Thursday, March 3, 2016

Adventures of a First Time Chaperone - The Exciting Conclusion

SO PROUD of these young people!

Oh What a Night!
Well, like they say in show biz…the trip must continue even if your back hurts...or is it even if you break a leg? Not sure, but anyway, off we went. I had decided that my first order of business was to buy a really cheap tote bag at our first stop so I could get rid of the torn shopping bag I was carrying on my lap with all my useless snacks and bottles of water which I didn’t dare to eat or drink for fear of needing to go to the bathroom. However, I could not buy it at our dinner stop since we ate at a Chic-Fillet and there were no tote bags there. So, I had to wait until our first bathroom stop after dinner at some time past 9pm. I was happy to see that the rest stop had a really nice gift shop, where I was sure to find what I needed. To my dismay, my search for something in the vicinity of $3.00 or less was utterly unsuccessful. Therefore, I am now the proud owner of a $15.00 canvas bag of West Virginia.

That night, I slept a total of 3 hours give and take as I was kept awake by the weird movies playing on the state of the arts entertainment system above my head. When the movies finally stopped, kids began to settle, which you would think was a good thing, right?…WRONG! Many kids decided that lying down on the aisle made more sense than staying on their seats. So I was trapped! There were kids everywhere, even under my feet! I kid you not, I couldn’t see well, but I could tell there was something under my foot rest other than my backpack. When I looked closer, I realized that the thing under my footrest next to my bag was actually a kid’s head. Needless to say, my ability to move for the rest of the night was quite hindered…

It was snowing really badly outside and even though I could not see anything out the windows, I could feel the bus swerving, hitting the bumps on the shoulders every so often, which made me really nervous. By the time the breakfast stop came I basically forfeited food for a decent spot at the bathroom line. I brushed my teeth, washed my face and changed my shirt…I felt like a new woman. However, on my way back to my table I see Grant sitting by himself…gosh…the point of this whole trip was for him to finally solidify some kind of friendship with the other kids in the band…was this nightmare ever going to end!?

The Silver Lining

Finally we made it to Epcot sometime around noon on Thursday. I relished the idea of being off the bus for a long while. I particularly enjoyed the thought of being able to go to the bathroom at will! Which, by the way, that was exactly what we did first, of course. Things actually started to look up as I was able to find a group of three other Moms to hang out with, my two future roommates and my seat buddy. The group quickly became cohesive, and I have to say that together we actually had a lot of fun at the parks and events. My roommates, who were sitting on the front seat, even took over my roll call duty, which was a true gift! Much to my delight, I also began to see Grant managing to integrate to the flow as he found a place among the other eight graders.

All in all, among getting dizzy on the rides, fighting the crowds, facing the challenge of finding affordable places to eat and enjoying the glorious Florida weather, the days passed by rather fast.

Regarding my chaperone duties, I was able to settle into a manageable routine with the 8 kids, 4 girls and 4 boys, I was directly responsible for. We established a way to communicate at several intervals during the visits to the different parks, and all in all I believe I was able to hit the right mix of careful watch and trust which I believe made my kids feel both, save and free.

Although, I have to say that the first time I sent a group text to the boys, it got a bit…how shall I put it…revealing of my technologically challenged nature. The thing is that I sent a: “send me a thumbs up if you are OK” message, and I got a picture from one of the boys. At first, when I saw the picture of a young man wearing a ball hat, I chuckled because it was the nine grader boy being a nine grader boy. After all, he was, indeed wearing a ball hat that day. I knew the picture didn´t really look like him much, but I attributed it to it being a bit dark at the moment.

When I got another thumbs up with a picture in it, though…the gray beard and Stetson hat gave it away…that was not the tenth grader whose name was displaying on my phone! I was utterly confused, but dismissed it thinking that the boys had just taken random pictures and sent them to me to signal their required “thumbs up” as a prank. Later I found out that I had entered the wrong phone numbers for two of the boys and it was whoever’s number I texted who proceeded to send me their pictures as a reply to my thumbs- up-if-you-are-OK request.

Anyway, there were many incidents that could be qualified as less than pleasant, like the day of the parade, as we are riding on the bus, kids in their full Band uniforms, and I hear someone “coughing” next to me…only he wasn’t coughing, but throwing up! The whole thing was pretty fabulous though, if I may use that word in the same sentence with puke…this kid was so alert and forward thinking that he reached for his seat buddy’s bag of home-made-candy which was sitting by the window and averted total disaster. Thanks to a second water bottle I had grabbed that morning before leaving the hotel, wipes from the girl behind and a stick of gum from someone else, this young man was able to compose himself as if nothing had happened and be ready for the performance…while I held the puke bucket on my lap.

There was also the overflowing toilet in my girls’ room and having to talk to security about escorting someone to the bathroom at the lobby passed curfew. But other than that and the fact that we had to ride back home another 20 plus hours, spraying sunblock and any other chemicals on hand to try to freshen up the stinky bus due to the fact that many kids might or might have not taken showers during the whole duration of the trip, the experience was wonderful!

Even the fact that I totally spaced out and forgot to pack my tennis shoes and a pair of jeans in my backpack to change into on the way back home, which revealed another of my character traits (the fact that 15 year old boys have more common sense than me), I have to say that as my sandal-bearing feet sunk into a foot of snow back at Slippery Rock´s High School, I was very satisfied with the way the whole experience had turned out.

What made it wonderful were the people around me. I got to meet some amazing Band Moms, incredible kids and most of all, I was able to see my son blossom a bit. I saw Grant hanging out with kids, talking, having fun, and enjoying life. I saw him becoming independent to the point that I didn’t really get to hang out with him much at all after that first breakfast stop. It was so crowded and the lines were so long that I didn’t get to ride Space Mountain. I didn’t make it into the new Fantasy Land. And to tell you the truth, I never saw Goofy either…but I saw my son looking like he belong…and that was reward enough for me.

Grant tuning the saxophone before the parade...

I'm an official chaperone!

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