Chaperon – from the Old French word chaperone meaning hood or cowl, a protection. Later used in English to describe the matron that accompanies the unwed lady in public. Well I’m not sure about the matron part, but by our current definition of chaperon, I’ve been one many times. Having a food allergic child means a lot of class volunteering, especially chaperoning. Field trip after field trip, ever vigilant for that peanut butter sandwich to come out of a ski jacket pocket at the museum or the giant bag of Cheetos to be shared at the beach. Working on-call has allowed me the flexibility to go on most trips and G hasn’t minded at all. For some reason I don’t yet embarrass him. This is amazing considering he’s 14. It’s I who feels that maybe it’s time to let him face the random snacking perils of the field trip without my eagle eye.
Besides, not many field trips happen in grade 8, or so I thought! The last week of May G brought out a crumpled wad from his backpack. It was pages and pages of consent forms, schedules, packing lists(!) etc. for trips that the kids would go on during the last two weeks of school. Two weeks of field trips! Are you kidding! Well, now it was time for me to take a step back and decide how much I could let go. First trip was taking the city bus downtown to the Maritime Museum. Send G with a bag lunch and I could avoid that one. Next trip was a day at a fellow student’s cottage water skiing and swimming. I could have sent him off with a bag lunch for that too but water skiing! I’m in! Next one to avoid was the walk to the beach. Normally I love the beach, but chaperoning 14 year olds isn’t exactly a relaxing day in the sun – besides, it called for rain! For the field trip to Chinatown and lunch at a Chinese restaurant the teacher spoke with me and we arranged that she would speak to the restaurant and G could have plain white rice and I’d provide something else he could eat there. So once again I did not have to go, but there was a desperate call out for more adults to go (no one had volunteered – I think many adults are uneasy around large hoards of teens!) so I went along on that one but I really didn’t need to be there for G specifically.
Then came the overnight camping trip – hmm. G’s been to camp for the past two summers but that has been very thoroughly planned and worked out with the camp ahead of time. This was a bit more loosey-goosey. The good part was that kids were asked to bring their own food which fit in well with what we would have to do anyway. To go or not to go? I really wanted to give G some freedom and it didn’t sound very appealing – bad weather forecast, 3 hour hike in the rain, helping 14 year olds cook over a camp stove, sleep in very rustic cabins, more rain. I know my husband would have gone if I had been unsure, but I swallowed hard and decided I would not go. G could handle it on his own. Even when a call went out requesting more parent volunteers, I held fast and didn’t go. He survived on muffins and marshmallows and returned unscathed.
School trips can’t happen without chaperons and with parents’ work schedules it’s often difficult for teachers to get adults to volunteer their time. Our family has definitely done its bit and this year it felt good to be able to not be the volunteer. G is maturing and becoming more self reliant. It’s time for me to release him from the protective chaperone cloak he’s been under.