|When I’m wearing the Lunch Lady badge of honor at Roan’s school, the most interesting thing to me is how our children have already formed the social strata and hierarchy they will be in for their whole lives. There are the girls who don’t want to get dirty and the girls that really do not care. There are the boys who are fighting over the balls; there is the boy who sets himself to be bullied, and then the variations on every theme in between. I feel that when I get to hang out with these kids at lunch, without their parent’s watchful eye and guidance, I get a unique chance to see who they really are. Of course the drawback is I don’t really get to see Roan in this same way because of course, I am his mother. Still, I get to see him interact with all the other kids on their terms and it is an interesting spectacle.|
Some of the behavior is really transparent. Many of the kids who do not say “Hello” to me on the street when they are with their parents run up to me when I arrive on the play yard and throw their arms around me. I hug them back. I know I am just filling their Mommy Jonze, but that’s cool with me. I love that they can get a fix of Mother Love from pretty much any random mother.
Some behavior really confuses me. I realize that all my impressions of children and what works for them is based on my experiences with Roan. My experiences are clearly not universal. For instance, a child yesterday was distraught because he couldn’t find his lunchbox when it was time to go eat. I did everything I could think of to calm him, including walking hand-in-hand with him to the line to get him a school lunch. Finally another boy ran up to him and handed him the missing lunchbox. The reaction of the distraught boy was so intense and emotional that it left me a little concerned. He threw his arms around the other child, and exclaimed “Thank you thank you thank you!” over and over until the kid lost patience and wriggled out of the hug. The boy then spent the entire lunch kissing the found box and couldn’t be convinced to open it to eat. I’m guessing there’s more going on there than I know, but it reminded me that you just couldn’t pretend to understand children as a whole, because they are not a breed. They are highly stylized and unique creatures.
|As it turns out, the kissing games are happening everywhere. Two boys whose fathers I know wouldn’t be impressed kept sneaking kisses on each other with the same playfulness as a game of tag. I loved the hysterical laughter that would come and the innocence they still possessed. But that innocence seems to be lost in the seating game, which is easily the most painful part for me to watch in the 55 minutes I’m there. It has always been and I guess always will be a cruel game of who is “in” and who is “out”. Some children will walk around the lunchroom for most of the time allotted, just trying to find one person to sit by. Some children have friends fighting over who gets to sit next to them. I suppose the upside is that I’ve noticed it isn’t always the same ones who are “in” and “out”. It seems to rotate, so possibly kids get to learn what each situation feels like.|
These boys and girls are so complicated and more interesting than anything I’ve seen on National Geographic. I can see their parents reflected in them, but they all definitely have their own distinctive flavor. One request to any of my readers who may send their child to Roan’s school: please stop screwing the lids so tightly on their thermoses. It does little to confirm my boundless strength when they see me making ridiculous faces trying to get those suckers undone.