It was delightful as well as eye opening to spend a few days traveling with kids from school. In many ways it was a peak into their worlds- how they live day to day outside of school, what impacts their decision making, how they plan, and all the little pieces that become a part of their day.
If any part of me was slightly resentful of the money and amount of fast food I've consumed during this event, it was all erased by watching one fifth grade girl. As we began to enter the hotel she started biting her finger nails and she whispered, "I've never been to a hotel before." Clearly nervous about it as we would our way through the lobby and into the elevator, her face changed as we showed the girls their room.
"This is just like the movies!" she exclaimed with joy. "Look how clean the beds are!"
"Wow, look at this bathroom! It's beautiful! This is amazing!"
Later, when she again brought up how clean the beds were I asked her if she'd been worried they wouldn't be clean.
"With all those people sleeping in them every night, all those travelers, I thought they'd be disgusting".
Of course. If you've never stayed in a hotel before, that sounds like a rational assumption.
As the first night went on it became clear that no one helped two of our little ones pack their suitcases for the trip. At first the head coach and I were horrified/frustrated. Really? You left for a two-day overnight without pajamas, a change of clothes, shoes, hair brush, etc, etc? But as I started to think about it I wasn't surprised.
I'm sure that no one helped this third grader and the fifth grader pack. If you've never been away from home before, and you've never packed a suit case before, how would you know what to pack? It seems like a no-brainer, but that's to us, who have been taught to make a mental checklist of everything we'll need, maybe walking through the steps of a day in order, thinking through what we'll be using at each step. (And to be honest, how many of us, who are 100% use to packing suitcases, have forgotten a toothbrush once and awhile?)
If you've had no experience with long-term planning then of course you wouldn't think about what you'll need in the future. You're brain just isn't use to thinking that way. For a third-grader packing herself- it is no surprise she forgot pajamas. Frustrating, yes, but no surprise.
Needless to say we had to make a Walmart run. (While there I picked up cheap tooth brushes and tooth paste because although no one had said it yet, I was pretty sure they'd all forgotten their tooth-care products. I left them in their room with a "just in case, you know, I always forget about my toothbrush as well!" and sure enough, the next day they were used.)
Another insight into our children's world came when it was time to go out to eat. When the topic came up of where to go, one boy announced he wanted salmon, only salmon. The others stared at him with confusion, asked what that was, and then quickly stated they wanted Taco Bell.
We managed to veto Taco Bell when we could, but eventually we ended up there, because, as the girls pointed out, it was the absolute cheapest. They would save lots of money if we ate there.
It's true- eating at Taco Bell helped their budget. What saddened me the most was how frequently the girls eat there at home. Quick, easy, cheap, and walking distance from their apartment, it became clear that they eat Taco Bell multiple times a week. In some ways Taco Bell is cheaper than cooking for a whole family, so of course, when their large family is busy and stressed and when money is not coming in, they head out to where they are guaranteed a cheap, hot meal. We can yell and scream and educate as much as possible about health and food and eating well, but how do you argue with cheap, filling food for a family with so little time and money?
What I loved about traveling with these girls was their absolute amazement in everything we did. They loved every moment of it- and were constantly telling me this was the furthest they'd been from home, the only hotel they'd ever stayed in, the first indoor pool they'd ever swam in, the first time they'd called for a wake-up call. One of them wanted to know the name for everything. She wanted the vocabulary for the experience and was constantly popping up at my shoulder, asking what something was called, and then repeating it, asking me to correct her pronunciation. Later she'd say it again, confirming that she was saying her new word correctly.
I loved the way this trip allowed me to see the students outside of our school in new ways- view inside their lives, all the while giving them a brand new experience they wouldn't have outside our team. Despite the amount of Justin Beiber I was forced to listen to, it was an amazing experience.
ps. The little boy did get his salmon with an Olive Garden trip with is parents one night. And yes, he ordered salmon and broccoli and ate every bite. I was ridiculously amazed. One of his achievements this trip was having Taco Bell for the first time. He was surprised by how good it was- his parents did not look impressed.