Several weeks ago, Zeca asked me if I would chaperone her class trip to the Lake Country Land School. This was her last trip with her class, her last as a third grader and it was important to her. I knew that but I must admit that the idea of spending three full days (and two nights) with 28 kids ranging in age from seven to nine was daunting. The truth is kids scare the hell out of me.
I am good with my kids and the kids who've been in my life for years but I am awkward with kids I don't know. I agreed to chaperone the trip but admitted to Zeca that I was nervous about it and she said, "Mom, you'll be fine. Just make sure to be funny because I've told everyone how funny you are so they're expecting that."
No pressure. No pressure at all.
So, last week, I spent three days on a farm with 28 kids and survived. I moved an electric fence to create a new pasture for the sheep and llamas. I accompanied children to the tree house every time I was asked. I trudged through creeks, comforted kids crying because they were wet and cold and carried the skull of a rodent in my pocket for a kid who wanted it but didn't want to touch it. I peeked into a bee hive and tasted fresh honey. I sat in a bird blind with kids and watched goldfinches and woodpeckers and nuthatches and an indigo bunting in silence. I stood at the edge of a pond - absolutely still - and looked for the tiniest of tadpoles.
I also learned a lot about my daughter while I watched her run through the fields playing soccer with the boys, wading fearlessly into a muddy pond and spinning in circles with a friend under a cloudy blue sky that made the world seem as large as it is. I saw myself in her in the looks she gave me when a conversation with another kid bored her. This reflection of myself was an unexpected revelation but one that will help me support her as she navigates friendship and the inherent frustrations and disappointments. I wanted to tell her, "You are much too young to be over it all, my dear," but I smiled knowingly instead.
I saw her and loved what I saw. This view of our children as whole beings in a life we often know little about is so different than the one we see day to day. Seeing her in that place with those other children and adults was worth the awkwardness I felt and the loss of sleep as five girls giggled me to sleep each night.
The last night, Zeca sat in my lap and a friend of hers nestled in close to my side and others lay down near me while their teacher told a story in the dim light of the homestead great room. I listened to the story but mostly to the sounds of the room - the sniffles and shuffling and the small laughs - and with my child held tight in my arms and my head resting on the little one at my side, it felt like I was meant to be there.
Of course, the next day that feeling was gone as I threatened to take away sticks and intervened in a shoving match but maybe there is a lesson there too - nothing lasts. Those perfect moments are brief but the hard ones are too.
When we got home, I asked Zeca how I'd done and she said, "Mom, you did a great job. You were nice and funny and everyone liked you."
"Are you glad that I went?"
"Yes. Thank you so much."
Really, that's the review that mattered most.
PHOTO CREDIT: VIKKI REICH