Saturday, January 31, 2015

School Cafeteria Opportunities

 Game Night with some good friends.  Doesn't get much better!

On my "baby's" 6th birthday, I joined him for lunch in the school cafeteria.  Birthday snuggles were an added bonus!

Caleb rocked his band solo and ensemble contest.  He proudly wore his gold medal.  Caused me to ponder: At what age do we stop wearing medals? 

This teacher sets the bar high!  He surprised Cooper and another classmate by showing up at their basketball game.  Cooper was elated to have his teacher as a member of his cheering section!

Last week I served as a lunch monitor in the boys' school.  It is a volunteer position that rarely fills.  Some may think it lacks glamour.  Others may gravitate towards roles that don't involve peeling an endless supply of mandarin oranges.  Many may be intimidated by working with the paid lunch monitor (who has a demeanor that makes drill sergeants appear timid).

But being a lunch monitor has its perks.  It provides parents a peek into the social lives of their children as played out in the school cafeteria.

The boys' lunch is staggered.  And so I watched each son arrive in the cafeteria at different times.

Collin snagged a table with the kindergartners.  At his age, gender is irrelevant.  His mixed-gender table engaged in a lively, silly discussion.  Someone tossed out a potty talk reference, and the table hushed.  The potty mouth was shunned for his naughtiness.

Caleb dined with his sixth grade companions.  They are a like-minded bunch that can best be described as quirky.  But there is an affection for each other that ties each boy to the group.

Connor sits with the athletic crowd.  The boys ooze "cool" and the conversation floats between Super Bowl picks and weekend sporting events.


His seating arrangement puzzled me.  He parked his lunch box in a round table with his female classmates.  A few tables over set a group of second grade boys.  I motioned to the boys' table; I suggested to Cooper that he move to the table of males.  He said he couldn't move; the table arrangements were set weeks ago.  

As I circled the cafeteria, I stewed over his lunch room seating arrangement.  I fretted over his ability to make friends.  I pondered whether I should transform into one of those demanding parents that insist their child gets this, that, and the other.

As my internal frenzy swirled, I started to observe other children in the cafeteria.  There was a little boy who sat a few seats alone from his classmates.  I walked over to him and engaged in a conversation about the quality of the school's chicken sandwiches.  Then, I noticed another second grade boy who had the "bad luck" of sitting with the first graders and seemed a bit subdued. 

As I began to really take in the scene, I noticed less of the problems, and more of the opportunities.  Perhaps Cooper's lack of a solid seating arrangement affords him the ability to seek out and love on others.  Maybe he can be the net to gather the lone cafeteria eaters.  He can land them in a place of acceptance and affection that starts by sitting together around a table and sharing the contents found within a lunch box.

But first he needs to really look around the cafeteria, and that requires looking beyond his own lunch box.  

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