"Do what you can with what you've got wherever you are." -Theodore Roosevelt
Dads really have no idea what they're doing. We just make it up as we go along. We improvise. We deal. We don't game plan. Yet, we are key players in the game.
So key that I found myself acting as chaperone on my daughter's recent field trip to a local farm. Me. Chaperone. Most days, I'm the one who needs supervision. Not only was I in charge of my own child, but they assigned me to another person's child as well. I guarantee you I would have been one of the last people this little girl's parents would have chosen to watch their child for bus rides to and from a farm, and all of the animal hijinx that would ensue in between.
So I asked myself, "How would I want someone to treat my child if me or my wife were not on this field trip?" The answer provided me with my marching orders. And from that point on, I made sure this little girl (and mine of course) had the best time possible. Laughing, smiling, giggling were mandatory.
I had three rules: stick together, have fun, be nice. Pretty simple. Hey, I'm a simple guy. So simple, in fact, that I came on this field trip with nothing except the lunch I was told to pack. Oh, and I had a pair of my daughter's mittens in my jacket pocket just in case. Not even a camera, which is why no corresponding pictures accompany this post.
As we exited the bus and awaited our hay ride to the farm itself, I noticed a couple of the mothers on the trip handing out snacks to the kids they were watching. They had planned ahead. In fact, they were all carrying overloaded backpacks filled with supplies. My daughter saw that it was apparently snack time, and so did our new little friend. Almost simultaneously they both turned to me and said, "I want a snack!"
"Daddy didn't pack any snacks... we'll have to wait until it's time to eat lunch." Yeah, not so much with the waiting. Whining commenced until one of the moms who came armed with the snacks offered me a ziplock bag full of honey pretzels. Prepared... and nutritious. This is apparently no time for amateurs. No camera. No snacks. No clue. I had to step up my game. Play to my strengths. I had to compensate for my lack of field trip experience. I had to be the playful idiot.
So I shouted, "Are we gonna see a hippo?!" And the girls answered my ridiculous question with an amused, "Noooooooo!"
"Is Elmo going to be on this farm?!"
"What? Elmo doesn't live here?!"
And it continued... from pen to pen. From the baby chicks to the rabbits to the pigs to the cows to the horses to the turkeys. The playful idiot got the laughs. He even won over the other, more prepared parents. He even might have changed the minds of some of the disapproving teachers and school administrators. "You seem to be having such a good time," one of them remarked to me as we danced our way from the goats to the llamas.
We walked like chickens in the chicken coup. We shouted "These turkeys are making me hungry" in the turkey pen, and subsequently asked where they keep the sweet potatoes. We fed goats. We pet everything on four legs. We milked a cow for cryin' out loud. Moo.
We even peed in port-a-potties. Now that's a field trip in itself. And quite a bonding experience too. My daughter didn't mind at all. "Daddy," she noted, "it smells nice in here."
That's what a ridiculously good time we had. Even the crap on this trip didn't stink.
I might be armed with more tools of the parenting trade the next time I am called upon to chaperone a field trip. But I learned that all I need to succeed is one thing: me. The playful idiot.
Not all of my interactions at daycare are as pleasant. As I wrote here.