The Field Trip

He came around the corner, distraught, and found me in the family room.

His face broke.

Tears gathered and fell.

“Mommy just told me you can’t come on the field trip.”

Small sob.

“I want you there,” he said. “I want you to go. I want to be with my daddy.”

He wrapped his arms around my waist and buried his face into my shirt.

I put my hand on his head and told him I was sorry.

“I have to work,” I said. “I want to go, too. I wish I could. But I have to work.”

I told him we could make our own family field trip. I told him to think of adventures we could have on the weekend.

The tears stopped. He stepped back. Our own field trip? That sounded promising. He seemed to feel better.

I did not.


The next morning I got into my car and began my commute as usual. I fought the traffic along the expressway and watched the sun come up.

When I reached the exit for my office, I kept going. My son wanted me there. I was going to go on that field trip. It wasn’t far, just up the interstate at the state fairground. A place where old Florida has been reconstructed out of antique buildings that were moved there from their original homestead sites. It’s a pretty, shaded village, a living set torn from the pages of a Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings novel.

I maneuvered through the downtown morning rush hour traffic and made it to the fairground ahead of the kids. I parked my car. I talked my way through the gate. The guard said he had a son, too. He understood.

When the bus arrived, I stood there smiling. Excited kids filed off and I looked for my son. He bounced off the bus chattering to friends, excited to be there. Then he spotted me.


He ran to me and grabbed me in a hug.

“You’re here! I can’t believe it! This is awesome!”

“I know, bud,” I said. “It is awesome. It really is. Hey, let’s go look at that old train station. It looks pretty cool.”

We explored the village, ate some kettle corn, pet some farm animals and had a great time making a memory.


No. That did not happen.

I battled the traffic, took my exit, and showed up to work. He went on the field trip with other chaperones, other kids’ parents.

We will have our own, personal field trip. But it’s not the same. I know it, and he knows it. That’s why he cried.

I wanted to be there. I should have been there. I could not be there.

It didn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel right.

We can’t have it all. I know that. We understand reality. There is school, there is work, there are hours apart. Our family handles it as well as we can, just like every family.

But sometimes, if only for a day, it might be nice to have a little more. Sometimes, it would be nice to be there.

Tampa Sunrise

Tampa sunrise from the office. Beautiful view. Somewhere out there, there’s a field trip happening.

67 thoughts on “The Field Trip

  1. Very touching post, Carter. I’ll admit I dropped a couple tears for you reading it. So many things like this get me so emotional right now. Well done my friend.

  2. Very touching post, Carter. I’ll admit I dropped a few tears for you while I read it. So many posts like this get me so emotional right now. You want to be there for everything, and when you can’t it kills you a little more inside. Well done my friend.

  3. Every parent can understand where your coming from as we all have been there. Nicely written.
    P.S. I was excited when I thought you actually went. Wouldn’t that have been cool? Bummer. Oh well.

  4. Damn, Carter! You had me going for a moment there, but then pulled an Episode V and penned the sad and all-too-familiar real-life ending. I have a friend who is amazingly able to put his family’s time first above all else, and does so at the risk of his various jobs, of which he has had many. He survived a freak fishing vessel shipwreck in the Pacific, up near Alaska, and after that, he swore he would never put work above the people he loves. I admire him for that and am slowly learning to adopt some of the risks he takes (and gets away with). I’m always amazed by how some employers/bosses are willing to look the other way when such a noble sacrifice is the reason for one’s absence. Thanks for writing this!

    • The place I work is pretty good about flexibility. I only have a certain number of days off each year, though, and they’re basically all booked already. I try to read in class at least once a year for both boys, but I can usually squeeze that in on my lunch hour. Ideally, I’d have a work-from-home schedule with enough flexibility to allow me to do things like this on a regular basis. I know it would mean a lot to the boys and to me. Maybe one day. Meanwhile, I also know we’ve got it so much better than a lot of families, and I try never to take for granted the time we do get together (which is considerable, actually).

  5. After returning home from Children’s ER at 4am Monday morning, I awoke at 6:30 and was on the bus with Sara’s class at 9am to chaperone her field trip as promised. The teacher tried to send me home due to my utter exhaustion and visible remaining concern over Ethan. I declined. Sara needed me there and I was thankful that I could be there for her. There were many moms and dads who wanted to be there and couldn’t. For one, I had taken one of three chaperone spots. Field trips.
    Your story brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing, Carter.

  6. Awe your post made me teary-eyed! It is hard when you can’t make events for loved ones….but the important thing is that you care! 🙂 (And still had an amazing bonding experience as a result.) My Daddy had to miss most of my field trips but we found other father/daughter activities that, as an adult, mean so much more to me!

  7. Whoa, buddy! I can relate to that! I’ve made that sacrifice and I’ve thrown caution to the wind and skipped out on work to do stuff. Everything has a price and we each do the best we can in that moment. I especially love that you mentioned that we can’t “have it all”. Allowing these tough lessons to happen and gritting my teeth while my son and I push through is difficult. I decided my latest life skill that I would learn with my son was this- how to weather disappointments with grace and resilience. That means I have to relax and let them happen. I don’t like doing that. Well said here.

  8. It sucks, I know. You’re doing what you need to do for your family. I know I’m in a privileged position to stay at home. Even so I am unable to volunteer in the classroom much (if at all) or attend field trips due to having younger kids. It’s tough. Do the best you can.

  9. I’ve just accepted a full time web development position at the school my daughters have attended for the past 13 years and will be at for 2.3 more years. I think you know why. Thanks for sharing! I’m sure you’ll balance this out with future experiences.

  10. Years ago in Ft. Lauderdale I had the same experience. I worked three jobs to put food on the table, a roof over the head and electricity to watch television. Finally I went on a vacation but my mind kept going back to work. I do not know if I was a workaholic or not. I blogged about how I missed out but I have a great wife and she raised the kids well. But I still missed some great moments. I empathize.

    • Thank you for sharing that. It’s a balancing act, and I know our family has it much better than others. I left a demanding position in journalism when our first son was born because I knew I couldn’t handle the time constraints. So, now it’s better, and I cherish every moment. I just wish I could do more.

      • Hang in there and be patient. Remember your child is so important that the hours of work are not so important. Balance is tough but necessary. I am a tough guy and I teared up at the end of Field of Dreams. The whole movie is about a catch between a father and son. I realized my dad never had catch with me. I called my son and we went out and had a catch.

  11. Your son did not have you on his field trip that day – but he learned something valuable from your example. That life has limits, that duties sometimes have to come first, that responsibilities sometimes suck and still have to be fulfilled. Those are lessons he will need in his life.

  12. I don’t have any children yet, but when I was one my father was often gone. Either working late or on business trips that lasted what felt like forever. I cried and hugged him and missed him. But those aren’t the things that I remember. When he was home he made time for me, just like you’re doing for your son. 20 years from now, he won’t remember that you missed a field trip, he may not remember the field trip at all. What he will remember are all the times you spent together, at the park or beach or anywhere. You seem like a good dad. Go easy on yourself, okay?

  13. aww 😦
    My heart broke when you said it didn’t happen.

    But I know what you mean. Boooo.

    • Military families have it the worst, I know. We had that when my brother and I were little. I’ve never actually talked to my dad about what it was like to be apart from us for 13 months when he was in Vietnam. I should do that.

  14. But I’m willing to bet when your son is 18 it’s the personal field trips he’s going to remember. why am I so sure that will happen for you? Because my son just turned 18 and told me something similar.

  15. If your lucky, you will have time later in life to do all the things you know you missed doing with your kids because of work, with your grandkids

    Regards and good will blogging

  16. What a great attitude you have. Your kids are lucky to have you as their role model with your great way of thinking! Bravo. Have another great day of field trips today!

  17. I have a son – Raymond, he is 6 yrs old. I almost cried reading this post at the office. I can relate, this always happening to me specially when my son had a field trip. It’s his vacation time here in Ph right now and he is always asking why I don’t have vacation like school did, I said its because office is different than school, and he said can you just work at school as a teacher. Sighh I know the feeling. Thank you for posting. Have a great day!

  18. I love this! Every parent feels this way about something. I only work part-time, and it’s hard when your children ask you not to go to work. However, it is important for children to see their parents go to work. It’s my opinion, and also what gets me through those moments sometimes.

  19. You are right. Our society does not make work-life balance easy. I worked at home for years while my husband was in school so I could be with my kids at the right moments (and so we had good health insurance). In truth I was often distracted trying to figure out how to get that work done. I remember doing a lot of proofreading at public parks while the kids were playing. In truth it is these moments, not the field trips, where I wish I had been more present.

  20. Dear Dad, my ex up and left me over dinner with a 6 month old baby. It’s been almost a year. I would sometimes walk around in a daze the first few months. I wanted to stop dad’s on the street (sometimes I did). I wanted to understand what they had such that they stayed in and my husband couldn’t. Thanks you for answering my question. Showing up. Authentically. Wholly. Awkwardly. Honestly. For ourselves, for our loved ones is the more than enough.

  21. Dear Mr Gaddis, how I can empathize with you!! We in the family have three sons & a daughter. Our daughter (the youngest) is working in South Korea and my youngest son in USA. We live in South Africa and for us as parents, it is heartrending to be removed sooo-far from our children especially in the perilous times that we live in (as parents our kids never grow up!!!). You know what Mr Gaddis? Our Creator blesses us as parents with children to mould us and to shape us into role models that they want to become. This great commission we gladly fulfill with love and impart unto them hope, expectation and above all LIFE. They in return give us unconditional love and TRUST us with the little “fears” in their little hearts so strengthening the bond between child & parent. Please take encouragement today that what you have taught your son “today” he shall never forget, no matter how much we top about our own short comings – he knows you dearly love him and will not depart from that. When they stand before you with their twinkling eyes, full of excitement, energy and expectation, we as parents want only the best for them and we would gladly take on the whole world to give them what their little hearts desire. But, your son will one-day realize as “franhunne4u” so rightfully alluded to, “that life has limits, that duties sometimes have to come first, that responsibilities sometimes suck and still have to be fulfilled.

  22. Your entry made me tear a little maybe because that’s the reality most families will have to face.

    Great post.

    Hang in there & know that some parent out there knows EXACTLY how you feel.

  23. Thank you to everyone who has left a note here and shared your insight. I truly appreciate every one of you taking the time to read and comment. It means the world to me!

  24. Awww I love this! I’m a single parent and it hurts when I can’t be there. I try hard but sometimes under the circumstances being the only parent I can’t but I try hard in other ways to make it up to them!

  25. Thanks for putting this out there and for caring so much. Seems to me our societies are just not built so that we can show and act on our caring effectively. How do we build a society in which our caring takes precedence and first row? It seems to me this would be an interesting thing to think about

  26. I feel like every day there are moments when my boys break down and cry. Some are silly (fights over a dumb toy) and others feel more meaningful. We can’t be everywhere, but I think the takeaway from your post is that your son dearly wanted you to join him, and while it wasn’t possible you did the next best thing – plan an extra special trip that will trump the field trip. Lucky boy.

  27. Oh man, that was gut-wrenching. There is nothing worse than letting our kids down but I love the times when we build them up too. Great post!

  28. This was really touching, Carter. I think we’ve all been there, but it’s tough and it teach children that they aren’t the center of everyone’s lives. However, I’m sure one day you could surprise him by taking him out of school and on a surprise field trip. I always wanted my dad to do that!

  29. Yeah. This is incredible. None of us wants to be Robin Williams from the beginning of the movie Hook. It’s a terrible feeling when you feel the weight of the mundane priorities pulling you away from the diction your soul is pulling you. Thanks for sharing.

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