Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I, Chaperone

Today, I was the coolest dad in the world. OK, I was one of about five of the coolest dads in the world as a chaperone to Kailey's 3rd grade field trip to the University of Arizona Museum of Art and Center for Creative Photography. I was surprised (and relieved) by how many dads there were on the trip. I think there were more dad chaperones than mom chaperones. To art exhibits. Go figure.

I was actually looking forward to this field trip. I'm no connoisseur of art and photography, but I do enjoy browsing the galleries, amazed by some artists' works, bored by others'. The real question today was would these galleries hold the attention of a bunch of 8 year-olds? And my challenge was understanding that I wasn't going for my personal gratification and fulfillment, but to supervise a group of 8 year-olds and then, hopefully, to experience some of that fulfillment on the side.

The kids did surprisingly well. And the museum curators have done this enough to know the quicker, the better. The tours went faster than I would have liked, but today wasn't about me. I had four chargees to look after, including Kailey, and they were all fun and well-behaved. Our group started in the Center for Creative Photography. They directed us upstairs where they had pulled a series of prints from their vault, four of which were original Ansel Adams' (the only name I recognized). We were then herded downstairs to the gallery where the kids were given a guided tour and were asked several questions about the works and photography in general.

The phrase "there's always one in every group" definitely rang true today. One kid had all of the adults shooting glances and snickering at each other. He was the "know-it-all", the kid who constantly had his hand up, the kid who had the answer to every question, the kid who threw in a little historical context for extra flavor, the kid who made everyone else in the room feel like morons. At one point I turned to Kailey's teacher and said, "I'll bet this one keeps you on your toes."

She smiled and informed me that Captain Know-It-All was a fifth grader who was a part of the art club also on the field trip. "I had him in my class, though," she added with a smirk. "And the memories are now rushing back."

We finished the tour and waited out in the lobby for a few minutes before going to eat our sack lunches. There was a gift area in the lobby and the kids in my group asked if they could go look at the postcards. I agreed. Postcards at a photography gallery? Big mistake. It's probably the guy in me, but I saw it first, rotating around the corner as Kailey turned the display rack. A nude. A nasty, little too lifelike nude. All of a sudden, life down-shifted into slow motion.

"Oh my gyosh! Hey guys! Look at THIS!" she exclaimed.

"Nooooooooo!" I cried in my head as I launched my body toward the kiosk. But my body couldn't seem to move quick enough. I could see it now, forever banned from field trips as the chaperone who allowed his kids to view gallery porn. Thankfully the boys weren't old enough to "appreciate" that kind of art. They scrunched up their noses, critiqued the work with an "EWWWW", and moved on to better things. I finally got there after shaking the cement blocks off my feet and quietly spun the display away from young eyes while redirecting them out the door to lunch. Disaster averted. For now.

The Art Museum was very cool and I was surprised by how many quality pieces were on display there. The kids seemed to enjoy it too. The experience would have been perfect had it not been for the Museum Nazi roaming the second floor and randomly barking reminders to "STAY BEHIND THE BLUE LINE". This woman was seriously pissing me off. Now I realize that some of these works are priceless pieces of art. But the kids had been given guidelines and there were plenty of parents around to enforce them. And we did. I had to remind a couple of the kids to get back, but they weren't being disobedient. They were legitimately interested in the artwork, the color, the detail of the pieces and just wanted a closer look. I just politely asked them to stay behind the line, and they did. That's all it took. This woman is prowling around with a scowl on her face and scaring the crap out of the kids. It was completely unnecessary.

At one point, I was keeping an eye on a couple of kids who had wandered away from the rest of the group to look at paintings on the other side of the room. They weren't goofing off or hurting anything, just looking. So I let them. Museum Nazi suddenly appeared in the room, scowl in place, looking for trouble. She saw the stray kids, then saw me. Our eyes met and I shot her a defiant look that said, yeah, I know they're not with the group...so what? Or at least that's what I meant it to say. I don't know whether she got that message, but she did turn and leave the room without a tantrum. Chalk up a moral victory for me.

Everyone had a good time despite the nasty nude and the Museum Nazi, and I'm glad that I had a chance to finally accompany Kailey on a field trip. It's something that I've wanted to do for a while, and I think she appreciated it. She's growing up so fast and I know that I need to take full advantage of those opportunities as long as she still wants me around, as long as it's still cool to hang out with your friends and your dad. Those days are numbered and rapidly counting down. Hopefully no one will find out about the nude and I'll be invited to chaperone again.

No comments: