’t including her. All the crying reminded me of yet another field trip that ended in disappointment. It was the rollerskating field trip in which parents were required to attend in order to help their 5 year olds skate. It was another exasperating day: she was frustrated, I was frustrated, and I was left wondering why on earth anyone would plan a field trip to a skating rink for a bunch of five-year-olds.
But, just like these previous field trips, we made it through this one. There were the usual tears and whining that I’ve come to associate with these well intentioned events, but by the time we returned home for the remainder of the day, the tears had dried up, and we spent some time reading together on the couch. I was able to catch my breath and my daughter’s laughter returned. This dreaded field trip day was over, and even though my daughter seemingly had no interest in my being there, I will show up for the next one. Partly out of duty, partly out of love, and partly because I want to be a mom who shows up for my kid, even when it feels insignificant and exhausting.
Even when it’s doing something that I hate doing.