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Naturally, I only realized this as we were idling in the school’s drop-off line. The teacher managing the car line opened the rear door, as she does every morning, and I said, Okay, Fletcher, grab your bag. Have a great day, as I do every morning. Only this time his black knapsack emblazoned with the school logo, the same one he picks up every morning on the way out the door, was not in the car. En route to the car, he’d grabbed his three favorite stuffed animals and the paperback encyclopedia of every Pokemon character that has ever existed … and left the knapsack, containing the hot lunch I’d made him right by the laundry room door, where it always sits, waiting to be picked up, every single day.
So I pulled out of the car loop and into a parking spot, then walked in to confer with Fletcher’s teacher about the best way to handle the Forgotten Lunch Situation. Our Montessori school has an interesting way of dealing with forgotten lunches, and it wasn’t going to involve me simply fetching his lunch box for him.
“We’re not going to rescue him,” Mrs. S reminded me as we talked just inside the classroom door. I’d read about the “no rescue” policy in the new parent handbook that had been given out before the first day of school. But I hadn’t understood what exactly that would mean in terms of ensuring that a kid who didn’t bring lunch ended up having something substantial to eat once lunch time rolled around. It’s not like our fledgling charter school had a cafeteria where I could have pre-paid the day’s lunch. And while there were always plenty of healthy munchies available at the snack table, I knew my son wouldn’t make it till 3 pm on handfuls of the Cheerios and raisins alone. The kid was going to need some protein.
Still, Mrs. S didn’t want me to just run home and return with his knapsack. Forgetting lunch shouldn’t be an offense punishable by starving, she explained. But she did want Fletcher to learn something from his oversight. My “rescuing” him wouldn’t do anything to help instill that sense of personal responsibility — the fourth “R” if you will — that is just as important in Montessori teaching as reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.
Mrs. S assured me that the “classroom community” would not allow Fletcher to go hungry — a very good lesson in taking care of those in our community when they need help. But as generous as I knew his classmates would be in offering up portions of their lunches, the classroom also has a no sharing policy for kids lunches. And really, other children shouldn’t have to sacrifice their lunches to feed my child when I could just as easily bring him something to eat.
Instead Mrs. S came up with an ingenious ruse to make it appear as if Fletcher’s lunch would be cobbled together from classroom supplies and the teacher’s lunches. In the end, I did go home and put together a turkey sandwich, a bottle of water and a banana. There was no Star Wars water bottle, no Spiderman thermos keeping his hotdogs warm. It looked like any brown bag lunch that any adult would take to work. And from that, Mrs. S said, she would “share” with Fletcher.
So this was a bit of a roundabout … all right, sneaky way of teaching Fletcher his actions would have consequences while still providing a safety net and demonstrating that his community would stand by him in a moment of need. I’m fairly confident he’ll get over having to eat a turkey sandwich rather than the turkey hotdogs he’d been hoping for.
And, yes, this did mean extra work and time on my part to procure a masquerade lunch.
But if it means that Fletcher won’t forget his bag again this year — and here’s hoping! — well, I’d say that was time and effort well-spent.
Reader question: What do you do when your kid forgets lunch?
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When I picked him up from tennis camp last week, did I hear about the forehands and backhands I’d spent a boodle for him to learn? Nope. However, I did get an earful about Anna Clare. Fletcher talked about Anna Clare as he buckled himself into his car seat. He talked about Anna Clare on the drive home. He was still talking about Anna Clare as we shared a post-camp snack. In fact, the Anna Clare Monologue was the most I’d heard about anything camp-related since summer started. The week before, Fletcher had been at Lego Camp – a thrill-o-minute experience if ever there was one. But no matter how many ways I phrased the seemingly straight-forward question What did you do today? he refused to say. It was like trying to pry information from an enemy combatant. I considered water-boarding just to find out who he had lunch with. But on the topic of Anna Clare? He was like a 24-hour news channel – All Anna Clare. All The Time.
“So, is Anna Clare your new friend?” I squeezed the question in when he took a breath.
“Mommy,” he said, impatient that I wasn’t keeping up with the conversation. (Clearly, I am the densest person my child has ever encountered in all of his five world-weary years.) “Anna Clare is my girlfriend.”
A girlfriend. Right. Apparently we’ve skipped over the Girls Have Cooties portion of childhood and landed smack in a Barry White Period. Any moment now, I expected him to start crooning, Darling, I … Can’t get enough of your love, Babe…
Not that it was a huge surprise that the kid likes the ladies. He’s had some wicked crushes lately. There was Anjali, Grace, Aris, Mariel, Johti, Raina, Autumn — I think that’s everyone. He doesn’t seem to have a type – the girls are a mix of blondes, brunettes and redheads — unless “older” counts as a type. To their credit, they’d all good-naturedly indulged his puppyish affections. But Anna Clare … she was the first to be accorded Girlfriend status. And I wasn’t quite ready to deal with that. I’d planned on at least another decade of Legos, pirate ships and Disney movies, before having to contemplate girlfriends and all that entailed.
So I did what any respectable mom does in a situation she doesn’t want to face: I wrapped myself in some sturdy denial, put on some blinders, jammed my fingers in my ears, buried my head in the sand … and any other cliché you can think of for avoiding reality. In this instance, I figured, apathy was my best policy. In a few days tennis camp would be over, and Fletcher would be off to yet another day camp. Out of sight, out of mind. All I had to do was do nothing. Eventually this Anna Clare thing would fizzle.
Or would it? To read more, please click here and follow me over to Lifescript’s Health Bistro Blog where I’m guest blogging today and the second Friday of every month on my late-in-life parenting adventures. Meanwhile, have you got a story about your kid’s first girl or boyfriend? Please share it at the end of the post or below.
Photo credit: Pepifoto
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These truths — aka Murphy’s Laws of child-rearing — became evident once I had a kid:
A child will only nap when the $15/hour nanny is sitting on the couch twiddling her thumbs with nothing to do.
Children will sleep until noon on school days unless forcibly awakened; but will be up at the ass-crack of dawn on weekends and holidays.
The amount of time your child spends dawdling in the morning is directly proportionate to how desperate you are to get out of the house because you are really, really, really late.
A child will only have to go potty after the show has started and you’re sitting in the dead center of the row; and then he’ll have to go twice before intermission.
A child will always get sick in the middle of the night when your only option for medical attention is the emergency room, filled with stab-wound victims and MRSA infections. The child whose fever hits 103F at midnight will register a cool 99F immediately after you get to your pediatrician’s office.
A child will whisper his first word ever in the privacy of your own living room so that you have to strain to hear Juice! But the day he learns Fuck, he’ll shout it loudly … in temple … so the entire congregation understands him.
The child who clings to you like a deer tick and sobs inconsolably at the utter betrayal of your leaving him at daycare while you — selfishly! — go to work … to the gym … to run errands … that child will be all smiles with not a care in the world as soon as your car pulls out of the drive way.