I got the idea for this post from a comment I left on one of my Blog Catalog reader's sites, When a Southern Woman Rambles. Maybe I should start a blog called "When a Hotdogman Rambles." Oh, wait, it's called The Hot Dog Truck! Ms. Brown was ranting about Field Trip Hell, so I left a comment with my perspective. This little post was gleaned from my comments on that post.
I am always being asked to volunteer at my kids' schools for one thing or another, but I have a very strict policy when it comes to those requests: I have an age cutoff of 12 for volunteering to chaperon or otherwise help in my children's classrooms in any way. This is primarily due to the fact that 12 and unders are far easier to intimidate than teens. 12 and unders may be rambunctious, but they generally do what an authority figure (like a field trip chaperon) tells them to do, especially if he is six feet tall, has a booming voice and acts like he's what my 14 year old would call "scary."
Teenagers are a different animal. Everyone knows that children aged 13-19 know far more about anything in the world than any parent or teacher. They will question and sometimes outright defy nearly every request for compliance, no matter how simple. Once kids hit age 13, they roll their eyes and say "REALLY?!?!" a lot. I don't like getting eyerolls-with 4 teenagers, I get my full quota at home and then some.
Volunteering for my 6 year old's kindergarten class is a piece of cake. They get a little hopped up from time to time, but their sense of self preservation is still very active. On some subconscious level, their little six year old brains tell them "that person is bigger than you, don't piss him off." But I have yet to have to get heavy handed with the kindergartners, they're quite fun actually. Plus I usually get all the fruit juice I can drink.
I have a distinct advantage over the other chaperons: I have pretty much seen just about anything a kindergartner can dish out, so I am not surprised. It's real easy to tell the first time parents of a kindergartner; they're the ones who waffle between complete and unrelenting discipline and wishy washy enabling. If my group starts wigging out on me, I usually tell them to go climb on something which infuriates the newbie parents who fear the children will injure themselves, damage property, or worse.
One frantic mommy chaperon recently remarked that I can get away with that stuff because I was the lone "cool dad" chaperoning a field trip to an apple orchard. She told me this as my group was happily climbing a tree while her group was milling about and whining "how come THEY get to climb it?" while she tried to lecture them on the dangers of insects, splinters and climbing "strange trees." When it was time to go, I said, "outta the tree kids, let's roll." They promptly plopped out of the tree, splinter free, and followed me dutifully to the nearby bus. My frantic, newbie mommy friend spent the next five minutes pleading with her group to follow her.Since I am usually one of very few dads (if not the only one) on various excursions and since I allow my group to do what many mommies would never consider letting their group do, I am viewed by the kids with the awe reserved for most super heroes, sports figures and the Wonder Pets.
One of the big reasons I was able to successfully dodge responsibility for chaperoning or otherwise volunteering for my older kids once they reached 13 was there was always a younger sibling waiting in the wings. All I had to say was, "I did this stuff for you when you were their age, now it's their turn." Not that any teen would want their parent chaperoning a school field trip anyway-too embarrassing. I had one moment of weakness when I agreed to help paint my then 14 year-old's school, but we did that on three consecutive nights without the kids. It was almost like a vacation.
Unfortunately-at least for school volunteer purposes, I won't have another waiting in the wings when the 6 year old gets to be 13 (we've gotten out of production and into maintenance), so my previous method of evasion won't work. When and if she asks me to volunteer for something at her school when she reaches that age, I will have to just roll my eyes and say, "REALLY?!?!"