So today, a letter has been sent home from school. It tells me that they would like to take the Reception classes (both of them, so that's 60 children), on a trip to London Zoo. We live just outside the capital, so it's around 45 minutes by bus to drive there.
The first thing that pops into my mind is 'Why on earth would you think THAT was a good idea, teachers?! It's difficult enough going to a zoo with 2 children!'. I know it's been very mild here lately too, but surely it's about to change - is early Feb really the nicest weather to be wandering outside for the day?
The second is 'Should I stay or should I go now', along with accompanying tune.
You see, for Tamsin it would have been an easy decision. I would have gone along because I love to help out, I enjoy helping to look after the other children, and also because I know Tamsin would have loved to have me there. Not only because she was a bit of a mummy's girl anyway, but also because there are some sort of 'brownie' points to be had if your mum is helping out at school. I say I would have done it - I couldn't because they didn't actually do a school trip that far away when Tamsin was in Reception, but also at the time I had a younger Sasha to look after and no way of being 'free' from her (no local family).
Now, however, it's a whole different ball game. Yes, I am a SAHM (Stay-At-Home-Mum), so technically I am free (though I'd like to point out I don't twiddle my thumbs all day long). Actually I would love to go along to the zoo and enjoy it all with them. The trouble sadly, is Sasha. Not wanting to sound big headed, I know I am the person who understands her best in the world, and she knows I am too. Sometimes, therein lies the problem. All children know how to 'play' their parents, and I'm sure a lot of teachers would agree that lots of children are better behaved when their parents aren't around.
I always think about the old Kevin and Perry sketches whenever I mention this - it applies to Tamsin too, so for any age really I think. Watch this YouTube clip from about 4 minutes 30 onwards to see what I mean...
Anyway, I digress. Back to the school trip. The trouble is that Sasha can get very unsettled by anything happening out of routine, and she can be so unpredictable. If she does get upset, then it could lead to a full on meltdown, and she wouldn't walk or go where she needs to with the others. She's also not really great at concentrating on big group teaching sessions, so she'd need someone to be explaining directly to her what is going on, or even to be taking her off to do something individually.
The possibility or even probability is that Sasha would need to have an assistant/carer stay with her at all times - or at least be available to stay with her if necessary. In one way I feel obliged to offer to be that person, as I do feel guilty that someone else may then miss out on the experience with the other children.
On the other hand, if I am there, then Sasha is more likely to feel like she can do what she wants, as I'll be there to back her up and follow her round. I'd also have to consider whether to drive there separately, in case the time comes when she just wants to go home. The children will be travelling by double decker bus/coach, which could be an issue in itself, as Sasha generally gets very car sick, so I'm not sure a bus would be any better! If I'm not there, I'll just be fretting all day about how it's going.
I know there'll be other mums worried about sending their little ones off on a school trip far away too, especially if they have children who are not so happy at school yet, or who get upset easily, but I also know from helping out in classrooms at other times that these types of children don't tend to stay upset for long; they can be easily comforted or pacified. With Sasha it's just different; the level of upset/distress she can feel is so much more than that. So much more that it overrides any other sense, any ability to listen or to behave consciously.
Maybe the only thing I can do is drive along after the bus, with my mobile phone on stand-by, and slink around the zoo after them, just out of sight, waiting in case 'it' happens.