“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a lunch and eat with a child.” Dr. Seuss
That’s not exactly how the famous Dr. Seuss quote goes, which in reality encourages adults to pick up a book and read to a child. However, the concept is the same. I discovered that truth today as I picked up meals for my grandsons, Oliver and Joey, and joined them for lunch at their school. Armed with chicken nugget dinners from Chick-Fil-A and a couple of drinks, I visited them for the first time in their school cafeteria, for lunch, fun and great conversations.
Oliver, who is in first grade, appeared first for lunch. This bright eyed boy had forgotten, he said, that I was coming, so there was a bit of the element of surprise as I watched him walk into the cafeteria. His grin was infectious when he spotted me. He selected a place for us to sit and I sipped on my tea while he tucked into his lunch. The throng of children in the busy cafeteria was overseen by teachers on lunch duty and a man I later discovered was the school principal. The atmosphere was a balanced mix of cheerfulness and efficiency. The children have about 30 minutes to eat and they are, thankfully, allowed to talk amongst themselves.
Oliver and I visited while he ate and he shared about his day and then his weekend. He is a good conversationalist and knows the “trick” that I taught my children when they were small to ensure a continued flow of words…he asks questions. While we chatted he asked me about my weekend and what I had done. As our lunch time wound down, I promised to watch him perform stunts on his bicycle when I brought Aubrey home later in the afternoon, after picking her up from school. It is very important to Oliver to be seen and appreciated for what he can do. I love being a witness to his life and offering praise and encouragement for his feats and accomplishments. With a warm hug and another flash of his charming smile, he sauntered out of the cafeteria and back to class.
I had 15 minutes to wait until Joey’s class had lunch. I swung around on the picnic style bench I was seated on and observed the kids and the adults who walked among the tables, talking to the kids, giving instruction and mopping up the occasional spill. I was impressed with the interaction between the teachers on lunch duty and the kids. And the man whom Joey identified as the school principal was amazing, actually. Wearing a mic so that he could be heard over the chatter of kids and the lines of feet moving in and out of the large room, he was part informant, part traffic director and part entertainer. He kept up an easy banter and watched over the room with practiced expertise. I enjoyed watching him. Joey informed me this is a daily ritual in his school and I found that refreshing. Rather than being seen as just the authoritarian in the school, this upbeat man was more an ally for the kids and the teachers and certainly respected by the children as well. They also laughed at his jokes.
Joey was looking for me as he entered the room and we immediately moved to a new spot among the tables. This sweet boy is a third grader this year. He shared stories with me as he ate his chicken nuggets and like his brother, asked me questions as well. Joey is a budding artist and we spoke of art class and he also explained his rotating schedule to me. He enjoys PE class and music along with art. Today he had computer lab immediately after lunch. This generation begins working on computers while they are learning more traditional subjects like reading and writing. It is no surprise that my grandchildren are the ones who show me new technology and computer and phone shortcuts. They are growing up with it.
After Joey finished lunch and cleaned up our table area for both of us, he offered to give me a quick tour of his classrooms. I was delighted! I saw the computer lab and the music room, the art room and his homeroom. In each classroom, I met his teachers who were polite and welcomed me in, and I had the privilege of chatting with them for a moment. After we left his homeroom, Joey, ever helpful and thoughtful, walked me to the end of the hallway and pointed me in the right direction for the exit doors. I got a hug and a cheerful grin and unknown to him, I stood and watched him walk back the way we had come, a smile on my face.
Lunch with the boys was so fun that I intend to make this a monthly habit, along with lunch with Aubrey at her school, and lunch with Jonathan in his, if it is allowed. Dayan, alas, has grown beyond wanting to have lunch with his grandmother at his school, although we certainly enjoyed that ritual when he was in elementary school. It is such a small adjustment to make to my schedule to get to spend fun yet meaninful time with these kids. The thing that struck me today, sharing lunch time with Oliver and Joey, was that many kids would enjoy having an adult, whether a family member or a trusted friend, spend a little time with them, showing an interest in their lives, laughing and chatting with them. The children seated around the boys and me were very willing to join in our conversations. While I occasionally chatted with them as well, I also was careful to protect the time with each grandson. During that 15 minute gap between boys, I talked to kids and answered questions and defended Joey’s lunch from a young man who did his best to trade a school lunch for it! I believe there might be an organization that pairs caring adults with school kids at lunch time. I’m checking into that! In the meantime, I look forward to many more lunches with the grandkids, and more than that, the chats and laughter that accompany them.