As the end of the school year approaches (still hard to fathom summer vacation starting in mid-May for cryin' out loud) the inevitable field trip permission forms start showing up in the girl's backpacks.
This year, C's entire 2nd grade class would be bus-trippin' to the Science Museum Oklahoma (formerly known as the oh-so-70's sounding "Omniplex") for a few hours of hands-on fueling of their creative geniuses and a "face, pulse pounding giant screen adventure" in the states first large-format dome-screen theater.
Once again, I found myself struggling to follow the school busload of kids screaming down the interstate at 10-15 mph over the posted speed limit. Wonder if having leadfeet is a prerequisite for obtaining a school bus driving license here?
Upon safe arrival I was informed that only a few of C's classmates were sans accompanying guardianship and that one such child (well call her Britney, as in Spears) was being assigned to me for safe-keeping during the duration of the classroom offsite. Since I had PK with me as well (by strange coinkidink her school was out...making up for those unused snow days), bringing my grand total for the day to 3 little girls in my charge.
No problem. My two know the rules and regs of amusement park outings and I felt that with my usual level of supervision, they were relatively safe within the confines of the cavernous, but enclosed museum space.
And how difficult could managing one other kid be, even if she wasn't mine?
I soon found out when my temp charge for the day turned out to be a starving-for-attention-and-would-do-anything-to-get-it, constantly-begging-for-candy, pop, ice cream, a gift-shop-item or snack-food-of-any-kind, but otherwise sweet, albeit slightly out of shape, little girl.
Her constant begging tried my patience only somewhat until I explained to her that she wasn't going to get anything that my girls weren't going to get.
And tried it a little more when she covertly solicited the help of my girls in her quest for goodies by verbally trying to convince them that perhaps they too needed a gift shop item, candy, pop, ice cream, beef jerky and souvenir penny of their own.
Manipulative yes, but she had a plan, I'll give her that much.
After an hour watching her lead my girls to the displays that she was more interested in (tolerance and good humor abounds in my girls), amid Britney's protruding-bottom-lip protests I took them all over to the most excellent GadgetTree that features a two-story tree house, the largest oak tree west of the Mississippi and the nation’s tallest spiral slide.
While my girls and just about every other kid in the place ran themselves ragged, screamed themselves hoarse, and burned off a few hundred calories running climbing, sliding, diving, rolling, pulling, and pushing themselves silly on this centerpiece display, Britney pouted for a brief second, then took to pulling my arm off in an effort to lead me away from the play area.
I took a quick second to tap into my sophomore year psychology textbook and just figured that since this wasn't Britney's idea, she wasn't going to participate. Later I learned from a brief conversation with C that Britney was afraid of just about everything this wonder of displays had to offer (heights, slides, stairs, running, jumping, dark holes, etc.)
To counteract the fiasco at the GadgetTree, I feel we more than made it up to Britney by the dozen or so times we rode what for her was the be-all, end-all, coolest thing in the entire museum -- the elevator.
I'm not kidding, folks. She wanted to ride that elevator more than anything and since the building had only 2 levels, you can imagine how quickly Homey didn't want to play that, anymore.
The day ended with a screening of the 70-mm white-water rafting, motion-sickness inducing Grand Canyon Adventure in the Dome Theater.
I broke down and bought the girls pop and popcorn to get them through the slow spots in the river, while giving me a chance to chat with the ultracool grandpop of one of C's best class buddies. Turns out he's a semi-retired body and fender man and fellow gearhead. The Car Craft cap on his noggin was a dead giveaway, and once I broke the ice by telling him that my big bro once worked for that classic car mag, our brains went into vapor lock on projects we had in the mix.
So, the day ended well, the kiddies made it safely home, and I hope my tenuous grip on my patience for all things Britney didn't scar my temp day-charge for the day too badly.
Then I get home, flip open the local paper and read this little blurb in our local news rag...
Yep, that's Britney's Grandmother whom our beloved Principal had to narc on, and may be facing a fine and some jail time.
Further conversations with my daughter about our science museum tagalong revealed that both of her folks were apparently in lockup which is why she was living with her Dad's Mom.
This little tidbit of news (unconfirmed btw, but C tells me it's what Britney herself tells people), made me rethink the entire day and had me second-guessing every "no" I said, every mini-lecture I uttered, and every judgmental thought I had about whomever was responsible for Britney's behavior.
Ultimately, it all boiled down to just one question that kept popping up in my mind... just what the h*ll is wrong with some parents?