My preschooler has his first field trip in a few weeks. They’re going apple picking, a hay ride – it’s an all day event. When I told an acquaintance about the trip a rather typical conversation took place.
Her: How exciting! You are going to have so much fun with him!
Me: I’m not going.
Her: They won’t let you? Well, that’s not fair.
Me: No. I can if I want to. I don’t want to.
— She stares at me for a while —
Her: It’s his FIRST field trip! It’s a special day in his life. You HAVE to be there!
Me: You’re right, it’s an extremely special day. That’s exactly why I’m not going.
I tried to explain to her my reasoning, but she was too busy telling me ‘they’re only young once’ and ‘you’ll wish you had gone’ to actually listen. So I’ll share my reasons with you instead.
I took this same approach with my first son. He’s now 16 so I am fully aware of what I will and won’t regret once the early years are over. With my teen I do have regrets, yes. I regret not buying him more art supplies. I regret not signing him up for preschool. I regret taking him to McDonald’s too often. But, what I don’t regret is deciding to stay home for his field trips and church outings.
I went on his first field trip. It was in first grade and we rode a bus to our local art museum. The entire time it was as if he and I were alone. He refused to sit with his friends, sitting with me instead. He refused to listen to his teacher, looking to me for the rules and allowances. He didn’t run and play with his classmates during lunch time because he was too busy asking me why we couldn’t just go home.
I could have taken him any other time as a mom and son outing. I didn’t need to be there. Instead, my presence completely ruined an experience that could have been a milestone for him.
From that point on I stayed home when he had a field trip. Low and behold, he enjoyed himself. His teacher said he joined in with the group, listened to instruction and had a wonderful time. And I had nothing to do with it. The bonus part? I felt completely at peace with that.
Allowing him to go, on his own, into a new setting with his peers gave him the push he needed to be independent and social. He continued to learn that, even when having fun, he should respect and pay attention to his teachers. He realized that he could be brave, venture out, learn new things and handle new situations on his own. He didn’t feel abandoned or apprehensive because he knew mom would be there – waiting for him – when he got back.
Years later, my son and I have a very strong bond. We’ve been through a lot together. We spend time together and stay involved in each other’s lives. But, he’s also wonderfully independent and extremely adventurous – always wanting to see new things and go new places. Places he’s happy to explore without mom and dad. I once asked him if he was bothered that I was never one of the moms on the bus. He laughed and said no like he’d just heard the silliest question ever.
I don’t feel like I missed anything because my son and I have plenty of our own memories together that have nothing to do with buses and sack lunches. That’s not to say going with your child does the opposite or causes them damage. My own mother went on two or three field trips when I was young and I’m fiercely independent. But, for me and my children, this is the choice I have made. I have no regrets.
I’m excited that my youngest will soon be embarking on the same adventures and learning about how he’s capable and brave without me. I embrace my duty of nurturing his confidence in himself so that it becomes a freestanding ability as he matures. I also look forward to sitting together afterwards and hearing him share everything new he was able to see and do. I’ll tell him how proud I am and enjoy learning through my child’s eyes. That, in itself, is an amazing memory in the making.