Holy Spitballs, I Survived

In an effort to try and restore normal family function around these parts, I did the unthinkable. I volunteered to be a supervisor for Fric and Frac's grade seven/eight class field trip to the local science centre.

Actually, I less volunteered and more groaned and whined when I discovered my kids had forged my signature and then threatened a mutiny if I didn't play along. My children? They should teach hostage negotiations to local law enforcement agencies. They have it down to a science.

But since I'm a sucker for their puppy dog eyes and have no life of my own, I decided to play along. I mean, it's just a class field trip. What could go wrong?

Feel free to stop laughing at me any time now.

With much less fanfare and applause than I felt I deserved (heck, if I had my way, the school halls would be lined with balloons and streamers as I walked towards the school bus amidst the excited chants of adoring children, "Go Tanis! Go Tanis" and I'd be handed a trophy carved from pure gold as I board the yellow tin box of doom), I took my seat on the dreaded school bus and tried to make myself as inconspicuous as possible.

My son, the charming shit disturber he is, foiled my plans to blend in seamlessly by insisting on having me sit next to him and then standing up beside me on the bus and loudly announcing that yes, I was indeed his mother, not some hot chick who had a thing for junior high science field trips.

Every kid on the bus had to turn around and size me up and I knew right then I was in for a rough ride. When the supervising teacher  handed me my itinerary I knew I was doomed. It's always a bad sign when the teachers wish you luck in a furtive manner while reminding you not to look any of the kids directly in the eyes. "For the love of God Tanis, don't engage them. Just survive."

Before I knew it, the bus doors pulled shut and the games began. With each jostle and bump of the road, I was reminded once again why I hated riding the school bus when I was in school. The windows refuse to open, stuck from years of grimy paws and bubble gum sealing them shut, no seat belts and an acoustic sound that every concert hall in North America would covet.

I swear, every time the back end of the bus hit a pot hole not only did my brains rattle behind my eyeballs but the noise decibel rose accordingly. What in God's name did Steve Jobs make the iPod for if none of these technophile children refuse to put in their ear buds and use it??

After the what seemed like the world's longest bus ride from hell (although, admittedly it could have been worse. I could have been stuffed on this bus with teenaged jackals alongside caged poultry, gassy goats and screaming babies while crossing a desert.) we finally arrived at our destination.

Excitement was rife and the hormones were thick. As the kids found their groups I looked at my list and the size of the groups around me. Somehow I managed to pull the largest crowd and teens were begging their group leaders to be released into my custody. Since the other grown ups were apparently smarter than I, they leapt on the opportunity to get rid of one of their charges as I stupidly and naively gave my permission for random pimply brats to join my pack.

I took comfort that if we were a street gang, my crew would kick some ass and dominate all the other little packs.

Fric, excited to have me watch her in her natural habitat.

Once everyone had filed into the building and split into their supervised gangs groups, the fun began. I had no idea what we were supposed to be doing and for the life of me, I could not find another grown up to ask for instructions. I was on my own. In a mire of quicksand with nary a rope to haul my sorry arse to safety.

If you are correctly imagining a gaggle of teens surrounding my swampy death as I slowly sink in my pit of doom, you'd be half correct. Include in your image a the predatory cackles as the teens stood around and poked me with sharp sticks and you have an accurate portrait of what the first half of the morning felt like.

I'm Dorothy, stuck in Oz. Meet the tornado responsible for the chaos.

As we wandered around the gallery looking at the exhibits, it quickly became apparent that the only learning getting done by anyone in the building was by the adults. Learning how to survive and keep our charges out of the clink. The kids were less interested in the dizzying array of fascinating experiments surrounding us and more interested in trying to prove to society why teenagers should be held up as an example of birth control for future generations.

I don't remember getting to play with fire in junior high. School has gotten way cooler since I got old.

As I observed the teens not learning, I learned a thing or two myself. Interestingly enough, in the twenty years since I've been in junior high, not much has changed. The cliques haven't changed. The popular kids, the invisibles, the rejects, the plastics; they are all still there, just as predictable and annoying as they were back when I was hip deep in the nerd herd, being hung by the back of my jacket (while still wearing it) onto the science door's coat hook.

Only now, time and gravity have erased the boundaries of my own teenaged kingdom and I have a hall pass to mingle with whomever I choose to. As I watched the children struggle within their own social structures I just wanted to pull up the pants of the kid who thought he was too cool to wear a belt and tell him that he'd better enjoy his status as ringleader because chances are when he's a grown up he'll be the lone guy sitting at the lunch table at the used car dealership where he works because no one wants to deal with his arrogance. I wanted to hug the misfits and tell them it was okay if these kids didn't like you now, it doesn't matter. All the school aged angst ceases to matter the moment you step out of high school for the last time.

I didn't though. I was too busy trying to keep track of my group as I was haunted with images of reporting back to the bus only to find half my kids had run off to join the circus. I don't know what the official punishment of losing other people's children is, but I assumed it wouldn't be as fun as getting a brazillian.

Frac proving he didn't fall far from the dork tree.

As I discovered on that field trip, trying to keep a dozen teenaged kids together and accounted for is much like herding cats. Just when you rope one cat in another strays. And they all give you the stink eye no matter what.

Just call me Buzz.

By the end of the day, I was ready to runt punt each and every child, including my own, to the moon. Yet my objectives had been met. All the children I was responsible for were accounted for and safely back on the bus and each and every one of them had been told at one point to behave or I'd put my boot up their arse.

I'm not sure how much science was actually digested by the future minds of our civilization, but enough gift shop candy was consumed to power a rocket to the moon. And while the kids may not have walked away with more knowledge than they walked in with, I certainly did.

Puberty is an ugly thing, and it is kind to no child. Junior high teachers are the unsung heros of our education system. Either that or underpaid babysitters to feral humans. I can't decide.

Spitballs are still funny but not near as hilarious as what the kids call fashion these days. And it's official. At 34 yrs, I'm older than dirt.

Although I'm fairly certain I didn't need a space science center to confirm that. The general hissing sounds a teenager makes when I walk in the room is evidence enough.