"You need to sign this," my son Joe informed me, waving a sheet of blue paper approximately two inches away from my nose as I loaded the dishwasher.
"What is it?"
Rolling his eyes with a sense of impatience, Joe replied, "A permission slip. And it's due tomorrow!"
Wiping my hands as I scanned the sheet, I learned that Joe's sixth-grade class would be taking a field trip to the state capital.
"That sounds like fun," I said to Joe, picking up a pen. "I've always wanted to see the capitol."
Joe's blue eyes bulged. "You can't come!"
Mystified, I set the pen down. "Why not?"
"Because you always come on field trips!"
I was still clueless. Of course, I always joined his class on field trips. I love field trips.
Being a chaperone on a field trip is one of the perks that comes with being a mom, a vacation day in a career that offers little opportunities when it comes to a change of scenery. And up until that point, Joe had always wanted me to go along with his class. Looking at his anxious face, I realized that this time was different.
"You don't want me to be a chaperone?"
"Give someone else's mom a chance," he suggested, "I don't mind."
That much was painfully obvious.
What was surprising was how much I minded being so unceremoniously dumped from the short list of willing chaperones by my own son. After all, we have a long history together as travelers - a history I'm not ready to abandon.
When Joe was in kindergarten, his class planned a pretend trip to Norway (a natural destination for any Minnesotan).
"Norway!" we excitedly said at home when we heard about the journey.
"Boy, are you fortunate," my husband told Joe. "I've always wanted to go to Norway."
Joe looked doubtful. "How far away is Norway?" he questioned.
"Very far. Let's look at a map." So we did, and as we traced the path we thought his class might take, Joe followed my finger carefully.
"That's very, very far," he remarked.
"But think about all the wonderful things you'll see that you can tell us about when you get back," I enthused. "My kindergarten class went to the fire station. I wish we'd gone to Norway."
The class planned on taking off for Norway on a Tuesday. The day before departure, Joe woke up not feeling up to par.
After ascertaining that he didn't have a fever, he did have an appetite, and he generally seemed fine, I asked, "You don't want to miss getting ready to go to Norway, do you?"
Joe shook his head. "I guess not," he said.
But when I picked him up at the end of the day, the teacher's aide gestured for me to join her in the coat room. …