If it takes a village to raise a child, and it takes an army to chaperone a trip to a museum. Recently, I was one of four chaperones for my daughter’s elementary school class to a museum at Harvard University. The fact that it was at Harvard piqued my interest, because, well, the more institutions of higher learning that Spicy Girl is exposed to the less likely she will want to attend a College or University where I work, therefore, upping the chances that she and I will maintain a healthy relationship beyond age 12.
As this is not my first chaperone experience, I went into it armed with knowledge sustained in my previous effort, which was spent largely in a state of overwhelmed panic typically reserved for a trip to Trader Joe’s during Christmas time (HOW MUCH STUFF CAN THEY COVER IN CHOCOLATE?!) I made a list, familiarized myself with the museum website, and I prepared my wardrobe. Children need to see a prepared parent, and that means a jaunty scarf with a pop of color around the face that helps the prerequisite over-fifty mom denim jacket appear less trite.
As a service to the Chaperoning community, I give you this, the #protip list of Chaperone essentials:
Bags matter! A good roomy bag is what you need, nothing petite will work for an award-winning chaperone. Be sure to fill it with the following: zip lock bags for whatever may get wet (because things will get wet, even in a museum), small first-aid kit, protein bar, bottled water and an Anker PowerCore 10000. Because when your phone dies, you will not be able to call Uber if you miss the bus home.
Wear a sport bra: It may be 2017, but busses still do not have effective shock absorbers. On that note, remember, the bus will not take the route you would take in your own vehicle. Buses cannot go down some roads, over some underpasses and can’t maneuver certain turns. So, after you check the route on Waze … find the alternative route that will take the most amount of time. You will thank me for the bra tip.
Ear plugs: It may be 2017, but buses still sound like you are riding in an aluminum echo chamber.
Extra food: For yourself. In this day and age you can’t give kids food, and you will need noshes for the stress eating that will be induced by the fact that you will never work so hard in your life as you will for the duration of this chaperone gig.
Group Management: When you get off the bus at the venue, pull your group together for a picture and then ask them to give you ideas for a group name. The children in my group started yelling words, and the first two were: “Potato!” And “Hero!” So we became the “Hero Potatoes” and the crowd rejoiced. Every time I yelled out “Hero Potatoes” they circled up. And if they wanted to find everyone else they yelled it too. It was a winning idea that I can only credit to years of team building activities and ropes courses.
Thank the teachers: For the love of all things holy, do these people WORK. If you need any perspective on the complexity of a classroom in 2017, go to one. And if you think it’s the same as it was when you were growing up, it’s not. The world is different, and the kids have changed too. Sure, there are things that are always going to be the same (burps are funny and bugs are either gross or awesome), but fidget spinners weren’t around in 1975 and neither was the internet and video games. Kids are a product of their environment, and the classroom is one giant laboratory of childhood variables that are banging off each other while one person is trying to meet some teaching standards that are set for them by people who have never been in a classroom. Thank them. Repeatedly.
Final point: enjoy your damn self. Look, there isn’t a day in your life that you are going to be able to take a do-over. So, why not take a day at a museum with kids who are laughing at one another’s jokes, pointing at newly discovered fascinations and dabbing for photos? It’s a hell of a lot better than a day in the office.