Preparation is everything
This week my eldest son is on a residential school trip in the Lake District.
He will be sleeping in a tent, cooking his own food and has been given a schedule that appears to involve long, exhausting and spectacularly muddy days.
Judging by how excited he and his classmates were at the prospect of swapping their comfortable home lives for all this, I’ve started to wonder if we parents ought to be insulted.
Of course, school trips like these are not supposed to be about en-suite bathrooms, luxury toiletries or fancy clothes.
They’re about discovering the great outdoors, connecting with the environment and not being overly worried if you fall into a cow pat or end up knee deep in a lake (I can guarantee my child will do both of the above – repeatedly).
You’d think that all this getting down with nature meant that schools could keep the price of the trip down and not clobber parents just before they’ve got to pay for their own summer holiday.
But while the cost of the trip itself was minimal, that’s never the whole story.
I discovered quickly when I read the kit list he was sent home with, that, by the time I’d gone out and bought all the paraphernalia apparently required, I’d be on the verge of needing a second mortgage.
Packing my son’s bag in preparation took all weekend, that is no exaggeration.
It involved hours of labelling underpants, shampoo bottles and various other items to which I never dreamt I’d have to apply indelible ink.
There were several trips to the shops when I realised that the insect repellent we had in contained Deet (apparently a banned item), that our sun cream wasn’t strong enough and our water bottles not big enough.
And while I appreciate that most schools that take part in these trips do tell parents to ‘only pack old items of clothing’, what happens if you don’t happen to have ‘seven old pairs of trousers, but not jeans’ knocking about?
You might say this is my own fault for only clothing my kids in vaguely presentable attire.
But surely in most people’s houses, if clothes are completely knackered, you get rid of them. I’ve never thought to keep hold of any in case they were required for a spot of mud-wrestling at some point in the future.
By the time we were finished, his bag was the size of a small mobile caravan and I had to get me and two other kids to sit on it to get the zip closed.
Still, nobody can claim he’s not prepared.