My son is on his annual school field trip – two nights, three days out and about in the North. He loves these outings. I do, too. They are for him and his classmates, they aren’t for me. We all had our childhoods; now we get to adult.
As a parent, I get a little respite from juggling three kids for a few days, and the knowledge that he is learning a great number of skills out on his own. And hopefully this time he will return home with all the items he took. That’s part of the learning process, too.
It came as no surprise to me to see a few pictures in the class WhatsApp group from the homeroom teacher both yesterday and today. They were showing us that everyone was there and having fun, more or less. However, this morning I just wasn’t in the mood.
I wrote back to the teacher, privately. I told her her that I felt there was no need to send out pictures. I told her that I understood that many of the parents (probably all of them but me) were wanting them. For me, though, they were problematic. The trip is for the kids, and that includes what the kids want to share with us when they return.
I want my kids to return from these outings, and from summer camp, to share with me what they choose to share with me. I learn a great deal in hearing what they tell me and what they don’t tell me. It’s not my place to inquire based on what I saw in the pictures, no matter how curious I am. It’s voyeuristic in a way. And it’s disrespectful. They get to reveal to me what they want and what they think is noteworthy. It’s their experience; I respect that.
The teacher, of course, replied to me that most of the parents asked for the pictures. I replied to her that that was obvious to me and I simply wanted to share a counter-voice, just with her, for the moment. I’m contemplating elevating this to a larger platform at the school (as if blogging about it isn’t big enough!).
As the guidance director for my sons’ summer camp in the US, I’ve seen both sides. Staying current on our children’s activities does our children a huge disservice. I fielded numerous inquiries during that three week session from parents concerned about something they saw in a picture from camp that was a “red flag” for them and could I please check that their son or daughter was okay. Of course they were okay and if the child was struggling that’s why camp, and trips, are full of professional staff. And sometimes the value is in the struggle and not in the triumph.
I send my kids off with pleasure and confidence – I’m the one who played a major role in choosing the school and camp after all. I get to inquire where the lost items are and what on earth is that stain on your shirt???? which ultimately brings out tales of their adventures. Just like it should.
Note: I want to add that in light of last year’s horrific tragedy in the Negev, there is cause for parents here in Israel to be more cautious in advance of these outings. Those concerns can, and in our case were, laid to rest by a simple conversation with the school staff, along with a reasonable dose of confidence in their professionalism and trust in our guts.