I was a driver for the OMSI field trip.
And I hated it. (Good things that came from it: A new invention. A "Loud-o-meter" which can be mounted from the ceilings of mini-vans in dvd position--yeah, just make softwear that an existing dvd can run. It could be instant feedback for 4 kids in the back of a van, an objective visual measure
Oh yeah. Let's see, high points of OMSI trip. There had to be a theme. Teacher Billy passed out a scavenger hunt list of things they were to accomplish while there; things like draw or write about a chemistry experiment they did, or a physics experiment...the name of a dinosaur from Oregon, discoveries they had made. (I hate scavenger hunts.) My group (The Cinnamon Pterodactyls") fragmented nearly immediately: two second grade girls and the Scott/Felix duo. The girls had nothing in common with the boys and never wanted to be doing the same thing at the same time. The boys, as is customary, started off well, but degenerated toward the end into competitions that were fiercely important to them, ludicrous to me. There were several incarnations of this scenario: in the 'earthquake house' where they can push buttons to experience a 5.8 scale earthquake, or a 6.8. All to the tune of Carole King's song "I Feel the Earth Move". Felix wants to push 5.8. Scott wants to push 6.8. I want them to leave and move on to the next thing--I'd already abandoned the scavenger hunt. Both of them have dug in so whoever is the last one to touch the button has 'won'. So neither of them want to move away from the button because that means the other one will get to touch it last. I want to knock their heads together and when I finally have to put my hands on them physically to remove them from the house it's with a conscious effort to not close my hand beyond neutral pressure.
But this is all beside the point. The main point is the questions that arose from my arse-whuppin' yesterday from my cuz. What was the seat of my angst about putting my needs ahead of others? That was kind of the crux of the dilemma both about attending the moving up ceremony and driving (or not) for the field trip.
Is it because I believe I'm not entitled to meet my own needs and because I fear the opinions of others that I even had to think about it? Where is my opinion about my own honorability entwined or entangled with that of others (or, to complicate it even further, with my perception of others' opinions?)?
In the case of the ceremony, though I joked and kind of implied that I went to Felix's dad for 'permission' to not attend, it was actually more nuanced than that. Having not been part of the school last year what wasn't clear to me was the weight the culture of this classroom gives to such rituals. Is this ceremony about giving respect to change and honoring the accomplishment of these young students and thus is something I should seriously consider suspending my personal comfort to add my presence to? Is this something that overall is of benefit to the classroom culture and to Scott? Martin's response told me that indeed, this is that sort of event--not that he was telling me I should attend, but his decision to postpone his other plans told me there was something here to respect. It wasn't the answer I wanted, but it seemed expedient to bow to it, setting aside all consideration of "adequate" parenting.
Driving for the field trip was a more difficult matter because it's about finding that balance between contributing adequately to a community and sponging off the group.
A few weeks ago our NPR station had its quarterly fundraiser. As part of their attempt to awaken the conscience, they used "The Pizza Analogy": A group goes out for pizza regularly. Occasionally someone doesn't have money and the group absorbs that person's expenses. Ideally in a situation of goodwill in that community this situation of short-term inequity works out in the long run--eventually he/she too will carry someone at another time who happens to be short of a little change. But what happens if someone always takes, never contributes? (We wouldn't want to be that person, would we?)
In the classroom I don't think a field trip has ever had to be canceled because there weren't enough drivers. At least this hasn't happened since Scott & I joined the school community in January. I've noticed that the sign-up lists often remain blank until the very day of the trip, and then someone always comes forward. I think of the age-old story of the grasshopper and the ants, the workers and the players. The grasshopper might be vindicated for his playing when the winter comes because 'something comes through' just as he 'knew it would'. But generally the 'something has come through' because some ant had stepped up and done his job. I suppose the story of Mary and Martha and the dinner where Jesus was the guest of honor is a version of the grasshopper/ant story.
I'm still trying to negotiate where that line is where I can rely on the collective work of the community to carry me for a while, and where I need to be a contributer. I think some people deal with that tension by always contributing and never taking...some seem to feel no shame at all in always receiving. It seems there's an act of trust required from everybody to make it all work harmoniously--when giving to give wholeheartedly, when receiving to receive wholeheartedly, and to trust that all are doing their best and it will indeed be evened out in the end.
The 'shame' part was my estimation of myself in trying to get out of driving without having to be asked and without having to face in myself the question of whether it was honorable to say no this time. That involved the skulking behavior in the classroom, avoiding Billy's eye, keeping distance between him and me in an effort to avoid the question.
Still, how much of that is based on my own judgment of what's honorable ("I should be giving Billy a clear, proactive answer") and what I judge his judgment of me is. Part of this is based on a fear that he can see that I am not being my best self in trying to avoid committing myself.
In the end, is it really possible to separate one's self-estimation from that of the judgment of others? Because as I try to dissect this, there seems to be no level where I can separate them...my feeling shame about trying to not deal directly with this request is connected with a sense of how the Other judges it. No matter how deep I go, there does seem to be a reciprocal relationship in matters of honor between Self and Other that I'm not sure can be separated entirely.
I guess I'm going to have to think about it some more.
Returned briefly to update:
Had the stakes been higher I might have leaned more toward outright refusal. I wasn't going to get a full day at home alone anyway. Wednesday ordinarily is a volunteer day with me at the various schools from around 11 all the way until 3 or else driving between. I was going to have to fetch Connor from his friend's house somewhere in there too, so it's not like I was passing on a full-monty-alone day. Had it been a full-monty-alone day I'd be giving up, I may have been more willing to endure whatever it took to preserve it.