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December 11, 2014

Field Trip Fanatic

By Tampa Bay Parenting

Recently I chaperoned my daughter’s fourth grade class on their visit to the Ringling estate in Sarasota–yes, that’s Ringling as in Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus. The estate includes the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, The Circus Museum, the Ca’D’Zan (the Ringling family waterfront palace), the Historic Asolo Theater, and 66 acres of bayfront gardens, all on one property.

I have lived in St. Petersburg for 11 years and have visited Sarasota and the surrounding areas countless times, but somehow, I have never been to this museum. To be honest, I’m not a fan of the modern day circus because of the animals in captivity, so I was not sure I would enjoy this field trip, but as a work-outside-the-home mom I was happy to spend a day with my children and their classmates, regardless. Here’s what I learned about my children and myself on this field trip.

Tampa Bay Parenting 2014 Museum

Vitamin D is vital for perspective (not just for bones). What a wonderful surprise The Ringling was. The waterfront grounds were meticulously kept with dinosaur-sized banyan trees and rose gardens to make Alice’s Queen of Hearts jealous. Spending a day out of the office to watch the children run through the trees in the sunlight-dappled St. Augustine grass and literally stop to smell the roses was divine. Sometimes the daily grind of being a working parent (and if you’re a parent, you’re working!) can be a little grim. But one beautiful day in the sun with laughing children puts life in perspective and reminds us why we do all that we do in that grind. It’s all for the children.

Field trips are a good opportunity to meet and socialize with other parents. In every school there are those blessed and wonderful parents who are always on campus helping in a classroom, volunteering in some capacity or chaperoning an event. Everyone knows (and appreciates!) those parents. Attending a field trip with your child, however, ups the ante that you will meet some new parents and get to know current parent acquaintances a little better. Who knows? You might find common interests that lead to a grown up “play date”.

Sneak peek:  See exactly how your child interacts with peers, teachers and other parents. At some point, every parent has lived this scenario:  A teacher, coach, or friend tells you, “Your son/daughter is so polite and respectful, and has so much to say about _______!”  at which point you smile, cock your head to the side and nod, but silently think, “Are they talking about MY child? Really??” Attending a field trip with your child is a great opportunity to see if all the life lessons and manners you have been drilling into your kiddo have sunk in.

As the kids walk from place to place, hang back a bit from their direct sight line and see if s/he holds the door open for others. Listen to how they talk with their friends (and what they’re talking about). Watch them pick up a dollar bill they found on the ground and hand it to a museum attendant. Then take a sigh of relief, because you have done a good job raising your kid, and even if they don’t always use them at home, they DO remember all the lessons you’ve taught them, and they use them when it counts.

Spending a school/work day with your child means that for once, the dinner conversation will not involve the question, “Honey, how was your day?” Our dinner conversation the night of the Ringling trip was stellar because all four of us had spent the day together (my husband chaperoned as well) and had experienced something new and cultural. I knew exactly what they had done that day, so that question was moot. Instead I was able to ask things like, “What do you think it would be like to work in a traveling circus? Which role would you want to play?” or “That harpsichord was 350 years old. How many houses do you think it was played in before it got to the museum?” or even “Would you ever consider clown college? Because I’m not sure your Florida Pre-Paid plan covers that.”
For these reasons and so many others I encourage all parents to take a vacation day from work at some point next school year and chaperon a field trip with your kids. You will learn as much as they do, I promise!
Tampa Bay Parenting 2014 Camel
Heather Lambie is a writer, photographer, and mom. She is also the director of marketing and communication for the Cantebury School of Florida. 

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