Lunchtime: Same as it Ever Was

 
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. 

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5 responses to “Lunchtime: Same as it Ever Was

  1. Wow, flashback city. I was Roan’s age when I got my first kiss and I remember the intense concern about cooties. Thank goodness those seem not to be a problem for the current generation.I also remember the seating game. I was on both sides of that game at various times in my school years, and can see now how it played a part in shaping my character. Very cool observations, Jodi. I wonder if there’s a PBS series to be made from this sort of study…

  2. I think it is good for parents to get this kind of view into their children’s life. When one knows how the kids around their child operate, they have a better idea of how their own child operates. It just takes a little time to get some meaningful insight. I would watch a PBS series on this. Good idea!

  3. Ah, the seating game… You know, I still suffer from a bit of anxiety about sitting in cafeteria environments as middle-aged person. I think it’s a kid flashback scene.I was incredibly shy as a kid; quiet & reserved. Nowadays, when I sit I just wade into the humanity of it all, ask if it’s okay to sit, and say hello and thank you to the person I’m sitting near. The mega-stress level/rejection feelings aren’t there, but there is that minute little hesitation about the whole scene.Exit the pay area and ready for contact…

  4. Kali and Giovani – I think there could be hours written or documented on this age. It seems so intense how they are developing all of these skills and experiences that will influence who they are in a permanent way. Call PBS and tell them I’m ready for my close-up.VA Biker – I feel the same moment of anxiety too. I guess it must come from those school cafeteria scenes. At least we don’t have to eat the food still – that would cause major panic for me.

  5. When I was a teenager I went out to check on the nephews, nieces and such. I was trying to get some kind of frakus apart when my grandfather called me over and told me to sit down and be quiet. I protested a bit, “Mom told me to find out what’s going on out here” He said “Then watch” “Huh?” “Be quiet and watch, they are doing just fine without you” pointing to the ones making the most noise. I sat and watched. Grandpa giggled at the moment something was progressing. It took me a while, but I soon saw they were truly working out their own problems (if memory searves me correctly; something to do with Tonka Trucks). These were toddlers, not able to speak more than 6 words between the two of them. Thus began my watching The Kingdom. The *Kingdoms* actually. There are 3 Kingdoms. One is Childhood, next is the Girlhood, and then the Kingdom of Boyhood. Although my father pointed out one time that “They are never little girls, they are *little women*” haha!Thank you for this insight into your wonderful schoolyard my dear :)You have viewed the Kingdom close up and survived. God bless you and your young Prince…Long Live The Kingdom.

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