Just beneath the surface of normal

Like Herding Teens

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Months ago I committed to chaperoning Corinne’s honors English trip to see Othello in Philadelphia since I’m one of the few parents who has the flexibility to help out during the day. Since I am me and my timing is what it is, I was of course still rebooting after my latest trip to New York. Because nothing says ‘nervous recovery’ like fifty adolescents on a warm spring day. I couldn’t back out, because if I did there wouldn’t be enough adults and the trip would have to be canceled. I would have to be on death’s door before I’d be willing to be That Guy. Obviously her English teacher doesn’t read this blog, or she’d know better than to make me responsible for anything. I am barely more than a teenager myself, emotionally, so I’m not even sure who is chaperoning whom here. But I own an ID card that proves that I am an adult in the eyes of the state of New Jersey and I guess if all you need is a warm body to round out the count, that’s enough.

Since insult and injury are apparently spring’s hot new color combination, I accidentally stayed up until midnight playing Skyrim with Jim, which left me about six and a half hours to cram in some sleep before being responsible for a bunch of teenagers thrilled to be away from school on a sunny Friday in spring.

Still, anxiety dragged me out of bed in time to clean up and put together a trendy teen-approved outfit, even rolling up my jeans so that the roll peeks jauntily out over the tops of my booties because this appears to be what passes for trendy these days. Thank you, Pinterest, for keeping me from embarrassing myself. [if only there were some way to adequately convey in writing the dry sarcasm with which I express that last statement. If only you could appreciate the delicately exaggerated roll of my eyes. This aside will have to suffice.] I know it sounds silly to go to all that effort, but trust me when I tell you that teenagers respect you more when you show some knowledge and respect for their world. This is the first secret of Teen-Fu. Use it wisely, grasshopper.

So here I need to stop and explain that I was raised in a town; not a small town, but certainly not a city. Corinne went to elementary and middle school in the suburbs. So the sum total of my experience of field trips follows the basic formula of school→bus→location→bus→school. I was (as indicated by my choice of footwear) completely unprepared for the urban equivalent, which was school→walk→subway→walk→location→WAAAAALK→location→walk→subway→walk→school. My adorable and increasingly uncomfortable booties logged around 40 blocks, and began actively trying to destroy my feet somewhere around block 25. I suppose I should have been more suspicious when I noticed all the other chaperons wearing comfortable shoes back at the school, though there’s nothing I could have done about it at that point anyway.

I will say this: those kids were amazing. They were respectful, engaged, and not a single kid bailed on the trip, which was my greatest fear because I couldn’t even conceive of how I would explain losing an entire teenager, and I would forever be that mom. I am already that mom enough for my comfort, thank you. The trip itself was pretty unremarkable, due mostly to them being good kids. I think I only embarrassed myself four or five times, which is actually pretty decent for me. Othello was excellent, for what it’s worth. My primary criticism was that the teacher probably could have chosen someplace less than twenty blocks away to get lunch; possibly someplace with fewer choices since most of the kids wandered around the crowds at Reading Terminal Market for at least half the allotted time, wracked with low-blood-sugar-induced indecision about which of the many confusing international food stalls at which to eat.

As we staggered back to school from the subway that afternoon, Corinne asked me if she could sleep over at a friends house, to which I may have answered “yes” a bit more forcefully than was polite. There may or may not have been a fervent “Oh My God” placed in front of it. Unfortunately, this committed me to driving her to her dad’s house to pick up some overnight gear, then driving them both to the friend’s house IN FRIDAY RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC.

Some seventy-five minutes later I staggered in the door, groaned at Jim, and made a dive for the bed. I resurfaced sometime after eight. Jim was fast asleep next to me; he’d been up fretting about work the better part of the previous night. So I put on my bathrobe and tiptoed downstairs to play Word Hero on my phone.

Oh yeah. Such is the fast and exciting life of the late-thirties suburban mom.


One thought on “Like Herding Teens

  1. So what is the venery term for female adolescents? There’s a gaze of racoons, a crash of rhinos, an unkindness of ravens … would it be a giggle of girls?

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