Last Friday, Annabelle and I took a trip to SeaWorld with church. Twenty-three children from the 3rd-5th grade Sunday school classes, four parent chaperones and one saintly children’s director boarded a charter bus and headed south.
The director gave a little speech before we left about behavior expectations, and she mentioned how while there was a bathroom on the bus, it didn’t need to be used all the time. I love her and she’s great with kids, but that statement was throwing pearls before swine. Every single child visited the bathroom at least once, if not three times. None of them could resist the urge to use a small bathroom on wheels while going 72mph. I know that each child went to the bathroom several times because they all asked me for permission to go. I was sitting closest to the children by a mere 8 inches. The next chaperone was less than one literal footstep away, but I was the first point of contact and was therefore the one who got asked every single question. Every time they needed something from the overhead compartment, asked to go to the bathroom, had a question about snacks, needed help with their charger, asked about the bathroom, wanted to know how much longer before we got there, was there anyone in the bathroom, etc etc etc, they asked me. I didn’t know I would be doubling as a flight attendant when I signed up to go. My friend and fellow chaperone was hunkered down in the front seat with her book and thanks to my hard work, she got through 175 pages without one disruption.
I’ll tell you what else I didn’t know when I signed up- the sleep hours or lack thereof. I wasn’t expecting a spa environment, but I also wasn’t expecting to be told by the SeaWorld workers that they’d be waking us up at 6am to start the day. That was conveniently left out of all Caren’s planning emails.
We got there right before SeaWorld closed for the day. Two workers were assigned to our girls group for the night and they gave us a private tour of the park. The boys group slept by the beluga whales and we slept by the dolphins. The whole time I thought about how when I was younger I wanted to be a dolphin trainer thanks to Lisa Frank. My younger self would not have believed my good luck in spending a night with the dolphins. They never stopped swimming and with the exhibit dark but the tank lit up, it was extremely relaxing. I loved it.
We weren’t allowed to go up to the bathroom alone while the park was closed, so the employees had to accompany 18 girls and all our accouterments up the walkway to the bathroom to change. We left a little trail of socks and underwear in our wake. Some of the girls were organized. My child dropped her shirt in the toilet and left her pajamas on the counter of the public bathroom. That’s why she didn’t go on this trip without me.On Saturday, we split up according to who wanted to do what and our group was the low key group. Shocker shocker, AB was in the low-key group. We went on a few rides, but mostly we enjoyed the animals. My fellow chaperone, Sarah Beth, and I had those girls in line. Everyone had a buddy and we were constantly counting heads. One adult was in the back of the group and one in the front. No one would get lost one our watch!We had eight girls in the morning and eight girls several hours later when we joined up with one of the other groups.
No one did get lost on our watch, but someone got lost mere minutes after we joined up with the boys and that someone was my Annabelle. My little ball of anxiety and worry, lost in a crowd. I’m not going to assign blame but if I was, I’d point your attention to the third chaperone who took over as our leader. He booked it into the crowd walking so fast there was no way to keep the children together. The system Sarah Beth and I had perfected with our girls went out the window and into the sea turtle tank. Somehow in the shuffle, Sesame ended up ahead of the group. I went back to look, the dad went ahead and Sarah Beth stayed with a gaggle of children all giving advice on what to do. Thank the Lord, Annabelle was not alone. She was with her buddy and together they found a janitor and were borrowing his phone to call me when they saw the rest of our group. I have never been so thankful I drilled my phone number into her head for such a time as this. I didn’t tell Christopher about the small mishap until we got home. “BTW, I did lose your one and only offspring, but here she is safe and sound!”(God was in a crazy mood when He designed the stingray face.)
I went to SeaWorld when I was around 15 and have told Annabelle stories about the orca show and beluga whales for years. I love getting to bring her to the same experiences I had.
We returned home with all 23 children, four parents, one saintly children’s director, several new stuffed animals from the gift shop and the free souvenir of having lost a child.