Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Of field trips and five-year-old queen bees

I volunteered to go on Will's first school field trip today. She is in a combined class of junior and senior kindergarten kids, which (for the record) is an integration I fully support. It is still nice to have a buddy your own age though, so I was disappointed when Will's main JK friend (and the only junior girl in the class) changed schools at the end of last week.

This morning I was put in charge of a group of four girls: Will, and three girls in SK. They included the twin we met in music class a couple of years ago, the girl who just got back from Disney World, and the Queen Bee.

At first the Queen Bee was only the instigator of shenanigans to just push the limit of whatever rule had been set. After being told to sit flat on their bottoms, she repeatedly half stood or kneeled and encouraged Disney to do the same. After getting off the bus, she directed the girls to hold hands in a line as we walked, or later, to link elbows. At the apple orchard, she tried to get Twin to pick up this or that rotten apple. She orchestrated seating arrangements on the train and wagon ride by announcing the girl she would be sitting beside, Twin and Disney following her lead.

She didn't actively exclude Will, none of them did, but they didn't make a point of including her either. But figuring out how to navigate these social waters is arguably the most important part of going to school - and in the process, to figure out who you are and who you want to be - so I took some deep breaths and just observed.

On the way home Will and I ended up sharing a seat with Queen Bee, across the aisle from the other girls. Will had missed out on a window seat on the way to the apple farm, and looked at me imploringly, whispering "I want the window." I told her to ask QB if she would mind switching, knowing she had sat at the window earlier in the morning.

"Can I sit at the window?"


Will looked at me and crossed her arms, her lip quivering. I decided to intervene.

"QB, didn't you have the window seat on the way here?" She nodded. "Is it okay if Will has a turn sitting there on the way back?"

"No. You get what you get."

Will started crying. I whispered to her that there was nothing we could do if QB didn't want to switch, that Will could only control her own reaction. I tried again: "I know you both want to sit at the window, so why don't we switch seats part way home, so you can both have a turn."

"No. I'm not moving."

Will kept crying. I thought some not very nice things about a five-year-old child and the child's mother, who was sitting a few rows back with her six-year-old son's class. Then the Queen Bee turned to Will: "Why are you crying?" When Will didn't answer, she turned to me. "Why is she crying?"

I gritted my teeth and kept my tone pleasant. "I think she would really like a turn sitting at the window."

"Oh. No. It's just a window."

Queen Bee had what she wanted, and she was keeping it. Until she noticed Twin and Disney giggling uncontrollably across the aisle. Without her.

She started shouting: "Disney! Twin! Hey! Disney! Twin!"

They were having to much fun to notice. That's when QB turned to me with her sweetest smile. "I want to sit with them."

I smiled back. "Oh, I'm sorry. We can't change seats when the bus is moving."

She tried again. "Please may I sit over there? I want to sit with those girls." She paused and looked at Will. "Then she can have the window."

Nice try, kid. "No. It's not safe to walk around when the bus is moving. Sorry!"

Frustrated, QB went back to shouting. "Disney! Twin! You know what? We'll play in the school yard when we get back, just the three of us! Wait until we get back! All three of us can play!"

And that's how we arrived back at the school: Will snuffling, Disney and Twin in their own world, QB desperately (and loudly) demanding to be included, and me, ready for a drink.

How will we ever make it through middle school?

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