At the end of November we received word from the Gort’s school that there would be a field trip for all the Kindergarten students, during the second week of January.
So for a solid month plus we anticipated the day when our oldest would get to go to the Science Museum. On the school bus. For the entire school day – 8:20 to 2:47.
‘What am I going to do with the Hen all day long?’ I asked the professor worriedly. The Gort is his primary (sole) playmate. What would the kid do by himself for six hours? More specifically, what kind of entertainment would he require from me? ‘Agh, just give him some food that will make him poop a lot,’ came the sage reply. Because the Hen goes into hiding when it is time to empty his bowels.
Why the professor hasn’t written a book on parenting, I will never know.
Parents received final instructions on the Friday before the big day. Students had to be at school by 8.20am. Wearing a blue shirt or an official ‘school’ t-shirt. With a snack and a lunch in hand.
While 8.20am is not that early of a start time, per se, it is for the Johnson household. Sure, the Johnson spawn generally wake up somewhere between 6.30 and 7.30 every morning. But they eat breakfast and play, wearing their pajamas, for many hours afterwards. In fact, we’re so un-disciplined around here that if I’m wearing clothes other than my pj’s before 10am, the Hen inevitably turns to me and says: ‘whe-you-goin?’
In his mind, if his mother is wearing an ‘outfit’ before noon. It must mean she is leaving the house. For an appointment of some sort.
He has similarly unconventional ideas about the working world. When he asks ‘where’s daddy’ and I reply ‘at work’. He always asks: ‘why?’
As in, since when did dad start going to work, I thought he just hung around the house in his sweatpants all day?
All that to say Sunday night saw some significant pre-planning and organization in my attempt to guarantee a timely departure Monday morning. The Gort’s outfit was selected in advance, and left downstairs in the ‘off’ chance (miracle) that both his brothers would still be asleep. Lunch and snack were prepared and refrigerated. Mittens and hat and coat and backpack were all labeled with his name and placed in a neat little pile. (Granted, that should have been done at the start of Kindergarten, but I’d just had a baby!) I was so organized and on the ball, it was freaky.
Monday morning, before the clock struck 7am, I had a five year old standing by my bed. Ready to embark on his adventure. We ate breakfast. And got dressed. And packed his backpack. And then I remembered the kid was supposed to wear a blue t-shirt – not an orange striped shirt. And wouldn’t you know it, he owns nothing resembling a blue t-shirt. Which meant I had to go to the school office (pre-fieldtrip) to purchase one of the ‘official’ school t-shirts.
I walked into the office on a mission and came upon some fellow Kindergarten moms. The kind of moms who’d volunteered to act as chaperones. Not the kind of moms who threw away the letter asking for volunteers, while crossing their fingers that other people would ‘step up’.
‘This [getting to school in the dark] is what we have to look forward to next year,’ someone reminded me. Apparently being relieved of your child for six hours comes at a price.
Naturally there’d been a last minute run on official school t-shirts, and the only size left was a medium. Which came down to the Gort’s knees. ‘I think this will fit me when I’m nine,’ he remarked matter-of-factly.
We waited together outside until the students were summoned inside for a final briefing before getting on the bus. I drove home. Oddly excited at the prospect of having six whole hours with only two children; convinced that the reprieve would enable me to get a week’s worth of chores done in half a day.
The time passed remarkably quickly. There were no sibling squabbles polluting my ears. The Hen entertained himself quite well. Though my dreams of cleaning the entire house faded into nothing when the baby ended up being wide awake, and fussy, during the hour and a half that the Hen napped.
Which means I had a solid forty five minutes to mop the floors and scrub a couple of bathroom sinks.
We arrived at the pick-up line, twenty minutes early, scanning the horizon for signs of the bus containing our Gort. Finally the bus arrived. Our favorite Kindergartener hopped off the bus and made a beeline towards his welcoming committee.
‘How was it riding the bus?’ I asked as we walked towards the van. After all, it had been his dream to ride a school bus since he started Kindergarten. ‘It was fun,’ he replied. ‘I took a little nap (on the way back) because I was kind of tired.’
The next day my mom called to find out about his trip. ‘I learned some amazing things,’ he informed her. When she asked ‘what’ he was stumped. ‘I don’t remember.’