Earlier this week I found myself at the kids school at lunch time for a birthday lunch with Hunter. And since I was going to all the effort to go grab food and go to the school, I figured I would stick around the lunchroom a little longer so I could enjoy lunch with Bennett and Hallie as well.
Here are a couple observations from Monday’s lunch experience.
- The lunch room is loud. When I first walked in, it was just two kindergarten classes and grew progressively louder the more kids that entered the space. I didn’t realize just how loud it was until I stepped out for a minute and walking back in hurt my ears. I don’t think it was any louder than most cafeterias but I’d forgotten how chaotic that space is. And I love that there is not a teacher in sight in that cafeteria – that means they’re getting a much deserved break! Instead, the cafeteria was being manned by a few classroom aids and some lunchroom workers and the saint of a man who was going behind all the kids picking up trash and cleaning up their messes.
- There is so much food wasted. This is just my observation, but those that brought their lunch seemed to eat the majority – those that purchased food ate a fraction. Like one bite out of the hamburger and didn’t even touch their fruit. So much food was thrown away. I kept reminding kids that they didn’t have much time left and they better eat – they looked at me like I had horns. My persuasion did nothing, they threw away the majority. I wanted to take a picture of every plate and send it to their parents! I’ll become the crazy volunteer lunch mom – policing the eating behaviors of kids. I was told by the aid in Bennett’s class that he eats his lunch the same way every day. He takes crackers and pepperoni and he stacks them up – and takes a bite out of the whole stack. I told the aid, “That’s not good – I’m sure he makes a huge mess every time he does that.” She agreed and she came up with the solution that he could eat over his lunch box so all the crumbs are contained.
- There were too many little kids eating alone. I was drawn to the kids that were sitting by themselves at the end of a bench and I couldn’t help but wonder why they were sitting alone. Do they not have friends? Do they have anxiety in chaotic environments? Do they really enjoy reading and would rather read than talk? I asked Hunter about a girl one table over. “Does she sit alone every day?” He shrugged unsure as to her eating routines. Then I realized, kids often don’t notice everything going on around them. They need to be trained and retrained to notice things such as a kid eating alone. They need to create buddy benches in cafeterias just like they’ve done for recess. If you don’t have someone to eat with, sit at this table which signals other kids you need someone to eat with. Did I mention I need to be the volunteer lunch mom?!
- Kids enjoy their parents visiting for lunch. I keep thinking Hallie is going to grow out of it, but she still enjoys it and her friends love on her little brothers that tag along. Hunter’s eyes lit up when he caught my eye across the cafeteria and he rushed over, and his friends were right behind him. And Bennett…oh Bennett – everything is still so new to him and this was the first time he’d seen me at lunch time and he was so excited. He was a little crazy, he was so excited. He kept leaning over and hugging me and telling me he loves lunch. He was pointing out all his friends and all the funny things they’ve ever said. He wanted to share everything with me.
It was serious effort to get out the door with the two littles, grab food and sit through three lunches (with time to spare in between) but it was worth it. And going to school always teaches me something, even when I’m not the student.