3WhiteKidsinCarChaperoning on a field trip isn’t every woman’s cup of tea: the noise, the confusion, the fact that you have to hold your tongue when you’d like to be frank about some of the behaviour that gets ignored.

Then again, chaperoning is a great plan if you want to know your child’s peers and get that volunteer gig over with all at once. If you’ve chaperoned a field trip, none of the other parents will try to guilt-trip you.

The kids, on the other hand, may grill you. Kids are full of curiosity about the planet, the stars, the world around them (when they’re not holding a Nintendo DS) and the personal history of the adult guiding them through the art museum, the zoo or setting up the tent during a class overnight on The Oregon Trail. Suddenly you may have to out yourself to answer truthfully—though age-appropriately—the inquisitive questions the students pelt you with. It can get complicated even if your kid has primed them by letting everyone know she’s from a two-mom family.

But before I get all flustered and think I have to re-write the birds and the bees talk or whip out a flow chart, I remind myself that I’m just as boring to them as any other adult (because it’s all about them until they turn 26). Even if kids ask for info, they don’t want my life story.

Then I try to respond in a calm, matter-of-fact manner, just as any heterosexual parent might to a question that elicits a gender-specific response—“Yes, I’m married,” “Her name is Judy,” “Yes, that’s a girl name, she’s a girl.” A third will get it and not care, another third will not get it and not care, and the last third might look at me quizzically or say “Ewww.” Chances are within ten seconds all of them will be bored with the conversation and across the room checking out a shiny object.

“Why doesn’t [insert your child’s name] have a dad?” is virtually guaranteed to come up sometime during your volunteering career, so be prepared. I go with mushy responses like—“She has two mommies instead” or “Not all kids have a mom and a dad; some have two moms, some have two dads, there are all kinds of families.” When I’m lazy I answer, “Because I didn’t marry a man”

With a long trip, like that three-day John Day Fossil Beds field trip of 2005, you want to be out before you chaperone, if you don’t want to find yourself socially segregated. Being out already prevents the possibility of getting ostracized after you’ve arrived 100 miles into the desert with a bus-load of conservative parents.

But mostly, it’s a pleasant surprise when you out yourself as a field trip chaperone, both by how open the parents and teachers are and by the number of kids who have gay parents, lesbian aunts and same-sex couples next door they’d like to chat about once they realize you’re gay. We are everywhere after all.