6.06.2015

Big Mother is Watching


Some people volunteer for their child’s school because they are natural do-gooders who like to help and make a difference. Others pitch in to get out, be social, and get involved.

Me, I do it so I can spy on my kids and see how they act when they’re outside my four walls.

That’s why you won’t see me heading up any PTO committees, helping out in the school library or running the fundraisers. I like to be on the front lines, right there among the students, where putting my time in is rewarded with a window into my children’s school day. This way, I can find out whether they are good listeners, good sharers and good classroom citizens, or little bullies and miscreants, sniffing the magic markers and eating the Elmer’s glue.

In our elementary school, I have been a Room Mom, Mystery Reader, Trip Chaperone and Classroom Helper. I’ve volunteered for holiday parties and am even a Picture Parent, giving presentations to wide-eyed grade schoolers on art appreciation.

But now my oldest son is in middle school, where there is nary a call for parents to come in and help pass out cupcakes or cut up snowflakes, and my level of involvement has dwindled down to nil. I have no idea what’s happening in that building. I barely know any of the Duke’s teachers or what he is learning– I don’t even know where the library is. The longest time I’ve spent in any of his classrooms was when I was there for teacher conferences and got trapped in a lockdown.

So when the call came for volunteers to chaperone his school’s annual chorus trip, I elbowed to the front of that line like a clubgoer ready to blow the bouncer. Finally, a chance to see beyond the velvet rope and spy on—I mean witness—my middle schooler amongst his peers! But when I heard the job description and itinerary, I realized wearing knee pads would not be necessary. This was a trip that would begin at 8:45 am and end at 8 pm, accompanying 256 hormonal sixth, seventh and eighth graders on a forty-five minute bus ride to their hour-long chorus competition, followed by an afternoon spent trying not to lose them at Six Flags Great Adventure.

Not exactly a gig the parents were lining up around the block for.

Aside from having to take all that time off from work and life, and the realities of having to navigate the hot sun and amusement park crowds with kids who aren’t your own and thus can’t be threatened into listening to you, there were also the perils of that long bus ride. For some of the regular school do-gooders, that bus ride alone was the deal breaker.

Ahh, the middle school bus. That big yellow chariot of pre-teen angst and anarchy. I know parents who go out of their way to drive their kids to and from school every day just to shelter them from the bad language and influences rumored to be on board. We’ve all heard stories of what goes on behind that bus driver’s back, and I’d be getting—gulp—a front row seat.

Yet here I was, fully willing to endure claustrophobia, motion sickness and all that other business just for a glimpse into my son’s world.


As we filed onto Bus 6 that morning, the kids were beyond psyched. They had prepared all school year for this Music in the Parks competition, and today was the day. But, beyond that (and the reason about half of those 256 kids even signed up for chorus in the first place) they were going to be sprung from their cages afterwards and let loose to ride rollercoasters with their friends. That get-out-of-jail-free feeling was palpable.

I was prepared for the Duke not to sit near me or acknowledge me. I was prepared for all those kids to get rowdy and maybe even a little mouthy. I envisioned faces glued to tiny screens showing each other explicit videos, bullying, a few of the 8th graders trying to make out in the backseat. You know, all the stuff we’ve been warned can happen that’s so much worse than back in our day. And our day was bad enough. Remember the spitball fights, heads hanging out the window, giving the middle finger to passing cars? I even learned where babies come from riding that bus.

But I was not prepared for what actually went down.

About halfway to our destination, after those middle schoolers had polished off their lunches that were supposed to be for later, after they’d gotten bored with their devices and with teasing each other, spontaneously, one by one, they started to sing. 

And I'm not talking 'bottles of beer on a wall'. This was a full-on, harmonized sing along reminiscent of the ‘Tiny Dancer’ scene in the movie Almost Famous.




It was so sweet. So pure. So innocent. No wonder I was shocked. As much as these middle schoolers may be turning into young adults, starting to swear, shave, menstruate and experiment, we forget that in so many ways, they are still children. And much of the ‘good’ we’ve put in them is there to stay.

I’m so happy I was a spy on the wall to see it.

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2 comments:

  1. OMG ur to funny like the video ! It's funny cause the kids were singing on my bus too! Bus #2 lol ! Oh yeah and thanks for pawning off one of your kids from your group into my group! Lmao πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ thank god he was a good kid !! Lol I almost forgot to send him back to u ! Thank god u text me to remind me to send him back to your bus. Otherwise there would have been a big thing with The count with my bus having an extra body n your bus missing a kid ! You and I would be band as chaperones next year πŸ‘ŠπŸΌπŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

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  2. Baby G, I knew YOU of all chaperones could handle one more. God doesn't give us more than we can handle!! And like I said, parents aren't lining up for that gig, so Mrs. G is stuck with us!! But how sad no middle schoolers for you next year :-(

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