My daughter had been harassing me to have lunch at school with her for some time now. I’d put it off for a while because the only day I could easily go was the one morning a week I had to myself. I admit, I was being selfish. Sometimes a person just wants to run errands, get groceries, or exercise without a small entourage surrounding him or her. To go have lunch with my daughter meant I would be giving up a chunk of that time, me time.
Finally after a month of snow days, forgetfulness, guilt and curiosity I decided I would do it. I packed my lunch and headed in, unannounced.
The first step in the lunch process was sitting and waiting in the school office. As I sat, in ten minutes of awkward silence across from the two secretaries, it started to feel as if I was in trouble and waiting to see the principal. As you can tell, some days still I don’t feel like a 37-year-old man.
As I waited, another parent showed up to have lunch with her kid too. I felt overmatched as the mom entered carrying an overflowing bag of Jimmy John’s and two sodas. I imagined the bag had one of those gigantic chocolate chip cookies in it for her kid too. I sat uncomfortably holding my plastic grocery sack containing and apple and a pbj.
Was I doing this wrong? Was there some sort of unspoken protocol that you were supposed to bring in “special” food to eat with your kid? It’s amazing how fast your brain can think of all the ways you are potentially going to disappoint your daughter.
None if it mattered as the second graders made their way, single-file, down the hallway. My daughter busted her way out of line shouting, “Daddy, Daddy,” then she ran up and gave me a big hug. She was so excited to see me. She grabbed onto my hand and walked me to her table.
She seemed to enjoy sharing part of her world with me; Introducing me to friends at her table, showing me around the lunch room, etc. There was no protocol for “special lunches.” My daughter didn’t care what food I did or didn’t bring. She was just happy that I was there, with her.
I enjoyed talking to her friends. We had some great conversations, mainly about school. One girl told me she had a fake peanut allergy because she didn’t want to have to eat it. The same girl also told me she had a “for real” allergy of feathers around her neck. I told her that I was allergic to second graders, which just seemed to confuse her.
Over the course of twenty minutes, the kids spent about three of those minutes actually eating their food. The “hot lunch” kids ate breadsticks and peaches, the “sack lunch” kids had quite a variety of items including: Lunchables, fruit snacks, soup. and strawberries. One girl even brought a chocolate brownie that was the size of her head. She wouldn’t even give me one bite, no matter how many times I asked.
I know my daughter won’t always enjoy having lunch with me at her school. In a few short years, I’m sure she’ll be too embarrassed to have me within ten feet of her and her friends, but for now I’m going to enjoy it as much as I can. And, come to find out, the “overachieving” mom that brought in all the Jimmy Johns’s, was celebrating her daughter’s birthday at school that day. Not an overachiever, just a mom being a good mom and me being an overreacting dad.