How do you know if your family field trip was a success? This is how I judge it: If we manage to avoid becoming headlines in a town newspaper, if we don’t have to meet the happy local police or emergency crews and I manage to return home with as many people as I started out with, then good enough.
We usually pair up with another family for a field trip. (That way you have witnesses) Our most recent field trips our friend Rose and her daughter Marie were with us. Marie and Mark are classmates and Rose and I have the same height and demented sense of humor. We pile everyone into Rose’s Van of Loons and off we go. Everyone has a job of course. Rose is in charge of driving, screeching when she sees body parts flying like a circus in her rear view mirror and giving me cardiac arrest on curves in the road. I am in charge of navigation, passing out food and drinks, collecting trash, making sure the children have something to entertain them and yelling out the window at other cars that I feel have come to close to us.
Chris sits behind us next to Mark, and Marie and Melissa are behind them. Chris’s job is to keep the children from killing themselves or each other. He must clean up spills, listen to endless stories and complaints while trying to find an ejection button to escape. Each child wants to listen to music. Each child wants different music than the other. No adult wants to hear the music any of the children are playing so we turn on the radio as well. By the time we hit any major highways, it sounds like Lady Gaga,Justin Bieber, Alice Cooper and Iron Maiden are having a death match in our vehicle.
Someone will always get the runs, get carsick, have a body part explode or will accidentally injure someone else on our way to our destination. At least two of the kids will have an argument that will last the entire trip over a toy. Even after item has been taken away, the fight will continue in hushed tones. Then comes the little statements guaranteed to set at least one adult off.
“I am bored. Why did you drag us out here anyway?” (Really? Five days of this child chanting “when do we go?” This was the same child that woke everyone up at four a.m. to get ready?)
“I want ice cream. When are we stopping to eat? I am starving and all you brought were snacks I hate! You don’t even care that my water bottle is empty again!” (This is the kid that has eaten all the food before you even packed it. The same child that has had four breakfasts and wiped you out of quarters at the vending machine.)
“Did you remember that you said I don’t have to listen to music I don’t like? I can tell that Mark had the last yogurt drink because he just heavy breathed all over me and it smells like strawberries! And know what? Know what? Guess who is making a noise you cannot hear but I can and you said I could borrow toys but she won’t share them!”(This is the kid that started out with arms draped over the other two like they all just wandered off a Disney friendship show set. )
By the time we have reached our destination, the children are no longer speaking to each other (by dictate of the adults), Chris is trying to commit suicide by seat belt, Rose has managed to attract several species of hawks with her screeching and I have plans to ditch all of them with the first trucker who doesn’t look dangerous. I am trying to defend my skills at direction giving, as I am being accused of calling out exits only as Rose drives past them at seventy miles an hour, Chris reminds me that if we are visiting the country we shouldn’t be seeing skyscrapers and I am trying to explain that if we just stopped at a Dunkin Donuts earlier I would have been a bit sharper in the brain.
Melissa has decided that she no longer wishes to know any of us and plans to find a new family. Mark wants to know if we are late, if there will be food here and will he have a good time? Marie wants everyone to hold hands and she is leading the children straight toward the exit. By the time we have entered the amusement area, we look like we are the main attraction. Chris is telling folks its my first day out of the hospital after brain surgery, Mark has started a Harry Potter game and will now only speak in spells.
There is a man cracking a whip of fire, two jugglers on amazingly high stilts, knights riding majestic horses while jousting and rare exotic animals close enough to almost touch. The children are not impressed in the least by any of this. They only want rides that cost extra money. Why watch a colorful parade when you can buy water in a bottle? Why bother seeing an amazing sword fight between a masked figure and a warrior when you can buy a wood sword and whack your sibling with it? Who cares that medieval washer women are singing while gypsy dancers twirl about, a vendor has chocolate ice cream!
By the end of the day, none of us are speaking to each other in a very nice way. We are being followed by security, Mark is yelling threats and swears at anyone who comes within his eyesight, Rose cannot figure out where we had parked the car, Chris is trying to will himself deaf as the girls are on either side of him, listing their many complaints and I am praying that a spontaneous cyclone sucks me away.
Yet, when we all finally make it home, I count the heads, we are all here and sure enough, discussing where are next field trip will be!