We all love a good school trip. We all have those delightful parents who we love to invite along on the school trips with us. However, we also have those nightmare parents who we suddenly have to take on a school trip and by the end of the day, wish we hadn’t bothered, but suffered on our own instead.
July 2016 was a school trip to the seaside that I’ll never forget and not for the reasons you probably think. Nobody drowned – although I sure wish I had even attempted to do so with hindsight. Nobody had an allergic reaction to the Mr Whippy ice cream, nobody except me! Nobody was eaten by a crab at the sea life centre, although judging by the sounds I heard, you would be mistaken for believing so… nobody left their mobile phone in the sea life centre toilets…oh wait, yes she did do that!
Who could I be talking about, I hear you ask? His lordship’s mother, that’s who! His behaviour leading up to the school trip was becoming increasingly erratic and unpredictable. I wasn’t so sure it was a good idea to take him to a place with open water, where he could potentially drown himself or another child. Or heaven forbid that I should “accidentally” feed him to the sharks at the sea life centre. Management decided that he could only go if his mum would chaperone him on the trip. He would be her sole responsibility for the day which would allow the school staff to concentrate on the safety of the other children.
The day started off drastically with my TA arriving poorly, determined to come along and not let us down, but I’d put her in charge of his lordship and his mother, it didn’t seem fair to force her to deal with them when she wasn’t at her best game, so we sent her home. The amazing Mrs K galliantly took over the position and suffered his lordship and his mother for the day. And she handled it like a real trooper. (Mrs K, you were my hero that day. x)
Before we assembled onto the coaches, I had the awkward task of asking his mum for a signature on a disclaimer which stated that he would be her responsibility for the day. She signed it begrudgingly and started moaning about how she had to sign it and why she even had to be there anyway.
School staff had a conversation with all adults on the trip, including his lordship’s mother. We requested that they avoid using their mobile phones whilst helping in the trip that day. A request that she frequently disregarded, all day.
When we set off for the seaside, a 90 minute journey away, we had only made it 5 minutes down the road when his lordship started asking if we were there yet. His mum was playing on her phone and every time he peered over her shoulder to look at what she was doing, she moved the phone away from him and told him to leave her alone. He started moaning that he was bored already. I wasn’t going to spend a 90 minute journey listening to his moaning, so I pulled out a school iPad from my rucksack. I offered it to him, in front of mum’s nose. He told me it wasn’t “his iPad” (iPad 43) but I had made certain that it was. I didn’t let go of the iPad until he had said thank you. In front of his mum. Blatantly trying to make it obvious that I was supporting her child more than she was at this moment in time.
The rest of the journey was fine. Mum made a few phone calls on her phone and moaned about how noisy the other children were being, seeing that they were on the way to the seaside. (For some children, for the first time ever!) They were bound to be excitable and noisy. Not that her son was ever quiet and low key anyway.
We arrived at the seaside and set off on our walk to get ice creams, it wasn’t exactly a warm start to the day, so it was pretty chilly and sticky. Luckily, I had a rucksack full of baby wipes at the ready. His lordship on sugary Mr Whippy ice cream was too much for his mum to bear so she wandered off to the toilets. For a whole 30 minutes, almost, we waited around for his mum and the most restless child, of course, was her own.
When she eventually returned, it was time to quick march down the promenade to the sea life centre. Weaving in and out of the slower, relaxed pedestrians, we made our way to our next destination. The sea life centre. We were ushered into a smal room with a man made rock pool inside. We learned about jellyfish, crabs, starfish, oysters and other sea life creatures that the children mentioned. Some children were brave enough to touch and hold a crab or starfish. His lordship squealed like a pig whenever the creatures came near him. His mum, credit to her, was straight in there and joined the other children to stroke and hold one the rock pool creatures. After our lesson, we were allowed to stroll through the aquariums and exhibits, but we had to walk back through the gift shop again. With our hands in the air, so we didn’t touch or break anything on our way through!
A short while later, we were ready for lunch and a play on the sand. After inhaling my sandwich, I walked a few children down to the shore tentatively, as the rocks and shells were sharp on our feet. We avoided a massive puddle of seawater and dipped our toes in the waves. The children were frolicking and laughing whilst jumping over the waves. It was blissful. His lordship was nowhere to be seen until Mrs K walked her group down to the shore as well. Her group was ready to have some fun, and so was his lordship. He completely disregarded the instructions to stay close by and ran down the shoreline. His mum stood some distance away from the shore, on her phone. She looked up and couldn’t see him, so started shouting for him, (I say shouting, it was more of a lacklustre call of his name) she spotted him and called him again, quietly though. I inhaled deeply and used my loudest teacher voice possible to call over the waves, the wind and frolicking children to tell him his Mum was calling him. Mrs K gave me that look. That look, which told me that she was done. Together, we silently judged her parenting and carried on watching the other children in the waves trying to avoid getting soggy shorts and skirts, but failing miserably.
Mrs K and I walked the children back to the promenade and watched as they all looked for pebbles, shells and tiny bits of sea weed. His lordship, and his mum, went back into the sea life centre to use the facilities. (Don’t tell anybody we snook a quick class photo in, whilst his lordship was in the sea life centre. 😆) When it was time to head back to the coaches, we made sure all the children had been to the toilets, again, and counted them for the hundredth time that day. We lined up ready and then the final straw broke the camel’s back. His lordship’s mum had misplaced her phone. She couldn’t find it in her bag, his bag or her pockets. She used my phone to call hers to try and find it. I quickly deleted and blocked her number from my phone. She sauntered back to the sea life centre and found it there, but made no effort to hurry back to us, so we could get back to school on time.
The whole journey back to school, his lordship played on the iPad again. His mum was on her phone and ignored him for most of the 90 minute journey. She did however ask, on a few occasions, what time I thought we’d arrive back at school, because she had a train to catch for her weekend of raving in London…she hadn’t packed her suitcase yet and needed to get it out of the loft. I reassured her that, with good traffic, we’d hopefully arrive at our expected time of return. She sighed as though it wasn’t good enough for her. I sighed in exasperation over how she had been more trouble than she was worth. She had insisted that her son didn’t miss out on this school trip, just because he couldn’t behave as expected in a classroom, yet she had been more troublesome than he had. I made a mental note that on the next trip, it would be more use to have a school TA as a dedicated 1:1 for him, than drag her along and force her to interact with her own child.
It sounds mean, but Mrs K and I had spent the day waiting around for her, listening to her moan about how we weren’t doing our jobs properly for her son, when even she couldn’t give him the time of day. It annoyed us both, but we rose above it and soldiered on. We were dead by 4pm, when we arrived back at school. I honestly couldn’t believe that I had survived. I think, knowing that Mrs K had my back, made me reach the finishing line as effortlessly as I did. It might surprise you to know, that she was the first person off the coach, with her son in tow, to try and get home and make it to the train station in time. Thankfully, that was the first and last school trip I had with his lordship. Thank goodness.