Lunch in fifteen minutes or less …

Yesterday, I stocked up on Tylenol and ear plugs, updated my tetanus shot and my life insurance policy and then I took my life in my hands and went to have lunch with Helena in her school cafeteria. I’ve seen the heartiest and cheeriest of moms brought to their knees within twenty minutes of sitting in the lunchroom so I planned on staying for fifteen, allowing me plenty of time to scarf down a bagel, chat with Helena about her day and process her “I don’t know’s” and “I don’t remember’s” and the always favorite “what’s for dinner?” before escaping under my own free will while I still had my wits about me.

I know I’ve said this before but it bears repeating … you couldn’t pay me enough to be a lunch monitor, I don’t care how many chocolate truffles you stick in front of my face. Lunch monitors are absolute saints because you know they’re not getting paid much money, if at all, to show up day after day after day to supervise hundreds of kids who are hyped up on dessert, who don’t listen, who are fighting, crying, running and screaming. And they didn’t even give birth to any of them. They’re doing this willingly. Voluntarily. Without coercion. And despite their patience being worn down to the nub on a daily basis, they manage not to kill any of the children with their bare hands. Saints.

I wouldn’t last five minutes with swarms of kids whose purpose in life is to yell. Loudly. For no reason other than they can. I would snap in a heartbeat and it wouldn’t matter how many of them I gave birth to.

The decibel level in Helena’s cafeteria in mind numbing. The room seems to be acoustically enhanced in that the slightest noise is amplified about a billion times and bounces off the walls and ricochets around the room until it slams into my head at the speed of light.


My hearing hasn’t recovered yet so please excuse me if I shout. And if anyone happens to run across some of my wits, would you mind gathering them up and sending them to me? I’m running low.


So anyway, I had lunch with Helena and in the pandemonium and general mayhem that is an elementary school cafeteria at high noon, I spotted another mom who had decided to risk life and limb as well and one glance told me that she had missed the twenty minute window by a good five minutes. She had the pale, haunted look of a holocaust survivor. She was probably once an intelligent and articulate woman who was filled with anticipation and had the best of intentions when she wrote her name in beautiful cursive in the Visitor Log but it only took thirty minutes in the lunchroom to make her oblivious to the glob of mustard hanging from her left earring and the piece of bologna stuck to her chin. She didn’t even flinch when the kids on either side of her used her ears as walkie talkies. She glanced up in my direction, gave me a feeble smile and then lapsed into a coma.

It was nice to surprise Helena (“Mom! What are you doing here? Am I in trouble?”) and spend time with her in her own environment, her home away from home so to speak, except that she doesn’t leave her dirty underwear on the classroom floor.

Having lunch with third graders is an enlightening experience. The girls sit with girls, the boys sit with boys and never the two shall meet. Except for little Kevin. He’s a third grade boy who has somehow achieved superstar status with the girls. He’s all I ever hear about when I ask Helena and her friends what they did in recess (we played with Kevin!) or what they did in gym (we rode scooters with Kevin!) or what they did in art class (we drew Kevin!)

He is adorable and seemingly unaware of the effect he has on his female classmates and I don’t mean that he makes them swoon because he’s cute but rather, because he’s fun. Do third grade girls even know how to swoon? I think they only know how to shriek like banshees. Anyway, he doesn’t strike me as the type of boy who’s got “jerkwad: will dump you for hot cheerleader” DNA. No, little Kevin strikes me as the type of boy who will always be best friends with everyone, especially girls, and who will grow up to be the one they call in the middle of the night when they get their hearts broken. He’ll be the one to fall madly in love with one of those girls, knowing the entire time that he’s standing up at the altar as her Man of Honor that he never had a chance with her because he’s too nice of a guy, unlike the scumputz she’s marrying. He’ll be president of the student government and excel in cross country track. He’ll be the only one of his buddies who won’t have scratch marks on his headboard or down his back, he’ll graduate Summa Cum Laude, land a great job right out of college, build his own house and volunteer with disadvantaged children in his spare time. He’s the one that mothers everywhere would sell one of their kidneys to have their daughter marry and both of their kidneys to marry him themselves.

I could tell all of this the instant he entered the lunchroom to a chorus of fifty girls screaming HI KEVIN and then broke out into a sheepish grin, waved madly, ducked his head and hid under his table.

If he grows up to be an asshat, I will be so disappointed in humanity. But at least I’ll still have my kidney.

Helena’s two best friends are not in her class so they are not allowed to sit at the same table since the tables are divided up by classroom. Furthermore, the kids are not allowed to get out of their seats unless they are getting utensils or napkins or throwing something away.

Helena got up 42 times to get napkins, plastic forks and spoons. Coincidentally, so did her two best friends.

Helena tore up her napkins so that she could make 37 trips to the garbage can to throw tiny little shreds away. Coincidentally, so did her two best friends.

This is their preferred method of communication during the day and it’s amazing how well they can plan a play date and catch each other up with all the latest news in five second intervals of stolen conversation. I made a mental note to try this out with Nate since the only time we converse is … I can’t remember.

Inevitably the chaos and confusion of the lunchroom grants the more daring kids opportunity to risk the wrath of the lunch monitors and escape to distance lands across the cafeteria.

One little girl absconded from her table and wound up at ours. She’s a friend of Helena’s who has been over to our house before. She’s a cute little thing but holy hell, this girl can talk. And talk. And talk and talk and talk and talk and talk. She is simply exhausting to be around because they haven’t yet invented an attention span that can keep up with her. I’ve learned to take a huge gulp of air when I see her because I know from experience that she will suck up every square inch of oxygen in a one mile radius, leaving me gasping and suffocating in carbon dioxide.

Other than the earsplitting, deafening sound reverberating around the room, I actually enjoyed my lunch with Helena and while I’m not going to run right out and do it every day, I think I might be able to handle it once a month, provided I shove a cubic foot of cotton down my ear canals beforehand.


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10 thoughts on “Lunch in fifteen minutes or less …”

  1. Avatar

    That last little girl sounds soo much like Hannah. As shy as she is in front of most adults my dad (who is sooo hard of hearing he’s bordering on deaf) asked if she was EVER, EVER quite?? NOPE:D Not even in her sleep!! and as for the high decimal in the lunch room?? I think it’s a cruel joke of all school architects. Ours sounds like it’s double surround sound with the 50′ amps pointing right at my head, in fact I have to wear a pony tail when vising because the noise actually, really makes my hair blow!!!!!!!!

  2. Avatar

    I’ve never visited your blog before and here I am with my morning coffee, my only coffee of the day, laughing my way through your post. You are a very talented writer and I enjoyed this visit so much that I’ll be back.

  3. Avatar

    As a former third grade teacher, I’d like to recommend a pair of ear plugs next time. These came in handy for me during many things while I was teaching. Especially the lunch room and art project time! But everything you described was spot on! I only did lunch room duty (we had to do either lunchroom or recess) one year and then I wised up and went for recess duty. At least the kids were outside and in a larger space! It sucked with it -40? but at leasat I wasn’t going deaf!

  4. Avatar

    Eeks. The schooling-at-home school is planning a meet-and-greet in a cafeteria, for lunch, sometime next month. Do I really think it’s worth a 3-hr drive there and back to meet our virtual teacher? Not the way you’ve made it sound!! *lol*

  5. Avatar

    I LOVE your post : )) This is awesome. Your mode of story telling kept me smiling the whole time (and kept me reading). Thanks for sharing part of your day here : )

  6. Avatar

    That DOES sound like a mess. I have never heard of a lunch monitor. Around here, the teachers sit at a teacher’s table and keep a general eye on the kids. That’s all. I like how my son’s (1’st grade) school handles parents visiting for lunch. They have reserved tables along the sides of the cafeteria, so when I eat lunch with him, it’s just him and me at a table, and he is also allowed to invite one friend to sit with us. There are even picnic tables outside so we can eat outside if we want.
    I like your description of Kevin. The 2’nd grade has it’s very own celebrity. Cute!

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