Parent Chaperones Behaving Badly (Or How YOU Need to BEHAVE on Your Child’s Field Trips)

Parent Chaperones Behaving Badly (Or How YOU Need to BEHAVE on Your Child’s Field Trips)

I’ll make this quick, because we all know parents (and I’m one of them) don’t have a lot of time.

If you have K-12 children you know they are going to go on field trips. If they go on field trips you know parents are going to be asked to go along as chaperones. You know that one day YOU will be asked to be a chaperone.

When you arrive to the location of the field trip you might have a guide to take the children on a tour, or to give them some sort of lesson or demonstration, or help with an activity.

Your field trip host might be a park ranger, a docent, or some sort of other adult helper. 90% of the time this guide/docent/helper will be a VOLUNTEER. By volunteer I mean someone who has freely given their time to spend their time teaching something to YOUR CHILD.

As a PARENT on these trips, be it a historic park, an art museum, a factory tour, or a science center, YOU need to do your part to make it a good experience for everyone.

Yes, being a chaperone is fun because you get to go someplace and take a day off from work. Fun fun fun. You also have responsibilities. Those responsibilities include:

  • Keeping the kids from acting like wild animals (including your child)
  • Encouraging the children to stay together
  • Encouraging the children to get along
  • Making sure the children pay attention to the guides/docents/teachers
  • Making sure the children are engaged
  • Making sure ALL of the children feel included in activities

YES that is YOUR JOB. 

  • Also… remember these trips are for the KIDS.
  • Don’t take over activities. If a guide/docent has a question for the CHILDREN let the CHILDREN answer it.
  • Be nice. Don’t be rude to guides or docents. Like I said, they are volunteers. They are doing this without pay. They are doing the best they can. If you’re an asshole it will just take away from the experience of the kids.
  • Don’t use tour time as a way to catch up with other parents. Watch for kids who are wandering off. And YOU are not allowed to wander off. Stay with the children. Stay engaged.
  • Don’t spend all of the time with YOUR CHILD. As a chaperone you have agreed to be with ALL of the kids in your group. Don’t wander off with your kid on a tour. It distracts the other children. It distracts the guide/docent. It distracts the other parents. Plus it is just rude.
  • Listen to the guide/docent and help the children follow the rules. It will make a safer tour and guarantee everyone will have a fun experience.
  • Don’t be an asshole.
  • Don’t look bored. Kids will pick up on that. Like I said, don’t be an asshole.
  • Do a little bit of research before you go on the field trip so you can discuss it with your child and the other kids in the group. There is a wonderful thing called the INTERNET. You can get all kinds of information about EVERYTHING including the location of your field trip.
  • Make sure kids get snacks before the tour or activity. Hungry kids don’t pay attention and tend the fidget. The same goes for bathrooms breaks. Make sure every has gone to the potty before the tour or activity.
  • Yes, you’re the adult. You’re a parent. That is your job when you volunteer as a chaperone.

Everyone wants to be liked. Everyone wants to be known as a good parent. Everyone wants to be asked back. Nobody wants a bad reputation. Follow my guidelines and you’ll be the coolest field trip chaperone in the class. I guarantee it.

That’s it. Simple rules. Be the adult you are. Your kids will than you for it later.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

Thinking Back on Being A Parent

When I started writing this blog I was dealing with Middle School and summer camp. Now I’m helping my kids navigate lease agreements and finding the best coffee grinders.

Over the years I’ve talked about navigating school and social situations. We’ve gone to concerts. I’ve seen first love come and go, but I’ve also best friends, and bonds that will last the ages.

In the great big world my children and I have discussed school shootings, the environment, and politics. We’ve been to political events so the kids and their friends could have that experience and see what it was all about. We’ve known what it is like to be different. We’ve known what it is like to be part of a group.

Every family is different, but I feel, I know there are some things that all parents must do.

So many people think schools should raise their children and teach them everything. Or many think going to church (God forbid) will teach their kids all they need to know about being a decent person. But they miss the point.

As a parent it is YOUR responsibility to raise your child. Not just feed them or clothes them but to share your world with them.

The number one most important thing I can say to parents is to TALK WITH YOUR KIDS. I don’t mean lecture them or talk at them. I mean talk with them and LISTEN to them. Discuss things with them.

Encourage your children to be “big picture” people and go beyond their family, friends, and school. One day they’ll go out into the big wide world. You don’t want our little birds to take wings and get eaten by the first raptor who comes along. Teach them to see, to watch, to question, to be aware.

Teach your children to have their own opinions. Not everyone is a leader, but you don’t want you child to be a follower. They need to know that it is alright it they take their own path. If they choose to be with others that is OK but it must be their choice.

And yes, they should be allowed to make their own choices but you, as a parent, need to guide those choices. If they hang out with a bully then STOP that friendship cold. Let your child know why. If they have a friend you don’t like and the alarms go off then STOP that friendship. You’re the parent. Teach your kids to have real friends, not just kids to hang out with. Teach them NOT to give into negative peer pressure or bullies. Talk to them about it. Always encourage them to take the higher road. Even tiny children understand that to some extent.

Early on explain to your child how important reputation is. It is easy to lose one’s reputation but it is extremely difficult to get it back. Kids lose their reputations by hanging out with kids who offer nothing but trouble. Don’t think you can save someone by being good. They will only drag your kid down with them – and they won’t care. I know this is harsh but I’ve seen it happen too many times.

At the same time teach your children that good friends are a treasure. Teach them that they can have friends that are a different sex, a different color, a different sexual orientation, a different faith, and just different. Diversity is good. I speak from experience. Acceptance is awesome. Love is awesome. Friendship is awesome.

I love my children’s friends. I have grown to love their parents too. As much as I wail on about things I don’t like – I have been honored to have met so many great kids and awesome parents. Woo Hoo.

Laugh with your children every single day.

Encourage your kids to always be curious.

Raise a child who will be a life long learner.

Raise your children to be better than you are.

Raise your children to be better than you are. Even today my daughter showed me that she is a much better person than I am. I won’t go into details, but I can be an asshole. My child gives no second chances (like her dad) but she is smart, kind, and thoughtful. She has tact. Don’t get me wrong, most people think I’m the sweetest thing in the world (even other Vampires) but I can be… well, not always the person I should be. I’ve raised my child not to be like that.

I’m not the perfect parent. I think I’m a better parent for not reading copious amounts of parenting books. Shirley Jackson’s Life Among the Savages is a must read. Real parenting stories are the best – not theory from experts and cold clinical studies. Besides, every child is different. Every parent is different. Every family is different. What works for me might not work for others. But I have to admit I am so proud of the kind of mom I’ve been.

Hey, how many kids can say “my mom blogs about vampires.” Not many.

No matter what you do, make your kid proud of you, and be proud of your kid.

Love them.

Encourage them.

Talk with them.

TALK.

Keep the communications open. Be positive. Be understanding. LISTEN. Let them know that YOU are their safe place.

Parenting doesn’t stop at middle school, or even high school. It is a life long job, even when they move out, gets jobs, and start their own families. Let them live their lives but let them know that you’re always there for them with your love and your understanding.

~Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Just DON’T: To those who discourage, stereotype and otherwise pigeon hole young people.

Pigeon Hole: Definition of put (someone) in a pigeonhole. : to unfairly think of or describe (someone or something) as belonging to a particular group, having only a particular skill, etc.

If you continue to Pigeon Hole young people I will consider you an Ass Hole.

I was out the other night with friends, who do not have children, and the subject came up of how my children are doing.

My daughter is waiting to hear from the four colleges she has applied for as a transfer student from the local community college. I’m doing the happy dance because she was accepted into U.C. Santa Barbara. Woot Woot.

So, for the 357th time my dear friend tells me, “you know that is where my niece got into drugs.”

My standard answer is usually, “kids get into drugs at every school, even schools like BYU.”

This time I said, “My children were not brought up in a hyper controlling, over protective, helicopter parenting home. Their father and I talked to them frankly about drugs, alcohol and what happened to friends of ours who were abusers.”

We (my husband and I) have always talked not just to or at our kids, but WITH our kids. We’ve had two sided discussions about all issues that will come up with our now adult children. Sex, drugs, and Rock N Roll (they know the difference between Led Zeppelin and lead paint.)

If someone tells you their child is going to a school, be it UCLA or Monterey Bay State (big or small) congratulate your friend. They have a child going to college. The same goes for the child who goes into the Navy, goes to a trade school, gets into a apprentice program, or does anything that will help them on that journey of life.

Don’t say how shitty their choice is.

The subject also came up about job choices and training. Family members LOVE to push younger family members into career paths they will HATE. Heaven forbid someone go into something strange like graphic design and illustration (my profession of many many many many years), or anything remotely involved in the arts or creativity. Heaven forbid someone go into a trade like being a mechanic. Hey if you love cars work with them. Any job you love is a good job. If you love cleaning toilets then do it. One day you’ll run your own multimillion dollar janitorial company.

My friends asked what another young person in my life wanted to do. I said he wanted to go into film or TV. Then I was asked what his real job was going to be aka back-up job.

I live in California. There are a lot of jobs in film and TV is you have passion, talent, and a drive. I’m not going to stomp on the dreams of any young people.

If you want to go into art – DO IT. If you want to work in a museum – DO IT. If you want to sing or act – DO IT. Yes a back up plan is ok, but think of all of the middle-aged people you know who have said “I wish I had…”

Don’t hate on the dreams of youth. A lot of young people have a plan for those dreams. Now they have access to the internet and other resources we (parents) could never dream of when we were young.

I’m not saying don’t have a back-up plan. Having a large set of skills is a good thing but…

I know we don’t want to see young people hurt, but killing dreams will do more damage in the long run.

Encourage our youth. Celebrate our hard-working youth. Say “GOOD JOB” to the kids who are studying, planning, researching, discussing, and doing.

My final words are for those of you who are not so young. You have dreams. You can also follow your passions. Nobody is there to stop you. Maybe you can’t do it on a grand scale, but do it small.

You can do it too. You’re never too old for most things. Don’t ever forget it. And don’t let the assholes pigeon hole you. Don’t.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

phole

Slut (and a few additional thoughts)

A story from my friend Bart. He’ll tell you all about it (you might have heard this before but it is a story well worth repeating – I’m sure a lot of you can relate.) At the end I will have a few more thoughts of my own.

Slut

A lot of us have kids in college, or starting college in the next year or two. One of the big things everyone is talking about is sexual assault on campus or in college towns. I’ve talked about it with my two kids who are in college. Everyone has, at least everyone who is a decent parent.

So I get this call from Hodge Williams. Yes, that Hodge Williams. Everyone remembers him.

“Bart, how are you?” As soon as he spoke I wondered what he wanted.

“Hodge. Fine. Great. Life is good. What’s up?”

“I’m writing a story on the history of sexual harassment and violence at universities in the US. I tried to contact your sister but she wouldn’t return my calls.”

“Beth?”

“Yes, Beth. She kind of got around so I was thinking she might have experienced first hand, you know, she was at risk.”

“What do you mean by at risk?”

“Oh come on, your sister was a slut. Everyone knew it.”

I sat there with the phone a bit stunned. He just called my sister a slut.

“Hodge, you’re an asshole. In fact you’ve always been an asshole.” I hung up the phone. What an asshole.

After sitting for a few minutes and collecting my thoughts I called my sister and told her about the conversation.

“What an asshole,” she said. “Sure I was sleeping with his best friend without the benefit of being his best friend’s official girlfriend. OK I also slept with another one of his friends but we were in college. We were young.”

“Did you ever sleep with Hodge?”

“No. Hell no. He was always making passes at me and grabbing me. Hodges had that Madonna/Whore things going on in his head. A girl was either a virgin until marriage or a whore. Plus we’re not like him, you know the religion thing, so he just assumed I was a whore.”

“But you didn’t have sex with him.”

“I know. That makes me a whore. He called any girl who wouldn’t have sex with him a whore.”

“What an asshole.”

“I know. Believe me, I know. I mean, if the guy had asked me to go see a movie or go for a walk or just spent time talking that would have been different but he was just all over me like…yuck. He really called you? I can’t believe he’d have the gall to do that. Asshole.”

After we got off the phone with the promise of a lunch date later in the week I got to thinking about my own kids.

I’d spoken with both my daughter and son about sexual predators. I’ve done the best to teach them not to be bully bait. I’ve taught them to stand up for themselves and for others.

From experience I knew that bullies never grow up and most don’t change.

Hodge never got the answer he wanted. Over the years Beth had a few close calls with sexual predators but she always ended up safe either by being with friends or using physical force to get out of it (exactly twice as she told me.) That didn’t include unwanted advances by guys like Hodge. And even though Hodge didn’t use force it still hurt emotionally that he’d think so little of her or of any girl.

I wanted to pound the crap out of him. Then I thought about how many other women out there who thought the guy was an asshole. That made me smile. Spread the word ladies, spread the word.

That evening after work I talked to my wife about it. She shook her head and said she’d had similar experiences. More anger surged through my brain, then sadness deep in my soul.

We all judge others. We all make assumptions. We all call names even if it isn’t out loud. We all talk behind the backs of others. Maybe we need to stop. It isn’t easy. It isn’t even practical.

Anyway, if you see Hodge Williams call him and an asshole, and tell him that Beth and Bart don’t say hello.

~ end

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Since the day I became a mom I’ve thought of telling my kids about sexual predators. I’ve told them that more often than not sexual predators are people they know. It will be their word against yours. More often than not they already know how to hack the physical, emotional, legal, and social systems so that you won’t win. But always fight back. Never believe their lies. Tell your parents or someone else you trust.

Parents: LISTEN to your kids. Talk to them. Don’t judge. Don’t yell. Listen. Help. BELIEVE THEM. Kids and teens don’t lie about these things.

College Kids: RED CUPS. Don’t drink out of a drink anyone else gave you. That sweet punch in the big red cups will SLAM you hard. There will be a blog post about it and a quiz in a day or two.

In light of everything going on in the news this week I have a story. A friend posted something on FaceBook about men and boys behaving badly. She claimed if women flashed their boobs at Mardi Gras and other drunken events like concerts etc., then why did we all have a problem with men flashing their dicks.  I thought I’d quote my 19 year old daughter:

“When a woman flashes her boobs she is being silly and using bad judgement. It is insanely tacky and rude but not threatening anyone. When a man exposes his penis to someone it is a power and control thing. He is doing it as a threat. He is doing it with the purpose to make someone else intentionally uncomfortable. You can’t compare the two.”

That is all for today. Be safe. Talk to your kids. Listen to them. Believe them.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Trust your kids. Seriously, they’re your kids so you should trust them.

If you automatically assume you can’t trust our kids they will never trust or respect you.
         ~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Don’t listen to parenting advice from people who are bad parents with rotten kids.
         ~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

My nineteen year old daughter just texted me that due to the forest fires she and her boyfriend can’t see Mt. Shasta. Last night she sent me a photo from the cabin they’re staying in near Dunsmuir and Castle Crags State Park.

I would have never sent my parents messages like that had there been phones or texts when I was her age. The only texts they would have sent me were texts asking me where I was and texts that proved they didn’t trust me. I wanted to hear about the dog not their concerns that I might have been doing something bad. Of course they were too uncomfortable talking to me about “bad” things.

Never be uncomfortable talking to your children about anything – no matter how old or how young they are. You’re the parent. You never need to be uncomfortable with YOUR child. Of course you might just be uncomfortable about yourself. Don’t be an ostrich and get your head out of the sand. Ignoring shit won’t make it go away.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my parents but it was a different relationship than I have with my own children.

I learned that I was not to be trusted even when I wasn’t doing anything wrong.

Parents assume they can’t trust their teens. Then again can we trust anyone? We all have our secrets. But to automatically assume that youth can’t be trusted does far more harm than good.

If children know you don’t trust them they will learn to lie. They will learn to be great liars too. Lies will be come part of their everyday life. Strange to some but true.

So how do you build that trust? Talk to your kids. Listen to them. Engage with them. Be there for them. Believe them when they do tell the truth. Stand up for them. Start the dialogue when they’re young.

I don’t advocate a totally no rules childhood. Kids are going to make mistakes. They’re going to do stupid things. They’re going to be untrustworthy. That is part of growing up. Childhood is a time of trial and error. But if you teach them to learn from their mistakes, if you guide them to do the right thing, if you teach them about self-respect and the value of a good reputation, if you teach them to be smart – not just book smart but street smart, then, well, it is a good start. Nothing about parenting should be accidental, even if you’re relaxed like me. I’m serious.

Every child is different and every family is different so it isn’t always easy. But don’t go into parenting with a harsh negative attitude. Teach your kids with love, and laughter and a positive attitude. Make them WANT to keep you updated on their where, when, who, and why.

Unfortunately our kids are all unique individuals so we can’t control everything they do or think. We can’t control all of the influences in their lives or their weird impulses. Unfortunately in a lot of families an older child will screw up so the parents assume all of the kids will. Don’t do that. Don’t punish all of your kids for the actions of one.

For example I have known several people who had siblings who took college money and lied about going to school. So the parents decided not to help any of their kids with college. That is just messed up. Don’t punish all of your children for the actions of one.

The blind lack of trust can and will cause resentment that lasts a lifetime. Nobody wants that.

Sure, your children will do stupid things at all stages of their lives. But try to trust them. Give them your trust and they will value it, if they know you value them.

Simplistic? Yes. Easy? Not always.

Sometimes kids are assholes. You have to talk to them about that in straight forward honest terms. Sometimes you have to say “don’t be a jerk” Any kid over ten will understand that.

We’ve all done stupid things in our youth. Learn from your mistakes and use that experience as a parent. That is your job.

I trust you on this one.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Transitions

When I started this blog I was working full time for an organization outside of my home. My brain and the rest of my time was filled with Middle School and High School activities. I spent more time with my brothers. The canine love of my life was in her prime.

I couldn’t imagine having grown children.

Now everyone is in college. We discuss school but I’m not that involved, except to be a cheerleader, a therapist when needed, an entertaining distraction, and the one who pays for everything. Jasmine the white sled dog has gone over the rainbow bridge – her ashes sit in a box among old photographs. My cats are still here. A new dog Alice, a large goofy GSD is now in my life. I work alone at home. I rarely see anyone, except ghosts, and my ancient family members who welcome my visits, which need to be more frequent.

The sports and the activities have trickled off to almost nothing. I don’t have to drive anyone anywhere. I am alone here with a house full of books and animals.

Then again new activities call me. There is the art museum. There is my art. There are books in the works. There are walls to be painted. There are funny stories to tell.

And if I muse into melancholy madness Nigel the ghost will show up and kick my ass so I’d better move on.

We all change and evolve. That is part of being on this strange, horrible, and wonderful planet. We are trapped here so we need to be fluid. We need to keep evolving no matter how old or young we are. Growth never ends.

I find myself telling my kids not to judge others for what they do or the choices they make. Not all young people have it as good as they do. They don’t have someone helping them pay for school and everything else. They don’t have someone who is there 24/7 to listen. They don’t have someone who doesn’t judge them or question their every move. They have a safety net. Not everyone has that so their choices can’t be judged. I urge everyone to understand the choices of others.

There is no clear path. Five year plans are wonderful until a tornado hits your house, or someone you love dies, or you get sick, or the economy crashes, or your heart gets broken. So you take another road, or climb out of another window, or up another tree, or make where you are a better place. You add more books to your shelves and make an effort to call your friends, and your mom.

Parenting adults is tricky because they don’t want to listen, they need you to listen more than anything in the world, and they start to parent their own parents.

Yes, they do all of that.

It is scary. More scary that a pack of zombies banging at your back door. You can deal with zombies. You don’t love them. They just make a mess. But dealing with your kids, no matter how easy and wonderful they are, is always a challenge.

Dealing with Zombies: Shot gun. Flame thrower. Pissed off Vampires.

Dealing with Adult Children: Listening. Worrying. Loving. Worrying. Listening. Loving. Laughing. Learning to let them be adults. Learning not to be afraid.

Don’t be afraid.

Everything will be alright.

With your kids, and with you.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Vampire Maman