Lesbian and Gay Parenting book coverIn a Family Way

A column by Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

The Field Trip

Posted By on July 1, 2009

If you will allow me to indulge for a minute, I’d like to review this past weekend with you. It started like this: I offered to drive my oldest son on a school field trip to a museum in another city. I kindly suggested that I could drive two friends, and we could stay later than his class and have dinner out. He was very exited about this and after a week of long, involved emails and phone conversations with the families of his friends, we were able to secure their permission. I try very hard not to diagnosis people outside of my office hours, but worried parents behave in ways that just beg for a diagnosis. After assuring them of my driving record, my rules about seat belt usage and my abhorrence of junk food, and writing down a list of cell phone numbers, including grandmothers, aunts, and their preferred choice of emergency rooms, they reluctantly agreed to let their children spent the afternoon with me.

My partner then announced she would have to work, and asked if I could I take the youngest with us. I know you’ve never met my youngest but the best we’ve come up to describe him is a mixture of Howie Mandell and Eddie Haskall (from Leave it to Beaver, remember Wally’s friend who always said, “And that is a lovely lunch you are making, Mrs. Cleaver”). Just add a bit of laughing gas. He is a lovely person, caring towards animals, a talented musician, and a fierce warrior against injustice (“Give me back my pencil or I will slice your head off”).
As expected, my oldest son’s reaction to his younger brother coming was a long screech. (“Why does he screech like a girl, Momma?” “I don’t know, dear; that’s just the way he expresses himself.”) He assures me that I have “ruined his life” by inviting his brother, and now there is simply no reason to go.

Right about then the phone rang. It as a desperate phone call from the mother of one of my youngest son’s friends (who is made of pretty much the same stuff as my youngest is, minus the laughing gas, add a Game Boy compulsion, serious food pickiness, and an young interest in x-rated Internet sites); apparently mom had a work crisis, and said, “I have no shame. I’m on my hands and knees. Could you take one of my kids for the weekend?” Her husband is in Japan working for five months (a likely story and one I will try to remember the next time I try to sneak out of here for a few months). She promised that when he comes home, she would return the favor of my taking her kid, by having him take my kids for a day (I admire chutzpah like that!). Since I like women on their hands and knees, I said, “Of course, what’s one more.” As I pulled out of the driveway, the news was reporting the mysterious death of a child on a school field trip, an ominous beginning.

I will spare you the details of the art museum (“And why would they call that art?”; “Is that his PENIS, hahaha.”). The short hike to the waterfall we took afterwards only left one child sopping wet and one covered in mud. I also learned that most children are not accustomed to eating ethnic foods, and my children had a great time teaching the other kids all about Thai sauces, and the joys of eating sushi. The young child who is very picky eater discovered that he really likes Katsu in Ponzu sauce, and politely called the server over to say, “This sauce is delicious; may I please have some more?”

We returned the children home safely except for the one we were keeping for an overnight (“We have to go to bed already? We haven’t done ANYTHING, today!”). In the morning they had a birthday party to attend. The family rented the entire movie theater so the kids got to watch Shrek III (mine for the second time), and eat cake for lunch. By the time I picked them up, they were out of their minds from hunger and exhaustion. My younger son was screaming for a play date (“We never do anything. Our lives are so boring. Your ruin everything. Now I will have to wait A WHOLE WEEK.”); my older son was explaining to me that his school report that was due next week did not need any punctuation; he explained, “No one in my school uses that stuff anyway.”

Now, this is where we must pause. I have read many, many parenting books. I teach Developmental Psychology for a living. I really do understand how to “talk so children will listen and listen so children will talk.” I will often advise my clients how to say things to their children, and they will ask me for a pen and paper, so they can write down my profound, deftly-worded insights.

Somehow though in real life, all I want to do is yell something like, “You are so unappreciative and rude to me. I have spent the last 24 hours driving you and your friends around, and now you are mad at me that you have homework to do before you get to watch television.” But I am told that they won’t really appreciate me for another few decades, so I dutifully drive them home, help them with homework, read them goodnight stories, and wonder who invented school field trips.