The First Steps of Being a Chaperone
So I decided to be a parent-chaperone on the Oldest’s grade 7 camping trip.
My first clue of how, (well, let’s not say ‘hard’, let’s say ‘challenging’) this endeavour would be was how excited the principal and teachers were. It’s like when you get someone to fix your toilet for free. Or someone to babysit your diarrhetic dog.
The 2nd clue should have that no other parents at the official meeting leapt up to volunteer. It was like they were being chosen for the Hunger Games. Everyone looked at their shoes or suddenly had something important to say to someone beside them.
Did they know something I didn’t?
Well I thought it was going to be a pretty simple thing. I just show up, get on some sort of old school bus and try to make sure none of the kids in my cabin draw a penis on my face.
But no. No. It is not that simple. There are all sorts of rules and regulations.This is 2015 after all. We live in the age of a bubble-wrapped society.
Everyone has to be protected from everything. There’s a move to ban children from playgrounds for safety reasons. All children seem to be driven to school even if they live only a block or two away. And, on the other side of this insanity, hockey parents have to sign contracts saying they won’t be complete asshats over something one 7-year-old did on the ice.
A camp trip is no exception. Silly me for even thinking otherwise.
To be a chaperone, I needed to fill out school paperwork and get a criminal record check done. In filling out the paperwork, I also had to read the very detailed and lawyerly school rules and regulations. Good God, has anyone ever read those things? Everyone’s butt has to be very well covered.
But the real fun came when I went to get my criminal record check done. You have to pay a visit to the local RCMP.
First of all, huge disappointment that no one was in a red uniform. Second, hello, no horses in parking lot! What a let down. However, a nice volunteer did give me more forms to fill out, and got my consent to see if I’ve done something bad in my past (and got caught).
Not that I had any worries, I’m pretty saintly. But for a camping trip, you have to do more than just get a record check – you have to get fingerprinted. And to do that, you have to make an appointment. Then, when you arrive. You wait until someone’s free, despite the appointment.
No one tells you the time this is all going to take.
However, being at the RCMP station down near the hospital was very enlightening and made me so glad I had not volunteered to be behind the RCMP counter (or become a cop myself).
One old guy had to tell the woman behind the plexiglass over and over and over why he was so outraged to get a ticket for using his cell phone while driving. He went on for a half hour. I kid you not. Repeating the same litany of complaints. Cops have quotas, the officer had singled him out because of his age, the system sucked, blah, blah, blah.
Not once did he think, hey, this nice lady didn’t write me the ticket, write the law or has the power to actually change anything. Not once did he take a bit of personal responsibility. No. He was determined to have his say in… not court, but the station.
2 hours went by and until I was finally able to get printed. It’s not like in the old days where you get all inky and some officer glares at you while smoking a cigarette. Nowadays, it’s all electronic. All CSI-ish.
It was fast enough once I got in. Then I was told to come back the next day for the results.
That next day while waiting in the waiting area, someone newly released from somewhere paced around, talking to herself (and me) about how the police had not folded her jeans properly. She was very upset and even when I agreed it was a terrible, terrible crime, she kept on ranting until some beefy officer came out and calmed her down.
Fun times at the police station.
In the end, everything got done. But let’s add up the time. It took about 5 hours of my time to do this, another hour or two to read the school regs and do up the paperwork, an hour or so at the meeting, another hour or two driving back and forth… That’s about 8-9 hours!
And we haven’t even gotten to the camping yet. The real hard part hadn’t begun, but man they hadn’t made this first step easy.
Oh, I kinda get why all the procedures are necessary, but it sure doesn’t make volunteering user-friendly.
No wonder all the other parents refused to make eye contact with the principal back at the meeting. No wonder I was the only one that shouted, “I volunteer, I volunteer for tribute!”
May the odds be forever in my favour.
Yeah, it’s true, the rules for volunteering with kids are getting so convoluted, time consuming and strange that it’s almost impossible to observe all of them and it takes more time to get the screening processes done than it does to complete the activity with the kids. I’ve seen situations that are so rule bound, it doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do – you’re breaking a rule, because they are in direct contradiction to each other.