I was fortunate to be able to chaperon a weeklong field trip to Wolf Ridge environmental learning center with my son’s sixth grade class. I was in charge of a dorm room full of eleven year old boys and accompanied outdoor classes during the day. I got to know and appreciate Frank’s classmates, his teachers and some other parents. One of the perks was that a fellow parent brought a case of home-brewed beer.
Being physically and socially “on” most of the time instead of slouching front of a computer monitor slinging code meant that I really needed breaks to sit quietly and read. The book I had along was The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard Evans. It is a very powerful book that I will post separately about. I mention it because it led to some interesting conversations with fellow adults and also some dark thinking about the private school that we shared our dormitory building with. If you were chaperoning at wolf ridge this month and someone said, “Gregor Strasser over there won’t let our kids use their bathroom”, then I apologize. I also apologize for referring to the spilled food incident as “your little Reichstag fire”.
The ropes course was the most intense experience up there. As a chaperon, I got to man one of the towers and ensure that kids were transferring their safety harnesses correctly and give them encouragement and advice ( and also crawl out to the middle if someone froze out there, which I did not have to do). That meant I went first with the entire class watching me. I almost shit my britches up there while crossing a wire. I was on the edge of panic and the only thing that kept me going was that it wouldn’t be very helpful to the program if they first had to put up a ladder and remove a 220 pound sack of flesh that had adhered itself to the burma bridge. I kept thinking that the equipment was made for children and would break apart if I fell. It didn’t.
A remarkable thing I noticed is that these kids were largely kind to one another, at least on the surface. When I was in school, the pecking order and the ostracism of socially inept kids was more overt, I think. It is possible that these kids are under more stringent social management (bullying is definitely out of fashion these days and the definition of bullying is very open ended) and so the unkindness could be more underground and more subtle.
This trip made me realize that as parents, we continue the same social drama we had as elementary school kids.
I ate a lot of wheat up there. I indulged in pasta, pancakes, pie, sloppy joes. I ate way more wheat than I’ve been eating for more than a year and I experienced interesting side effects. Most noticeably, my joints started aching. I’ve had a years-long stretch free of back pain and this morning my back is achy like I remember it being often before I started riding to work every day. My knees, hips and ankles are also stiff, especially in the morning. My ankles take a good half hour to “warm up” every morning. This little (very enjoyable) foray into the wheat life will provide a great experiment to see if these symptoms go away when I cut it out again right after I finish this here muffin.