One afternoon, at school pick up, my son’s teacher asked me,
“Can you come on the school trip? We need another volunteer.”
I said, “Yes”.
And tried not to look too surprised that she’d solicited my help.
I guessed she was desperate. The actual shit-together Dutch mum gang must have declined…
What could possibly go wrong?
Entrusting a gaggle of Dutch kids into my care….Supervising them wandering around a bird park, while not really having a firm grasp of their language?
Sure. That sounds grand.
My answer was rhetorical. The teacher knew I’d say yes.
I agree to anything she asks me to do.
I’ve weeded playgrounds.
Cheered from the sidelines for various events.
Honestly, I’d repaint her home and give her husband a hand job if she told me to.
I just want her to continue working whatever magical juju teaching powers she has over my son. When I think back to where we were before we found this amazing school…..
Terror and horror in equal mixes is torror.
Where we lived a few years ago.
Deep in the torror.
You want me to re-roof your house and simultaneously finish off your marking?
Sure. Can I borrow a ladder?
The morning of the school trip it was HACKING down. Of course. As we stood in the driving rain outside the bird park, I smiled my best ‘fun mum smile’ at my gang. They squinted doubtfully at me through the rain. I said one word,
“Binen?” (It means ‘Inside’)
They cheered and charged off. I sprinted after them through the driving rain. It turned out that they had all been to the bird park before. The trip turned into me following them around, while they got on with the business of living their best lives. We ambled around. Occasionally someone held my hand. I wasn’t clear if it was because they needed me. Or they thought I needed minding.
We were rattling along fine. Until one of the girls freaked out.
She was talking so fast I couldn’t get what she was saying.
Or what what she was frightened of.
She took off.
The others shrugged. If I chased after her, I left the rest of the group unchaperoned…they were beginning to get hangry and needing the loo……Fuck me. I’d lost a kid. Sacrificed to the greater good of snack time… and wees….
….on a school trip someone needs a wee at all times.
Even if they’ve just been.
Even if you asked them 5 minutes ago if they needed to go.
Especially where you are the furthest point away from the loos in the whole park.
Another Dutch mama with her group came lumbering up. She was a gazillion years pregnant and still acting like she wasn’t a day away from the birth. She was holding the hand of our teary-eyed, lost girl.
We rounded a corner and there were a troop of lemurs on a bench. Just hanging out. Being patted and over loved by tiny sticky handed kids. Health and safety Dutch style is the best. My son wouldn’t go near them. His cautious English genes are strong. My daughter however, pushed one to see if it was real. Because 4.
The interesting thing to witness, was how at all times someone wanted to be somewhere else, doing something else. They’d want to see the pelicans. As soon as we got there someone else would start up with wanting to see the ghost train. That took some translation. I thought it was a type of bird.
At the ghost train I discovered that my 4 year old has a gang of 7 year old girls for mates. Off she went.
“Don’t worry mama, I’ll be fine”,
she consolingly said as she hopped into the ghost train. I was freaking out on her behalf. She went round 3 times. In the middle of her gang. Having a blast.
“Are you ok?”
“Of course she is”, said the older kids
“Don’t worry Rebekah, we have her”, the kids assured me and they headed off to the play ground together.
I went on the ghost train with my boy.
We sat, holding hands, in the black lit gloom as UV skeletons and spooks leapt out at us.
“Is any of this real mama?”
He whispered in my ear.
“No love. It’s just stuff people made with paint and then turned the lights out.”
He went round again with a friend. His eyes huge in his serious face as he contemplated what else in life might just be the result over exuberant crafting.
Just before we got on the bus, we celebrated the lack of child and avian damage, with an ice lolly.
As the bus pulled out, one of the kids in my group quietly told me that she’d lost her back pack. The bus stopped and the class teacher ran off to find it. She returned red faced and empty handed.
I wanted to tell the little girl not to worry.
That I lose stuff all the time.
And her mum won’t get mad.
It’s just a bag.
But I didn’t have those words.
So she just sat there looking glum. Her dejected figure a forlorn slump. And the kid next to me secretly ate his sweets, knowing I wouldn’t tell.