Month: June 2018

How Not To Chaperone A School Trip

One thing I’ve learned about being a parent is that sometimes, you have to put yourself out there, and do stuff way outside your comfort zone. That’s how I found myself as a volunteer chaperone on my daughter’s kindergarten class trip to the zoo recently. See, when it comes to being in charge of a group of children, I tend to suck. As such, I tend to avoid putting myself in those situations. Trust me, people, it’s for the best.

However, when a notice came home requesting chaperones for the zoo trip, J wanted me to go. Like, really wanted me to go. I of course, said no, but J was persistent and insistent, so I finally relented. One mandatory police check, and one random drawing of names later (three volunteers were needed, but eight parents wanted to go), and I was in. Time to face my fears.

I quickly Googled tips for chaperoning, and it seemed like an easy enough gig. Kids would be so excited to see a new face, and I’d be treated like a rock star? Sweet! I pictured them looking up to me in awe at the zoo, and following me around like the Pied Piper, as I regaled them with my knowledge about the various creatures.

On the day of the trip, the first thing that I had to do was sign in at the office. While there, one of the teachers came up to me and said that he never saw many dads volunteering, so it was nice to see me there. While initially flattered, panic then set in. Where were the dads at, all this time? Did they know something that I didn’t?

Uh oh!

When I entered J’s class, J was really pumped to see me, but the other children? Yeah, not so much. A lot were indifferent. Some looked confused.  A few seemed excited, but it was more like how a pack of lions gets excited when some fat, tasty prey shows up at their den.

Me aka dead meat.

One little girl came up to me, and asked what my name is. When I told her, she immediately called me something else. She proceeded to spend the rest of the day calling me by everything but my name, and laughing about it.  Mr. Hat, Mr. Brown Eyes, Mr. Poop and so on.  I’ll give her credit for coming creative with it, despite me feeling like Darryl Strawberry on The Simpsons, when Bart and Lisa heckled him.

Unrelated, but his classic moment was immortalized in pin form! Click the pic, to check it out.

J’s teacher (who did a great job communicating and keeping things organized) split the class up into groups, so each volunteer had six kids that they were in charge of.  I took a head count, and rattled off their names. This would be the first of about 1250 times that day, where I would do this.  One little boy immediately wandered off, leaving me wondering where he went. This would be the first of about 1250 times that day, where I would wonder this about him.

The zoo was an hour away, which meant that we had to take a school bus there. My group sat in my general vicinity, including J, who plopped down beside me. I went to the Juno Awards (Canadian Grammys) a few years ago, and these girls near me kept losing their minds whenever Shawn Mendes appeared. All loud squeals and screams. Some tears, too.  Multiply that by a busload, and that pretty much describes how the ride went. No one was bad…..it was just noisy.

The stupid, confused expression on my face was pretty much how I looked the whole day.

Once we dispersed from the bus (and my group scurried off in different directions), my friend who also was volunteering, but happens to be a teacher, took pity on my over-matched butt.  She suggested that our groups stick together, which I happily agreed to.  Once we entered the zoo,  it was time to use the washrooms, have a quick bite, and put on some sunscreen.  As I helped the kids with their snacks and lotion, I guess the little wandering dude was new to the concept of sunscreen. I turned around and he was happily sitting there, eating his sandwich, covered in globs of the  white stuff. His hands and arms were gloopy.  It was smeared all over his face. He looked like a five year old Pennywise the Clown. Anyway, after a quick wipe down, it was time to catch the trolley to finally see some animals!

At our first stop, the kids all ran off. So much for listening to me regale them with my knowledge. There was no time to regale anyway, as I could only worry about keeping track of my six. While five of my six were into the animals, one little homey was only concerned with the trees. He spent the whole trip picking up sticks, progressively grabbing bigger and bigger ones. It started out as twigs, and eventually he was swinging branches around.  I didn’t want him swinging these things in the crowd, because getting licked with a stick hurts. At one point, I asked him to put it down, and he said no. I asked again, and he refused. I then realized that I had no clue how to properly handle this situation. He then happily walked off, stick in hand.

Later on, after he grabbed one dangerous-looking branch, I tried to take it from him. He accidentally got dinged in the process, and said that he was bleeding. Now, for real, it was the tiniest nick, with only a slight trickle of blood. He was 100% fine, trust me.  At the time, though, my last name might as well have been Myers and it may as well have been Halloween.  I felt like I hacked the poor boy’s hand off, causing blood to spew profusely like a fountain.

Moving on. The zoo had these dispensers around the park, where you put your money in, twisted the handle, and food pellets came out, for feeding the animals. My group had zero combined dollars. However, at one point, I found almost all of them (not the little wandering dude, obviously) around a dispenser, trying to get food out. Stick boy had a twig jammed up it, and was maneuvering it similar to how a thief breaks into a car.  “Hey mommy, guess what we learned at the zoo today? How to commit petty crime!”

The rest of the afternoon was a blur of lunch, counting to six, rattling off names, rounding up my group when they split up, and riding the trolley around the zoo, doing a quickie tour. One girl complained about being bored, but I think everyone else had fun. I definitely wasn’t a rock star, in anyone’s eyes in the end, including my daughter’s  Before the bus ride home, J nonchalantly asked me who I was sitting beside, because she was sitting with her friends now. #savage

And that’s how my first time chaperoning a school trip went.

Let’s finish with some takeaways. First, shout out to anyone (teachers, coaches, daycare providers, whoever) that successfully deals with large groups of children on the regular. It’s never easy, and I don’t know how you do it! Next, if I ever chaperone again, I’ll probably do better.  For example, one of the other volunteers there called their group the Wolf Pack, which made rounding them up easier. Thus, I know now to have a fancy group name. If I just had to yell “Yo! Mr. Poop’s Group! Where you at?”, that would have saved me a lot of counting to six.  Finally, all jokes aside, I am glad that I had a chance to chaperone. Sure, it was stressful, but it was enjoyable, and almost everyone made it home injury-free.  It was a nice to get outside of my comfort zone for a few hours. Plus, it gave me the chance to do things like explain to a kid why he couldn’t pee by a tree near the lunch area.  All in all, it was a pretty good day.

Until the next one, peace!

 

No Father’s Day

Gratuitous picture of the kids. Getting them to smile is hard!

 

It’s Father’s Day season! So, in honour of the day where we show the father figures in our lives some love, lemme tell you about that time when myself and some other dads got no love.

I’ll error on the side of vagueness, to protect the innocent.

J is in a club with some other little girls, which gets together weekly, to hang out. Because of my work schedule, K almost always take her to their get togethers. The few times that I’ve picked up J or dropped her off, I’ve noticed the occasional dad, but it’s almost always mothers.

A couple of months ago, a message was sent out to the parents, about an event. Basically, the group was going to have a big sleepover at a local tourist attraction, for the girls and one parent. They would stay up late, do a bunch of fun activities, and sleep on the floor in the main area, in sleeping bags. Some other groups would also be there.  It was definitely going to be a unique, memorable outing.

Because K was more involved with the club, she was the one who was going to go to the sleepover. However, a few weeks before the big night, something came up, and K wasn’t able to take J any more. No problem, though. I’d go instead.

And then the message about the details pertaining to the event came out.

In it, it specifically said that it was for the girls and their female parent or guardian only. 

 

Now, in my mind, that was pretty discriminatory. Not every child has a female in their life who could participate in an event like this. Why should they be punished? What difference did it make, too, whether a dad or male guardian came?

Suppose that you had an opportunity to do something really cool with your kids. Not just cool, but something that was an unforgettable experience, the likes of which would create memories which would last forever.

Now suppose that you weren’t allowed to partake in this opportunity because of your gender. This seemed like a backwards-thinking, judgemental, sexist wrong.  Was the club really some bizarro version of Al Bundy’s “NO MA’AM” organization?  I was pretty upset, people.

I went on the attraction’s website, to see if maybe there was a gender policy of some sort, for the sleepovers they hosted. No dice.  In fact, pictures of previous sleepovers on the site clearly showed men in them, alongside women. Making it a man-free zone must have came straight from J’s club.

On the Facebook group for the club, I politely posed the question, to clarify that dads weren’t allowed.  Someone posted that it was true.

The weird thing, though, was what occurred next. Do you know what happened?

 

Nothing

No one replied, no one commented. Again, my interaction with the club was limited, so not wanting to rock the boat and ostracize J, I dropped the issue. And that was that.

In the days following, I can’t say that I was angry. Sure, I was disappointed for J, since she would miss out on the fun night with her friends. And yeah, it was a bit outrageous, that in an era where it’s easy to outrage us, this little moment was met with a giant shrug of indifference.

However, I accepted the fact that the club probably, in their mind, had a valid reason for excluding dudes.  Maybe there was a bad incident of some sort, in the past. Maybe they took a poll of the fathers of the girls, and the majority of them voted that they weren’t interested in going. Maybe it just came down to a comfort level thing, for the club. Who knows.

I guess all that I’m trying to say here is, sometimes dads…… just want to be dads. Nothing more, nothing less.  Point blank and the period. Just being there for their kids and bonding with them, creating memorable experiences. Really, is that so wrong?

Anyway, Happy Father’s Day, peeps. Here’s to creating some long-lasting memories!

 

One more gratuitous picture. At least they are all smiling. See? There’s always a bright side!

 

 

 

“Your Kids Shouldn’t Be Walking Around Here!” A.K.A. A CFL Game Experience With The Family

Disclaimer: My friends at The Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League provided my family with complimentary tickets for their first game of the season.  Here are my random musings and thoughts about the experience that night, at Tim Hortons Field:

  • There’s a palpable buzz towards the team lately. Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy winning, former NFL quarterback, has taken his talents north of the border, and is making his “comeback szn” with the Ticats this year!
  • There were a lot of Manziel fans in attendance. Based on the conversations I overheard, there were also people who weren’t even football fans, but came to see what all the fuss was about.
  • Admittedly, I’m a very casual fan myself. J and little K accompanied me that evening , but neither are fans. J’s six years old, so she was happy checking out the stadium and stuffing her face with food. KJ is one and a half. He was happy being anywhere.
  • We spent some time in Stripes’ Jungle, which is a really cool kids area in the stadium. I believe it was introduced last season, but this was new to us. It had a playground, and a face painting spot, while various mascots/team ambassadors were there, too. For little ones who get squirmy or restless during the game, this is a great place to go blow off some steam.

  • The Ticats’ gameday experience has really evolved over the years. It’s not about just buying a ticket to watch the game anymore. It’s also about hanging out, socializing and partying. Check out the stadium map, for example:

As you can see, almost everywhere you turn in the stadium, you’ll encounter a patio or lounge area of some sort.  I’m sure this has helped them attract more of the demographic who are into this type of vibe.

  • Back in the day, when I was a young boy,  I used to go to the odd game. The messed up thing is,  while I don’t remember anything specific about the games, or anything kid-friendly that occurred, I vividly remember incidents in the crowd. Drunk people yelling crude and vulgar things. Drunk people fist-fighting. Drunk people making asses of themselves and being dragged out by police. I honestly don’t know if this was a Hamilton thing, or a CFL football thing, or what the deal was. It wasn’t this extreme at say,  a Toronto Blue Jays game, for example. Regardless, when I had kids, the memories of boorishness and non-family friendliness made the idea of taking them to see the ‘Cats unappealing. Eventually, I did bring B out years ago, and it wasn’t that bad. There was the odd belligerent person, and profanity spewed, but it was better than I expected.
  • My most recent game was fine, too, in that regard, in the seats.  Some people were cussing out the starting QB, because they wanted Manziel to come in. OK, whatever, not a huge deal. However, venturing out of our seats, to say, get food, or go the bathroom, was eye-opening. The concourses had a sports bar-atmosphere to them. Very rowdy, very alcohol-fueled. While fun, if you’re holding hands with two small kids, trying to navigate through it, it’s a bit treacherous. One large,stumbling dude almost trampled KJ, apologized, then yelled at me about it. “Your kids shouldn’t be walking around here!” He said, “There’s a lot of drunk people here!”
  • So, by that logic, if the concourses are boozefests, and almost every corner of the stadium has some lounge or patio, which potentially could also be full of inebriated individuals, the only “safe” place for small kids, then, is the Family Zone?
  • Yo, I’m not saying keep your kids away from Tim Hortons Field. J and KJ both had a great time, and there were lots of other little happy faces in attendance, too. Shoot, one of B’s all-time best memories was when he entered the Ticats’ Halloween costume contest two years ago, as Drake. People that night at the game were going nuts about him, treating him like he was the real Drake. He got to go down to field, be on the big screen, and win a gift card!
  • I’m saying that, in my experiences attending live sports, I’ve encountered some of the most drunken, disorderly fans at Ticats games. I’m sure lots of people go and don’t have any issues.  You get thousands of people together in one setting, looking to have their own version of a good time, well, it’s basically buyer beware, for sure. I’m not complaining; I made the choice to go, right? This is just my observation as a parent, to other parents. Take it for what it’s worth.
  • Moving along,  the Ticats’ all female cheerleaders have been replaced this year with a co-ed “performance” team.  When they weren’t entertaining the crowd with routines on the field, they entertained the crowd throughout the stadium. Their engagement level with the fans was more than the cheerleaders used to be, I think. I saw some of them in Stripes’ Jungle for example,  interacting with everyone there.
  • We didn’t stay for the whole game, as KJ and J both started to get sleepy after halftime. From what I saw, Manziel looked OK playing, for what it’s worth.

That’s all I got. With the Tiger Cats feeling optimistic, and Johnny Football in tow, this definitely has the makings for an interesting season in the Hammer.  Oskee-Wee-Wee!

 

 

 

 

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