Thursday morning my sweet Little Missy sweetly asked if I’d bring lunch to them at school and my insides reacted in a panic with fluttering tummy and immediately raised blood pressure. Walking into their school with fast food during lunch dragging a baby with me is a task that requires more energy and patience than is natural to me.
But then I remembered that Baby Chickadee is no longer a baby, and with her spring into toddler-hood I no longer have to carry drinks and food bags while maneuvering a stroller around corners and thru doorways.
So I looked at my sweet daughter and said yes.
I never get the timing right on bringing food to the kids. Either I am too early and all the food is cold by the time we eat or I am rushing into the school and shoving innocent school children out of the way so that I can sit next to my offspring. Thursday I was too early, and being very selfish, I ate my food in the truck while we waited as Baby Chickadee hollered from the back seat, “Ooh, what dat SMELL?” My children don’t notice cold fast food; I do. And I rationalized that it was one less bag to bring into the school.
When it was time to go inside Baby Chickadee HELPED me carry in the food. This was huge for me, as you can tell by my capitalized letters. Not only am I not pushing her in the stroller, now she is walking alongside me with two kids meals in her hand. Getting out of the baby stage rocks.
Once in the cafeteria we waited just a couple of minutes until Little Missy’s grade came in and we became The Spectacle. All you parents who eat with your kids at school, do you not feel like the center of attention? The children are walking by and waving at you or asking whose parent you are and patting your toddler on the head while the lunch helpers try to maintain order. I always feel a bit guilty at this point for causing a commotion.
Little Missy came in and we sat down and then I barely talked to her. Because when I eat lunch with my children I am next to them, but I’m not really with them; instead all the other children are vying for my attention and telling me stories about themselves and their families and what happens when their brother gets his lip pierced by his girlfriend. It’s all very eye-opening and I wonder what stories my children tell to perfect strangers.
But Little Missy was happy and let me smother her with a bear hug and kisses on the cheek before she left. Then it was time to move tables in preparation for G’s class. And when the girls in his grade saw The Spectacle of Baby Chickadee, we were immediately surrounded by girls. Which did not bother my son three years ago during his kindergarten year, but now most certainly bothers him in his third grade year. With pink cheeks he looked at me with panicked eyes. “Mom, I’m surrounded by girls.” Luckily one of his best friends had already grabbed a spot on the other side of him, otherwise it would have been the trauma that could have ruined the rest of his day. And that was about all we talked during lunch, because the girls talked to me about Baby Chickadee and their brother on the football team and everything else that popped into their minds.
Page 2 of 2 - My struggle with elementary school lunches is that right now most of the kids like talking to me and I want to keep that. My hope is that someday all my son’s and daughters’ friends will like me and want to come over to our house. But that has to start a little bit right now; I don’t want those children to remember a flustered and semi-upset Erin during school lunches. So I dig down and find extra energy to keep smiling for 40 minutes while talking (semi-yelling, in all honesty) to kiddos who are very sweet but very demanding of my time.
And then Baby Chickadee and I came home and I sat on the couch while she watched TV, because my brain needed a break. And my time in the Lincoln lunchroom is over for at least another month.
Erin Fox is a weekly columnist for the Augusta Gazette . Her popular blog - erin’s little corner can also be found on our webpage, www.augustagazette.com.