As some of you may remember, I was a parent helper at Skig’s school earlier this year. I did it for four months until some temporary paid work finally came in and I had no choice but to leave. I loved every minute of helping in Year 1. I was generally asked to help out the children that were less able than the majority and took a lot of pleasure from seeing even the slightest improvement in comprehension of what we were studying. Plus, I got to make clay models.
Clay is brilliant.
I’ve missed being a part of the school environment so when the opportunity to help out at the school’s annual trip to the beach came up, I, (somewhat naively) volunteered immediately. Skig, of course, was delighted. In hindsight, however, I shouldn’t have said anything to him until the day before we left because for two months solid, every single bloody day, he would give me a running countdown of how long left until our beach trip. It was worse than Christmas.
Thankfully, the day finally came and myself and the other parent helpers arrived at school last Friday, ready to help out, but not quite sure what would be involved. We all had the same nervous look in our eyes. The “Sweet Jesus what have we done?” look. But it was too late. Our fate was sealed.
The forecast was pretty awful. Course it was. And for once, the weather forecasters were right. It was awful. In fact, the weather was worse than predicted. Not quite ‘Storm of ‘87’ bad but it was wet, windy, cloudy and I swear I felt sleet at one point. (This may be a slight exaggeration.)
I could have walked faster than the coach. It was literally going 10 mph. When we finally got to the beach we had to then get 180 children to use the toilet – no easy task. The rain was torrential by now but the kids didn’t seem to have noticed. Us adults on the other hand, had started to show the early signs of pneumonia.
As we made our way to the beach it dawned on me that I had responsibility for four whole children. Four! And not one of them was mine. This was brand new territory. We weren’t related so I couldn’t be forgiven if I lost one. I had to watch them all day and here’s the rub … it’s really, really hard work! I mean, it’s just making sure they don’t drown or get buried alive, but it was damn stressful.
After I’d lugged down my waterproof travel rug and weighted it down with a gazillion rucksacks, we walked down to the water, not before one of my charges decided to pick up a half dead baby crab and squeeze the remaining life out of it. Trust me to get that kid.
I managed to entertain them for a whole hour before they started asking for lunch … at 11.00am. We collected shells, stood on sand worms (at least I hope they were made of sand,) screamed when we stood on seaweed (and rocks and mussel shells and basically just everything,) and finally finally, we could have lunch.
It wasn’t all bad. The sun came out occasionally, we played catch, made sand faces and sandcastles. We crunched sand in our back teeth, battled against a raging storm to fold blankets and wet towels and as much as I moaned, I felt privileged to be there.
By the time I got on the coach and, bearing in mind we’d only been at the beach for three hours, I was exhausted. I mean absolutely exhausted. Exhausted like ‘when I was first pregnant’ exhausted. The urge to close my eyes … just for a few minutes … was overwhelming. It was like those four kids had sucked all life from me. So no different to any other day really.
I got home, got a migraine and was having a power nap by 6pm.
In September, Skig goes to ‘Big School’ and I don’t know if I’ll be needed again.
I hope so though. It was an …. experience.