My kids are always begging me to go on their field trips. Being a working mom can make this a challenge, but I do all I can to find ways to volunteer a few times a year. I got that chance yesterday.
The school’s theme this year is “Making a difference”. So, on this day we were walking from the school to a nearby public park and open space to pull weeds and pick up trash.
Full disclosure, other than knowing how thrilled my 7-year-old daughter would be, I was not looking forward to it. I was exhausted after getting only 3 hours of sleep and getting up at 3 a.m. to work. But I was not going to let her down. Having her jump into my arms when I arrived at school saying “MOMMY!” was worth drained headache I knew I would have all day. She loves it when I come to school.
We took off on our trek across the busy commercial area to the park and I was assigned the job of the “caboose”. Miss Valenti, our second grade teacher was the “line leader”.
My mood was a little hurried and I felt impatient, I couldn’t get the herd of twenty one 7 year olds to stay on the same block. I told myself to hang in there, absorb the time with the kids and not worry about my phone, work and the grocery shopping I needed to do for dinner.
Within minutes I realized that I had to be present for these kids, for their fun and for their safety. And then I got my first lesson…
“Miss Tysdal, can I carry that backpack for you?” One of the kids was collecting everyone’s backpack and being a “backpack pack rat”. I was touched and I obliged. She was so cute with her small frame and 10 backpacks over her shoulder.
Another little girl had her leftover lunch out on the walk. She was tired and couldn’t keep up because she hadn’t finished lunch at school. Everyone wanted her wheat-thins. She ate a few and handed out the rest.
Then the little boy who insisted on being the “caboose” himself even though I was supposed to be sure they all were ahead of me. He wanted to lag behind so he could do something I told him not to do. He stopped every 5 feet to scan the grass for his favorite “trash”. He would carefully take his baggy and was set on fulfilling his mission that day to pick up dog poop. Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled but I let him do it. I found a trash can for him but he said, “no I want to carry it, I like the way it smells”. Two minutes later I had a bag of poop hit my head. I found the nearest trash can myself. I couldn’t help but wonder if this is what I have in ahead with a 2-year-old son.
And when we got to the park, the weeds were pulled with gusto and ambivalence. I’ve never seen kids so happy to do a chore!! I asked them to stop at my house for a 10 minute weed pulling session but no one liked that idea.
My daughter’s teacher was so patient. She amazed me with her skills as a teacher. I stopped more than once to watch her interact. I have such appreciation for those who can reach the hearts of children. She has that gift.
There was the typical fight over toys or this time, tools. One student upset because her partner wasn’t sharing the trowel and she wanted to dig! They had a few words but when we returned to class I saw her write a note and fold it up. The note read, “ I’m sorry I was mean. I was just mad. Will you be my friend?”. I wanted to cry when I saw her hide it in her friend’s desk and walk away only to watch from the other side of the room.
And the student who couldn’t “hold it’ on the long walk and came back walking funny and trying to hide her accident so the other 2nd graders wouldn’t know. I took a detour on the way back to class to stop in the school office. A change of clothing and a ziplock to take home some wet khakis and it was like nothing happened.
When we got home after school I was tired but emotionally fulfilled. I went through the lessons I learned that day. And to think, I almost took a nap instead.
- Making a difference feels good
- Be more present and put away the phone
- Use patience like a second grade teacher
- Carry someone else’s load every once in a while
- Always forgive even it’s easier to do in a folded up note
- Always eat lunch
- Share your trowel
- Don’t lag behind
- Prepare ahead so you don’t have “accidents”
- Don’t throw poop
Thanks kids. I loved spending the afternoon with you!