Skip to main content

What you don't know about wildlife field trips could harm someone else's child

"Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn't have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standing by"
Don Henley, "The End of Innocence"
Oh those days will remain long and rolling under blue skies if I have anything to say about it, and as it turns out, I do.

Because Patience is and always will be Our Very First Baby Precious Angel Love of Our Life, she is going to have to put up with a lot of parental freak outs---an unduly unfair number above and beyond what her sister will experience.

On the flip side, Persistence will have an unduly unfair number of parental exasperations above and beyond what her sister will experience.

So it all balances out.

Last Thursday Patience got to experience yet another parental freak out, although she had no idea her father and I were totally melting down. We have mastered the art of hiding it well.

But I must say...her father melted down WAY worse than me, for the record. He melted down so badly he took off a day from work and did not go into the office. In fact, I only saw him texting his office four times total the entire day. And he didn't even take or make a single phone call

That, my friends, is one freaked out dad. He couldn't even stick in his workaholic gear.

What happened last Thursday?

Patience had her very first field trip. On a bus.

This of course necessitated massive parental tactical planning and preparation, and a few antianxiety homeopathic remedies (Bach's Rescue Remedy fits easily into pockets, for what it's worth.)

It all seems so sweet and innocent, a field trip to the gardens.

The day before: I stopped Patience's best friend's mom at school. "Are you going tomorrow?"

"Oh my God of course!" she said.

The night before: I slept poorly, wondering if, in the end, I could put Patience on that bus. I don't know that driver. There are no seatbelts. Buses have accidents. Patience is precious. But it was important to her and she was giddy with excitement about riding the bus. So I accepted as best I could that she'd ride the bus. With her friends. And without seatbelts. I kept my panic to myself and even managed to channel it into fake excitement. This involved hopping in a circle with Patience in the afternoon. It was a good way to explain my rapid breathing.

The morning of: Over breakfast I drilled Patience over and over, "You stay in your seat, bottom down, no wiggling, no sliding off the seat, bottom down, back against the seat, no standing up, no moving around. Promise?" I may have gotten a little shrill because Patience stared at me like I'd lost my mind, but solemnly swore to be very safe.

What's not to look forward to---the flowers, the animals, the excitement, and the experience! A field trip to the gardens---it's idyllic!

When I got to school, I was relieved to see that the vast majority of other parents were there too. We were practically man-on-man instead of zone we had so many parent volunteers. The teacher was very relaxed and pulled-together. But the parents all got sort of strained looks when we understood we'd be responsible for someone else's precious child.

Patience's buddy---the someone else's precious child we were responsible for keeping safe and okay; in other words, our job was to ensure that she was not ruined in any way, shape or form and returned home in better condition than when she left---was an adorable big-eyed little girl with black corkscrew curl ponytails.

All the parents waved gaily to the children as they filed to the buses, and then we stood there, a little frozen, or lost, or stuck.

After a minute, a few people got moving. Two other moms from the class walked over to me and Jon, and Patience's best friend's mom, and said, "Come on, ride with us, let's save on gas and cars."

We said thanks and piled in. That mom was one hot driver. We tailed the buses, staying in back, driving alongside, peering into the bus to see where the kids were, how they were doing and if they okay.

We all jokingly shared laughable versions of ourselves and our anxiety.

The driver trumped us all, though, when she confessed, "This is the first time I've left my baby. Ever." I pictured her round little infant, her kindergartner's little brother.

"Ohhhhhh," we all murmured sympathetically.

"He's still nursing," she added, "Often. And he won't take a bottle."

"OOOOOHHHHHH," we all said with even more sympathy. Then we sat silent, the weight of needing to say something comforting heavy on our heads.

"You'll get through this," the more experienced mom said.

I mean, who doesn't want their kid to get to see poisonous frogs up close and personal?

The real adventure began when we reached the field trip destination: Moody Gardens in Galveston, a really neat park a little south of our town. It has a beach, an aquarium, a rain forest, and more. We were only visiting the two pyramids: the aquarium and rain forest.

We met the kids as they got off the buses and quickly found Patience and her Pal. Patience was excited to have her parents there, and was ecstatic about the adventure ahead.

We started with the aquarium, where Patience's chatty Pal told us all about her family (don't worry, Pal's mom, I never heard a thing she said, it never happened), her house, her pool, her swimming, and more. We quickly learned that she was one of those children who liked to run from thing to thing dragging whichever one of us had her hand.

And that's when it happened.

It started with the crabs.

"Mrs. Pippert, Mrs. Pippert, what are those crabs doing," Pal asked.

I walked over to the tank and peered in. Oh. My. Stars. It's springtime. You know what was going on.

"Ummmmmm," I said, stalling, "Ummmmmm...."

"Why is that crab on that crab moving back and forth like that?" Pal asked.

Parents around me snickered and then scattered like frightened birds.

"I think he's trying to hitch a ride. Maybe he's tired of walking," I said, finally.

"Oh, okay!" Pal said, satisfied.

"Mrs. Pippert, Mrs. Pippert, what are those seals doing?"

"Frolicking in the water," I said.

"What does frolicking mean?"

"It means having a good time, but you know, I think they are wrestling, oh yes, look at that, that's what they're doing, wrestling! How fun!" I said, finding that this whole evading the truth thing got easier as I went along, "Aren't seals such good swimmers?"

And on it went, from tank, to tank, to tank.

Even the turtles weren't immune. (What---you don't think I took that photo, do you? This is a PG blog, you know! Go somewhere else if you want to see that sort of "muskrat love.")

At lunch, we ate outside in the park, by the playground. We were quickly swarmed by seagulls, who swooped more menacingly than gracefully towards us.

"Mrs. Pippert, Mrs. Pippert, what are those birds doing?" Pal asked.

I turned to look. Good GRIEF. Moody Gardens was like an animal kingdom orgy.

"Piggy back rides!" I said, brightly, "Birds just love to get piggy back rides! In fact, maybe we should call them birdie back rides!"

The kids giggled and begged to go feed their crusts to the birds.

Okay, so maybe I did take one. You explain this. In fact, as I was posting this photo, Patience walked in, looked at it and said, "Mom, what are those birds doing?" It. just. never. ends. (As it happens, she decided they are hugging. Yes. That's it. They're hugging.) (And this was one of the tamer moments. Trust me.)

When we all grouped back together at the visitor's center for the second half of the tour, I grabbed the teacher, "Umm, things are a little frisky with the inmates, if you know what I mean," I said, "I'm getting questions. So...just so you know, crabs and birds give piggy back rides and seals wrestle under water, okay?"

She snorted with laughter, "Good answers. Yeah, we try to keep the explanations very, very G at this age, if you know what I mean."

"I do," I nodded.

"It could be worse, you know," she said, "We could be at the zoo. Very active there this time of year."

I nodded, newly grateful for small favors.

Two little parrots sitting in a tree...K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Lipus interruptus, not appreciated by humans or feathered friends. Apparently a camera click earns the photographer a Death Glare. I did hustle myself along rather quickly from there, because I know how sharp parrots beaks are.

The teacher guided us in to the rain forest exhibit.

Where more animals were feeling the season, if you know what I mean. And I think you do. Other animals were feeding more basic instincts, if you know what I mean. And I think that you do. Picture: a room full of very large snakes (in tanks, my God, in tanks! Sealed tanks!). Picture large bulges in their bodies.

Pal ran from tank to tank, her feet barely touching the ground. She paused by the boa constrictor, that appeared as long as my house.

"Mrs. Pippert, Mrs. Pippert, what is the snake doing with the cute little white bunny?"

"HOLY CRAP!" I said.

"What! What!" Pal and Patience said.

"Ummm, I mean wow, what a very long snake."

"But what is the snake doing with the bunny?" the girls persisted.

"Umm, the bunny must be his lovey. See, even snakes have lovies."

The girls swallowed that one whole.

No pun intended.

I ushered them quickly into the main part of the forest.

"Mrs. Pippert! Mrs. Pippert! Look at those parrots! Do they like to have piggy back rides too? That looks like it hurts!" Pal said.

I staggered back and fell hard against my husband, "Oh my God," I whispered to him, "Will this field trip never end?"

As with all good things, even all trying things come to an end. We watched the exhausted children climb onto the bus, and we got into the car to head back to the school.

Nothing phallic...or...

...any kind of innuendo to see here. Move along please.

So to recap, birds and bees may do it, but that's not what I tell someone else's precious child.

I lie like a chicken shit rug to someone else's child. case you are Pal's mom:

Birds give piggy back rides, and so do crabs. Seals wrestle, and snakes have lovies.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Julie Pippert RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products
Moms Speak Up: Talking about the environment, dangerous imports, health care, food safety, media and marketing, education, politics and many other hot topics of concern.


Gwen said…
That's a whole lot of getting frisky! Must be something in the water ....
thailandchani said…
LOL! Now that is truly funny! :)
S said…
You are hilarious, you know that?

The other night, we watched a video with the kids, during which two gorillas were going at it.

Jack asked what they were doing, and my honest husband (HH for short) told him that they were having sex.

I don't think Jack even knows what that means, except in the vaguest sense, but oh my, did he ever find it funny!

Almost as funny as the next scene, in which a juvenile gorilla was -- wait for it -- drinking his own pee.

Ah, nature.

(I have now put Jack on the bus maybe 150 times. It's still not easy.)
That was hilarious! I hope I remember your explanations if I ever need to. Or maybe I'll just skip the trip altogether ....
flutter said…
they were hitching a ride alright...*wink wink*
Anonymous said…
My god, I had no idea that field trips were so full of perils. This was too funny. At least from a safe distance.
Unknown said…
can't stop laughing.
Anonymous said…
Crabs, and seals, and turtles - oh my!

Oh - and don't forget to Look at the Birdies!


Anonymous said…
Julie, when you were asked what the crabs were doing, I'm surprised you didn't given them the *obvious* answer:

"Making dinner, of course."

There was this walrus at Sea World one time--getting frisky with himself right up at the viewing glass. Honestly, I think my eyeballs were permanently scarred!
jeanie said…
That is the problem with nature - just too darned REAL! LOL

I grew up in the country, so our parents had to explain a few facts of life so we wouldn't get so mad at the bulls jumping all over the cows.
le35 said…
That's what happened with us at the zoo once with the tigers. It was pretty obvious what they were doing, and Jackie didn't believe they were hugging. We told them that's just how tigers show love like we hug. . . It worked. I'm glad.
Girlplustwo said…
piggy back rides...i'm dying over here.
Jennifer S said…
You are hilarious. Now you know where to take the girls when it's time to have THAT talk. Just make sure you go in the spring. :-)
Sukhaloka said…
LOL! Spring is so totally in the air :D
Julie, you are hilarious! Loveys swallowed whole. Love it!! :)

Louise said…
TOOO funny!

You'd think they might take their field trips in the fall! Of course that wouldn't change the snake thing, but.....
Anonymous said…
Lulz about the field trip o' love. I also have the paranoia about my kid taking the bus. Why are there no seatbelts? Somebody told me once that bus wins all rock-paper-scissors type accidents with other objects due to shear size. But why? Why no seat belt?
Magpie said…
Beautiful. And yeah, wait 'til the zoo - especially the monkey house!!
crazymumma said…

I have been on soooo many of those field trips with a PAL myself.

And Bach's. yes my favourite little bottle. Save hip flasks of vodka of course.
Anonymous said…
Note to self... school field trips to the zoo or aquarium are best if held during the fall. Thanks for the warning!
Kyla said…
Hilarious. I think this makes us even about the KayTar screaming "Help me!" laughter. LOL. Oh, she's added "Don't take me! It's an emergency!" to it. Sigh. I'm doomed. For a delayed kid, she sure has effective command of the English language.
It's all about survival in those field have to do whatever you can to make it out alive!

If a few kids have to view "piggyback rides" along the be it!

Sounds like you did an excellent job....especially under the circumstances!
Ack! Am still cackling like a madwoman.

You couldn't have posted this at a better time -- I'm accompanying my daughter on her first field trip next week. They discussed the zoo. Thankfully, however, that idea was abandoned. Do you know what lonely primates do in their free time? Alone? Yeah, that.
painted maypole said…
supposedly busses are safer, statistically, but it freaks me out, too

and those blue birds... honey, you missed the perfect opportunity to explain "69"

Robert said…
When our daughter was a little baby, we wouldn't let her ride in my parents car a quarter mile from their house to ours. Yet we'll ride an airport shuttle with no seatbelts for anyone no problem. Airport shuttles in LA and Atlanta. Something... isn't... right......

As for the birds and bees, yeah, like Ellie said, we had to explain some tiger love to our daughter, but she was mostly oblivious. My cousin (older than me) who was with us said "There's going to be a lot of interesting explaining tonight by some of these parents."
Anonymous said…
I read this to my husband last night who was quite amused by the fornicating comments. Ironically we were out sight-seeing today and there was a pond for ducks and fish that kids could chuck feed in and watch them scrap for eats. There were five drakes and one duck and our kindergartner observed the drakes climbing aggressively up the duck's back, fighting each other in the process.

"Those ducks are fighting," she told us.

"Yes they are," my husband replied nonchalantly much to the amusement of the German tourist whose own two boys were much too young to be that observant.

I can sympathize with field trip fear. Kate went on her first bus trip at 3 with the Montessori preschool. I couldn't take the day off - new job in a new school and I was already getting a lot of slack with my leaving early at the end of the day to go visit her dad in hospice before picking her up. I was a wreck until the time for them to be back at school passed and having gotten no phone calls telling me otherwise - I knew all was well.

It's hard not to imagine the worst when it comes to those steps of independence all kids take even when the steps are pretty wee.
b*babbler said…
Oh dear.

Fortunately my toddler doesn't yet have questions, but how would you explain monkeys and giraffes (and I wish I was joking, but I'm soooo not.)

Yeah. Perhaps the zoo and other ecological wonders are best saved for the fall. Heh.
I cannot stop giggling.

Animal orgy.


Also? Buses are (usually) awesome in wrecks. Even when they roll over kids are hardly ever hurt. I know from experience.
we_be_toys said…
Nice thinking on your feet there, Mrs. Pippert! I laughed my head off at this!

I had a kid on a field trip once, to a Scince museum, who didn't know the theory of Evolution and girl! I wasn't touching that one, no matter how tempting it was!

I put my 10 year old on a charter bus last month for a field trip I couldn't tag along on. I don't think I thought of anything else that whole day, until he was home safely.
Space Mom said…

See, I would say something like "They're making bird babies"
And the kids would say "How?" and I would say "With special love" and then I would break out Barry White and all of the kids would go home saying 'We saw birds making bird babies with special love!, Spacemom told us" and then the torches and pitch forks would show up at my house!
MommyTime said…
Found you through Good Mom/Bad Mom. And I love this story! I'm blogrolling you already. Thanks for a laugh-out-loud Sunday morning.
Anonymous said…
I couldn't type for a few minutes, I was laughing so hard. Swallowed it whole! Laughing is good for stressfull days. Thanks.

Popular posts from this blog

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Quorum

After being confronted with written evidence, Julie admits that she is a total attention whore. In some things, in some ways, sometimes I look outward for validation of my worth and existence. I admit it. It's my weak spot, my vanity spot . If you say I am clever, comment on a post, offer me an award, mention me on your blog, reply to a comment I left on your blog, or in any way flatter me as a writer...I am hopelessly, slavishly devoted to you. I will probably even add you to my blogroll just so everyone can see the list of all the cool kids who actually like me . The girl, she knows she is vain in this regard , but after much vanity discussion and navel-gazing , she has decided to love herself anyway, as she is (ironically) and will keep searching for (1) internal validation and (2) her first person . Until I reach a better point of self-actualization, though, may I just say that this week you people have been better than prozac and chocolate (together, with a side of whi

In defense of vanity...I think

Do you have one of those issues where you argue with yourself? Where you just aren't sure what you actually think because there are so many messages and opinions on the topic around you? I have more than one like this. However, there is one topic that has been struggling to the top of my mind recently: vanity and perceived vanity. Can vanity be a good thing? Vanity has historically been truly reviled. Vanity is number seven of the Seven Deadly Sins. It's the doppleganger of number seven on the Seven Holy Virtues list: humility. There are many moralistic tales of how vanity makes you evil and brings about a spectacular downfall. Consider the lady who bathed in the blood of virgins to maintain her youth. Google Borgia+vanity and find plenty. The Brothers Grimm and Disney got in on the act too. The Disney message seems to be: the truly beautiful don't need to be vain. They are just naturally eye-catchingly gorgeous. And they are all gorgeous. Show me the Reubenesque Pr

Is your name yours? How your name affects your success...

Made by Andrea Micheloni Not too long ago I read What's in a name? by Veronica Mitchell. She'd read the NPR/USA Today article, Blame it on your name , that shared new research results: "a preference for our own names and initials — the 'name-letter effect' — can have some negative consequences." Veronica's post and that article got me thinking about names, and their importance. Changing to my husband’s name and shedding my maiden name was no love lost for me. By the time we married, I’d have gladly married any other name just for a change. My maiden name was a trial; I was sick of spelling it, pronouncing it, explaining it, and dealing with the thoughtless rude comments about it. My sister and I dreamed and planned for the day we could shed that name. So I wonder, sometimes, whether I adequately considered what a name change would actually mean. Heritage and genealogy matter to me and my maiden name reflected a great deal of familial history. Histo