Mondays on the Margins have been postponed due to my post-traumatic field-trip disorder

Eve's class has been going to the community pool for the last three Mondays to learn 'life-saving skills'. It was great. She's been a very slow starter in swimming; she loved being in the water, but she wouldn't jump in, didn't like going under water, and needed water wings well after the other kids her age were eeling around without flotation devices. This was fine until she went to summer camp last year and couldn't pass the swimming test and ended up having to hang around in the shallow end with little boys in life jackets. So I put her in a private swimming class, and she's made enormous progress. Over March Break, my friend and I took the kids swimming and she passed the swimming test easily, even though it was a long swim in water over her head. She got a little nervous before the first Monday, but passed the test again, didn't have to wear a lifejacket, somersaulted into the water and jumped off the diving board for the first time ever. She was loving it. She was loving it so much she asked if I would come watch at the last class yesterday. Which also meant supervising the girls changing in the locker room.

The class has fourteen girls and six boys.

The proper life-saving technique would have been to say NO FUCKING WAY. But I said sure, why not? Because I'm stupid like that.

The thing with the girls at this age -- tell me you've noticed this -- is, even the ones that are sweet and nice and funny and obedient on their own turn into little turds when they're in a group. On a bus? They lose their everloving shit in five seconds flat. Trying to open windows. Trying to close windows. Flinging their bags of stuff up on the racks. Trying to get the same stuff down from the racks. Sitting backwards. Sitting upside down. Arguing over which guy in the Hunger Games is better and saying "My name is Slim Shady" over and over. There are rows of empty seats and nine kids squished into the very last ones, because ya know, having a quarter of a butt cheek on the last seat, that makes you cool.

Then we're in the locker room. All they have to do is take off their clothes, put their stuff in a locker, put on their bathing suits and get their towels out.

photo credit
I think it would have been easier to build a time machine. And I am not mechanically inclined.

Some of them took minutes just to pick out the perfect locker. Some of them collapsed on the bench and their stuff was immediately scattered in a five-metre radius. Some of them were so preoccupied with not being naked that it took them twice as long to get changed, and the rest took all their clothes off and looked around vacantly, as if they couldn't remember the next step. This tiny, cute-as-a-button blonde girl took out a plastic ziploc bag with her epi-pen, inhaler, and brush in it and looked at it and went 'oh my gosh!' and I said 'what? What?' in a total panic, thinking she was missing something vital and about to have some kind of medical crisis. She opened the bag, took out the brush and said "THAT'S not medicine!" and put it on the bench.

Then my head exploded, so that took a few more seconds.

Then we went out on the pool deck. It was raining, and there were some leaking pipes, so you can imagine, the "OH MY GOD, IT'S LEAKING, IT'S A FLOOD, WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE OH MY GOD, Selena can you sit beside me on the bus on the way home?" They were all supposed to sit down and wait for the instructors, which they did for about half a second, then they were up and changing seats, and inching along the wet ledge in front of the seats trying really hard to fall and crack their heads on the concrete until I snarled at them that they were all horrible, wretched little ingrates and if they didn't park their little butts in a seat and stay there, they would shortly be in need of some REAL life-saving. Because I'm good with kids like that.

Then they had the actual lesson, and that was cool. I just sat there sweating, had a brief conversation with another mom about how if we were teachers we would both be raging alcoholics, and Eve went off the HIGH DIVING BOARD! Then she wouldn't shut up about how it hurt her leg and she had a headache, and I told her I'd never met anyone who could ruin a magical moment as effectively, and she said "well then welcome to your first time!"

Then we had to get them changed back into their clothes. So, the first part in reverse, but much, much worse. Because now they were wet, and there were hair issues, and more pieces of clothing had to go ON their bodies, and oh god, the humanity.
Two girls disappeared into one of the private change rooms and every time I looked at their four little feet, they seemed distressingly still and not moving around in a putting-on-clothes-type manner AT ALL. The little blonde girl kept saying "Where's my Epi-pen?", which, okay, fine, you should know where your epi-pen is, but I'd told her EVERY TIME that I had put it back in her backpack, and I'm pretty sure it was for food allergies and WE WEREN'T EATING ANYTHING. Naked little girls were combing their tangles out with excrutiating slowness - I swear, they were staring at me challengingly at the same time. Did I mention there was a bus waiting for us, and we were edging up on school dismissal time? And that if we got out to the parking lot a bit early I might be able to score some meth or something to dull the pain?

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One girl put on her dress and then couldn't find her pink leggings. She searched along the piles of stuff on the bench and found them. The little blonde girl had a dress on and winter boots, but her legs were still bare. I said sweetie, don't you have something for your legs? She said 'oh yeah', and looked at the bench and picked up HER UNDERWEAR, which apparently was hitherto considered optional, and then said "where are my leggings?" And yes, you've got it, girl number one had put on girl number two's pink leggings. I grabbed the pink leggings girl number one found in her bag, thrust them at girl number two and ordered her to put them on and said they could trade back tomorrow (you know, the day when I would be hiding in my house lest I spy an 8-or-9-year old child and have a screaming flashback). 

Everybody was heading towards the door except me and the little blonde girl. Eve had gathered up my purse, her bag of wet stuff and my sweater. She said consolingly "all you have to do is grab your water bottle, Mom". Blessed child. I think she sensed that the next time blonde girl asked "where's my epi-pen?" my answer was going to be "in my neck". 


Kelly Miller said…
It's official. I need a nap and I hate pre-teen girls. Mission accomplished woman! (No, really. I felt like I was there. You captured it perfectly!)
Pam said…
My ab workout is done. I am injured from laughing from your perfect picture of a fieldtrip with the gaggle of pre-teen darlings.
"The proper life-saving technique would have been to say NO FUCKING WAY". Snort!
You deserve a medal and a bottle of raspberry vodka too.
Nicole said…
This may be my favourite post that you have ever written. It is exactly why I don't volunteer for field trips. I also tend to have anxiety attacks in pool change rooms so I have never volunteered for change room supervision. I think that this would push me over the edge! OMG this is the funniest post ever. I'm bookmarking this to read when I'm sad. "We're all going to die! Selena, will you sit next to me on the bus?" Classic.
Mary Lynn said…
I feel somewhat guilty enjoying this post so much. Hilarious!

Did you manage to score some meth? ;-)
alison said…
I only have 2, but that's about what it was like when I took them swimming at the Goulbourn rec centre last Sunday. Minus the epi-pen.
BeachMama said…
oh my gosh!!!! I so wish I went with you on Monday :) I went on the first Monday and I guess I am a little militant as I made the girls take lockers in the same section, take turns in the change room or let me hold up a towel and then made them line up to go to the pool! And when we were done, I made sure they dressed quickly then sent them out to the teacher one by one. It was great, but funny I didn't get to go back.... I drank a lot that Monday night...
Trisha Causley said…
O wow. I'm having PTSD flashbacks of skating field trips (my skates are too tight/loose, I only have one mitt, I'm cold, my nose is running.) Your excellently-timed post came just after I agreed go on a Grade 2 field trip to the conservation area next week.

Thank you for filling me with volunteer-remorse.
clara said…
I took ONE child swimming today and it SUCKED. I salute you. Also, gripping writing! I was right there with you for the "YOUR EPI PEN IS FINE BITCH." Holy cow.

These are the golden times. The special parenthood moments that get you a medal in Valhalla or at least a bottle of wine when we eventually meet.
Maggie said…
Horrifying. I stopped volunteering for field trips four years ago when my son was in K because I could not handle it. I can hardly stand taking my own two kids swimming. The thought of taking a field trip of kids TO THE POOL? Beyond horrifying. Someone would have to put a gun to my head and even then, I might consider not doing it. UGH.
Finola said…
Oh, I laughed!
And I am so grateful to have never lost my sense long enough to volunteer for a school field trip. My children will just be neglected that way, but I will put extra treats in their lunches next week to compensate.
You are a much better person than I am.
Ms. G said…
This was just flat out hysterical! Funniest thing I've read in months : )
harriet glynn said…

OMG! Seriously, managing large numbers of children should be left to professionals!

But I'm thrilled by your daughter's swimming progress. Wonderful despite the headache etc.. *lol*
Lynn said…
Hilarious. I am going to have to insist you attend all field trips in the future just for the glory of the follow up blog post.

(Also: Super happy I checked "No, I will not be available to help" on the Captain's permission slip for the same swim training. I am GENIUS.)

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