It was early in 2010 when our high school band went to Florida’s Walt Disney World for a trip. We did it over winter/spring break and I had volunteered to be a chaperone. My son was a freshman saxophone player and a talented musician. I was a mom, going along for the long bus ride, promising to keep an eye on students during the trip. He was my oldest child.
At the high school, early, on the morning we left, parents searched with flashlights for contraband hidden in the suitcases. You know, alcohol, drugs, condoms, and other temptations teens might have because they “think they are old enough” or “like to take risks.” I don’t know for how many students exactly, but for many, this was their first trip away from home without parents. I chose to be a replacement parental supervisor. It must have not been too bad because I did it again in 2013 as a band chaperone to New York City.
We arrived after too many hours crowded together on a charter bus, making only rest stop breaks for mass bathroom use and something to eat. As you can imagine, it took many hours to snake our way from Wisconsin to Florida with two full buses full of teens and instruments. I was on the same bus as my freshman. However, I did not have a seat partner as no one was assigned to me. But, there must have been some kind of misassignment with seating because I ended up with a girl who barely spoke two words to me during a long trip. I gave up trying to engage her in conversation.
On the trip, so many movies were watched. Drumline, Nick and Nora, and others. It was terrible! I’m not a big movie person and the choice of movies – although approved by the HS principal who also went as a chaperone and was on the same bus – was poor. (Although, I loved Drumline and since purchased it). Eventually, but probably not until we reached Tennessee or Georgia, the movies were shut off. Time for sleep!
We were crabby, uncomfortable, and cramped. We arrived at the motel, a place that had been pre-selected by prior trips to Florida with this band director. My son immediately had roommate issues caused by one of the other students refusing to sleep with another student in the same bed. Students were four to a room of the same sex. My son offered to sleep on the floor to alleviate the problem. I was incensed and stormed over to the room and announced that no one should be sleeping on the floor! Work it out. They did.
I stayed with the band parent group president and her daughter (not yet in high school but along for the rid). I did not know them, but we all got along well and it worked out fine. We have stayed friends and are appreciative of each other’s kids, families, and values. It ended up being a great combination.
The next morning, I was greeted by several parents who had been in the dining room before me. They told me about my son and the kindness he had shown to another student. A quiet, unpopular girl from the band was eating breakfast alone. He had gone to breakfast early to study (as a freshman he took AP calculus and did not want to be behind). This girl was also early to breakfast and sitting alone. She was older than my son. He chose to sit with her. The other parents told me that it was one of the kindest things they had ever seen. He kept her company and tried to make her not feel so alone.
Of course, as a parent, this is one of the things you WANT to hear about your child. It was something I didn’t witness but I heard about – from many. So, when I see posts on social media that one should choose kindness over academic success, I bolt. They can co-exist. A child/student/teen can be both highly intelligent and kind. We just have to instill kindness as a value in all our children! It is not an either-or situation.
This is what I remember about most the band trip to Florida when my oldest son was a freshman. There are some other things too. Playing in Epcot was a highlight. It was cold and it was rainy but the pride of all the students, parent-chaperones, and band directors was evident.
Going to the beach was a highlight. It was cold and rainy but all the students changed into swimsuits and enjoyed the beach.
We played a joke on the principal by pretending we all had stashed alcohol in our rooms before a meeting. Empty beer and wine containers were collected and distributed before a parent/chaperone meeting in the band director’s room. We had not been drinking, let me be clear, everyone took our job as chaperones and representatives of the school district seriously. But, it was fun to play a joke!
We had passes to the Magic Kindom and MGM Studios for subsequent days and those days were full. I remember sitting outside the train station at the Magic Kindom at about 10pm before we were to get on the buses to come home and a friend of my son’s telling him that her “dogs were barking.” My son didn’t know, at the time, what that meant.
The whole trip ended up being one of my fondest memories from my boys’ days in high school. The band director who retired a year after this trip is fondly remembered by many, including me and my son. And, what an experience for our students! They got to play in Epcot Center at WDW! How awesome!
The other reason this trip is special to me is that it was the beginning of some life-long friendships. And, one should always be grateful for good memories and friends, as well as for raising kind children.