I spent two days this week chaperoning a fourth grade field trip to Mackinac Island. I went primarily because my fourth grade daughter wouldn't go without me, but truth be told, I wouldn't have missed it for the world. There were about 80 kids on this trip and they were fabulous and tons of fun.
I've decided that the world would be a better place with more fourth graders, for the following reasons.
1. They know how to have fun
Fourth graders laugh when something's funny. Like flatulent horses pulling a carriage. They don't think about it, they just laugh. They don't think about how they'll look or what other people will think. If it's really funny, they laugh loud and long.
2. They know how to pitch in
They volunteer to pass things out. They volunteer to pick things up. When something needs doing, they don't think about it — they just do it.
3. They live in the moment
During our trip we visited Fort Michilimackinac and the Mill Creek Settlement in Mackinac City and the next day took the ferry to Mackinac Island and visited Fort Mackinac and other sites on the island. It was a lot to absorb and a lot to do, but they were excited and energetic and asked lots of questions every step of the way. They were there to experience and to learn. Instead of thinking about what was next, they were immersed in what was right in front of them.
4. They don't care about being "cool"
Not yet, anyway. They wear what they like and what's comfortable. They talk about what they want, without thinking about what someone else thinks. They prize what's unique about one another, rather than trying to be the same as everyone else. And after this trip, I'm going to give my daughter a break about her hair — I'm convinced no other fourth grader brushes their hair either.
5. They sing and sing loud
I know in a few years when these same kids are asked to sing, only dogs will be able to hear them. But on this bus trip, they sang a Mackinac Bridge song at the top of their lungs. And you should have seen a pack of boys singing Queen's "We Will Rock You" during karaoke.
6. They eat what they want
During our buffet dinner, one kid had a plate full of black olives and green beans. Another had ranch dressing and potatoes. And all of the salad-nibbling Moms and Dads who really just wanted a heaping plate of lasagna were jealous. And the kids weren't shy about asking for samples of fudge at every one of the 19 fudge shops on the island!
7. They know there's no such thing as a dumb question
At some point we grow a censor that tells us not to ask questions because the questions might be "dumb." If I recall correctly, this kicks in around sixth grade. But as many of us have learned, the "dumb" question often leads to great discoveries, or at least some great discussions.
8. If they're excited, they show it
My daughter went to bed early the night before the trip and woke up at 4:30 a.m. because she was just too excited about the field trip. Other parents reported the same phenomenon. The older we get, the less we show our enthusiasm about what's ahead. And it's sad, because the bigger our worlds get, the more there is to be excited about.
9. They ask for what they want
Can I see that? Are you going to finish that? Fourth graders aren't afraid to ask to see something or take a closer look where adults may hang back and not intrude. And they're never reluctant to ask for the rest of your potato chips.
10. They're still little kids on the inside
On the trip home, kids (like mine) who were inseparable from their friends most of the trip just wanted to be with Mom or Dad on the way home. They were tired. And the best part? When my daughter was asked what her favorite part of the trip was, she said it was that I came along with her and the time we spent exploring together.
I've said before that I spend as much time with my daughters as I can and participate in their activities as much as I can because I know it's only a matter of time before their lives away from our family get bigger and we'll spend less time together. I've heard it's when they go off to middle school. But for now, I have a fourth grader (and a second grader who'll be one all too soon) and will enjoy every minute I can.
Enjoy this view of Fort Mackinac!