When to stop going on your kids’ field trips

Is your child no longer keen on getting lunch box notes from Mom-let alone “Mommy”-or does he drop your hand like a hot potato whenever another kid his age appears? Or perhaps he’s like my son, Noah, who recently put the brakes on my plans to chaperone his school field trip.

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Jennifer_DuBoseJennifer DuBose, M.S.,
C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private
practice in Batavia and writes a monthly column for Chicago

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OK, so maybe I put my arm around him once too often on that last trip and should rein in my enthusiasm when I see him at school. Being identified as someone’s kid can be-from a pre-teen’s perspective-way uncool. I knew my chaperoning days were numbered, but wasn’t prepared for the moment he came through the door after school, permission slip in hand.

“I need you to sign this, but Mom,” he began, looking me in the eye and shaking his head no. He looked so serious I couldn’t help but laugh.

“What? You mean I can’t go?” I asked. His class was hiking to the Fox River. They were to hunt for crayfish and leeches and other nifty critters, and they would do it without me. I needed to check off one box on the form to permit him to participate, another to chaperone. But there wasn’t a place to check off “I’d be delighted to help. But my kid-you know the one-he says I can’t come.” It stung.

I love chaperoning. It’s a great opportunity to meet the other kids, get to know the teachers and see my kids in action. I decided to respect his wishes and sit this one out because my kid is trying to grow up. He’s preparing someday to leave the nest, and I need to move over and let him practice spreading his wings.

No matter your child’s age, remember that field trips are more than mere complements to our children’s curriculums. Surviving time away from home without us-at school, on those fun field trips, and even on playdates with friends-can be a huge confidence builder for our children. If we’re lucky, they’ll return home, filled-to-bursting with stories about their day. The telling of these stories-when they feel, for a moment, like the ones doing the teaching-can greatly enhance their confidence. Remember, confident kids are what we’re after.

If our children develop a sense of confidence about going out into the world and meeting it with curiosity and a sense of adventure, which will lead to an ability to survive as independent, autonomous adults, then we’ll know we’ve done something right.

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