Being the Eye of the Storm

A couple of weeks ago I went on my son’s elementary school field trip. They took the entire school – that’s about 200 first- thru fourth-graders – to Boston. They are a very brave group of people.

I was excited to be able to go because I only have so many of these opportunities left. Soon the boys will threaten to disown me if I try to intrude on their territory. As of now, it’s still kind of OK for me to be hanging around.

Loading the buses, getting there, and having lunch on the docks all went smoothly. It was when we assembled for the talk before entering the aquarium that I started to get nervous, because it was the first time I’d seen the entire group gathered together.

So many kids…so much noise…so much potential for serious damage…

It was crowded and wild in the aquarium but I didn’t see or hear of any major problems. After a few hours inside we re-assembled out front to get ready for a boat ride around the harbor. My agitation level increased again as the kids ran here and there while we killed half an hour.

I checked the teachers and aides to see how they were responding but everyone looked OK. And every time I saw the principal he had the exact same look on his face: a calm, very small smile. I guess that’s the zen principal face (better than the one my elementary school principal had, which was the “scary scowl”).

He projected confidence. I knew by his behavior that he was in charge and everything was fine. He leads the ship with very little emotional response – and that’s the best way to do it.

I realized that he was used to the chaos it because it’s normal kid chaos, and I was the one having a problem with it. It’s similar to the chaos I’m used to in day care that would make other people freak out.

For instance, yesterday we were enjoying a beautiful morning outside. The baby started to fuss and I saw that he was covered in poo from thighs to back. I dug in to change him when Mr. R, who is potty training, sat down on the chair to poop. Then stood up to tell me about it, then sat back down again, smearing poo from thighs to back.

While I – elbow deep in baby poo – tried to tell him to stop moving, I saw that Miss C had climbed into the baby swing (which is off-limits to big kids), unharnessed, using a drumstick as a pretend lollipop, while Miss M pushed her higher and higher.

If a civilian walked into this scene they might have apoplexy. Maybe even the principal would be alarmed. But for me, this is normal kid chaos. Just as he knows his environment, I know mine. We know the difference between normal buzz and a real problem. And even when I’ve seen him confronted with a real problem, the zen principal face is still in effect.

I need to channel that. I wish that I could project the same cool-as-a-cucumber confidence as he does. So anyone who stumbled upon that scene in my yard might be able to see that despite all appearances, I really am in charge.

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