The new school year has started for all of my grandchildren. The eldest, Dayan, is enjoying his first week at University of Missouri, living away from home for the first time. The four younger grandkids each began in a new grade and two started in new schools.
One of the things that I enjoy doing as a Yaya, is having lunch with each child at his or her school, several times during the school year. Today I kicked off the tradition by having lunch with grandson Jonathan.
The kids get to choose their lunches and Jonathan requested a sandwich from Subway. This was my first visit to his new school, home of the Purple Dragons. I had the honor of having lunch with a Dragon today, who happened to be dressed in orange, rather than purple.
I love these one on one times with the kids. Surrounded by the chatter and laughter of a hundred other children, the world closes in and that lunch becomes a time to give my attention solely to my grandchild. We talk. We laugh. I ask questions…and get asked questions in return. I don’t eat with the kids. I visit with them while they eat.
What clever, and colorful, lockers at Jonathan’s school, made to look like the spines of books.
Jonathan was happy to escort me to the cafeteria today. We talked about his new school and how he moves from classroom to classroom this year. His favorite class so far is science. We discussed the musical he just performed in and I got to hear his perspective as a performer while I shared mine as an audience member. Drama and music are areas this young man shines in.
We chatted about Dayan being away at the university and how he left behind some cool Doctor Who stuff. Jonathan’s face lit up when I told him I’m leaving next week to visit Ireland, Scotland and England. Ireland calls to Jonathan like Scotland has called to me my whole life. I’ll bring him back a souvenir from that Emerald Isle. And after he graduates from high school, I’ll take him there if he desires to go.
I’m looking forward to spending time with Jonathan in the months ahead, picking him up from school often and grabbing a snack, watching Doctor Who, or watching him play games or create YouTube videos. It was a tradition I began with Dayan, these after school hangouts, and I intend to continue with the other grandkids. As I have already experienced, they grow up so quickly.
Jonathan recently quipped to my daughter that he could be Dayan 2.0. He is a funny and clever boy, who knew Elissa was feeling the swirl of emotions that accompany having a child leave the nest.
I love this boy and his tender heart and his creative spirit. I just want him to be Jonathan, the beautiful, original version of himself. Because that is what the world…and his Yaya and family…needs. Jonathan being Jonathan is absolutely perfect.
I had the pleasure of having lunch with my granddaughter Aubrey today. Much to the chagrin of my grandsons, who will be in school about a week longer, today was her school’s last Friday of this school year. We celebrated the end of school and the beginning of summer with lunch from Sonic.
Aubrey requested corn dogs and a grape slushie, a meal she wouldn’t normally have at school. The first words out of her mouth as we slid into our seats was the revelation that today, the school lunch was….a corn dog! She found that irony funny. At least the school wasn’t serving slushies too!
Lunch times are very short for elementary school aged children. The kids have 20 minutes to get their lunches, eat and line up for recess. I understand the reasoning for the shortened time for eating. It just goes by so fast. I encouraged Aubrey to eat while we chatted about a variety of topics.
No time to pose for a pic…I caught Aubrey as she was taking a bite!
All of my grandchildren are great conversationalists. They share easily about their lives and ask questions about mine. Aubrey and I spoke about the end of school, summer vacation, friends, family, and how I know everyone! Aubrey thinks that because I know several of the teachers at her school. I love watching this bright girl’s eyes sparkle as she talks, and her expressive face. She makes me laugh and stirs my heart with her tender concern for others.
That 20 minutes flew by. One of the teachers in the lunchroom gave Aubrey 5 extra minutes since I was there. As the other first graders were lining up to go outside, Aubrey slurped down the rest of her purple slushie and gathered up her trash to throw in the big bin. I had already hugged her and kissed her good bye and managed to capture a quick selfie of the two of us.
Still seated at the table, I waved to her as she dusted off her hands over the trash bin and turned to trot across the cafeteria to join her classmates. Suddenly Aubrey swung around and ran back to me, a big grin on her face, her arms spread wide. I received the wonderful gift of another hug, a kiss and an “I love you” before she scampered off.
I’ll be having lunch with my three younger grandsons next week, as their school years are concluding too. Dayan, at almost 17, is happy with Chinese food after school. These are precious times. I’m storing up treasures in my heart. I might have left Aubrey at recess with a smile on my face and a joyful tear in my eye.
Today’s journey took me to Pittsburg, KS and the elementary school of my grandson, Jonathan. I have so enjoyed these school lunch breaks with my younger grandchildren, and today it was Jonathan’s turn.
He requested a chicken nugget meal from Wendy’s and a root beer. Standing near the cafeteria door, with lunch in hand, I watched for his third grade class to appear. Jonathan was all smiles when he spotted me and he escorted me to a booth in the lunch room. I thought that was cool, having booths in the cafeteria, along with the more traditional picnic table style seating.
Jonathan politely introduced me to his friends and the lunch helpers by saying, “This is my Yaya. She knows EVERYTHING about The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings!” That made me smile! As Jonathan ate we chatted about his school, his favorite part of school (recess) and his favorite activities. This intelligent, handsome young man, with bright blue eyes, enjoys Boy Scouts and has a developing interest in theater and acting. He has the gift of speaking well in front of others and without a hint of shyness. I’m excited to see where he goes with that ability!
Jonathan, like all my grandchildren, is a gifted communicator too. When they were young, I taught my kids that carrying on a conversation is like playing ball. When someone speaks to you, it’s like being tossed a ball. You throw it back, figuratively, by speaking back or asking a question. If you give a short answer or no answer, it’s like dropping the ball. My kids and their spouses have taught their children well. They are all excellent communicators, whether with other children or with adults.
It wasn’t long before Jonathan introduced Tolkien’s stories into our conversation. We had a lively talk about The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, sharing who our favorite characters are (Jonathan likes Frodo and Gandalf) and tossing out quotes and favorite scenes. This thoughtful boy asked me why I like the Middle Earth stories and movies so much and listened attentively as I shared that I like stories about transformation. And the Middle Earth characters all grow and become who they are destined to be, as they journey. Jonathan gets that. He’s on a journey as well, and growing into the person he is born to be.
All too soon it was time for Jonathan to go back to class. We hugged and discussed getting together again soon. As I started up the stairs, I heard Jonathan calling out “Yaya…Yaya!” I turned to see him bringing his teacher to meet me. He introduced me with the line about knowing EVERYTHING about The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, which made his teacher laugh. We had a pleasant chat. She remarked that I was a new grandmother for Jonathan and that he was fortunate to have so many grandparents who care about him. That’s so true! One can’t have too many loving grandparents. And I am blessed by having five beautiful grandchildren and fortunate to have Jonathan as one of them. This boy will travel far. I’m happy to accompany him on this part of his journey.
In the middle of a very busy and long day, what a delight to take a break and have lunch with my youngest grandchild and only granddaughter. Following on the fun lunch time with Oliver and Joey earlier in the week, I decided to join Aubrey at school today, and grandson Jonathan next week. She asked for shrimp and cocktail sauce for lunch, and for her Papa to join us. Greg was able to do that today. Picking up a shrimp dinner at Long John Silver’s, we arrived at the school just before Aubrey’s kindergarten class lined up for lunch.
I loved seeing this beautiful little girl’s face light up as she spotted us waiting for her in the cafeteria. I think it is great that kids who have guests present for lunch are allowed to choose where they want to sit. Aubrey led us to a table in the middle of the room. Her best friend, Marley, joined us as well, with her mom as her lunch guest. These two spirited girls look like they could get into quite a lot of mischief, under the right circumstances! During lunch, they were content to grin at each other and giggle together occasionally.
Aubrey enjoyed her shrimp, fries, soft drink and especially that cocktail sauce! Shrimp is a fairly recent addition to Aubrey’s list of favorite foods. What I didn’t realize is that she likes her shrimp “naked”, as she put it, without the crunchy coating on it. So that she could eat in the time allotted for lunch, I peeled her shrimp and she dipped it in the sauce! What a funny girl. I made a mental note to get plain shrimp next time….or two helpings of fried shrimp that could be stripped!
We chatted during lunch, this animated girl, Papa Greg, and I, discussing computer lab, which this kindergartener had just come from, and that it was, sadly, too cold for recess today. She asked about our day and the whole time, her bright eyes were taking in the noisy but pleasant surroundings, missing nothing. We were informed that there were more kids present during lunch than is normal. I wasn’t sure of the reason, maybe the colder weather today. A lunch helper told us that, I believe, in case we thought the noise level was too high. I was glad to see kids laughing and chatting and enjoying some free time before being back in class again. No explanation, and certainly no apology, necessary!
All too quickly, lunch time was over and after hugs goodbye, Aubrey left us to join her classmates as they prepared to head back to class. I texted a picture of our time together to her dad and stepmom. Her daddy, my son Nate, sent a text back saying that Aubrey had been very excited about lunch today, and recorded the anticipated event in her Book of Happy Thoughts. That touched my heart. One of the things I appreciate about Aubrey is her joyful, positive attitude. We started the Book of Happy Thoughts when she was 2 years old, in a journal that I had owned for years, yet had never written in. I gave her the small blue book and we began drawing pictures in it and writing about our fun times together. As she grew older, she took the book home with her and her dad now helps Aubrey to record special thoughts and events.
And here is the amazing thing about Aubrey and that small blue journal that is her Book of Happy Thoughts. It has a picture of Arwen on the front cover, being a journal that I purchased when the Lord of the Rings movies were first being produced, seven years before Aubrey was born. Arwen is posed with her sword, a picture from the scene where she fiercely protected Frodo from the Ring Wraiths. Aubrey loves that picture of Arwen, and her strength and beauty, characteristics I see in my granddaughter already. Even more amazing, Arwen is a High Elf, daughter of Lord Elrond. She is an elf princess. Aubrey’s name means, “elf ruler or elf princess”. I had no idea, when I purchased that small journal and saved it, that I’d someday have a granddaughter whose name would have a connection to Arwen on the cover. Or did I know it, somehow, at some level? What I do know is that journal, that Book of Happy Thoughts, definitely was meant for Aubrey, elf princess, the possessor of happy thoughts.
“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.