"When are you going to come have lunch with me? All the other parents have come to eat with their children," Natalie told me matter-of-factly.
I suppressed a groan. Eating lunch with a bunch of first graders was not my idea of fun. I enjoy having lunch in a quiet house while watching bad reality shows.
"I guess I could come this week," I agreed. "I'll bring Taco Bell." After I said it, I thought back to the school rules. Fast food was allowed, right? The health nut parents hadn't gotten rid of that, did they? If they had, oh well. I was having Taco Bell.
I picked up the delicious tacos and bean burritos before heading to Natalie's school. As I walked in I almost expected a crazed parent to jump out, lecturing me on how horrible fast food was and oh, was that a SODA in my hand? How could I bring a SODA into a school filled with growing minds?
"If I don't get my caffeine, I'm mean," I planned on saying.
Luckily, no one admonished me on my lunch choices. I went into the cafeteria and waited at the "special" table. It's the one underneath a canopy. The first graders began to filter in. No Natalie yet. I began nibbling on my bean burrito. Mmm, good. Another parent showed up and sat at another table. She had what looked like salads for herself and her kid. Salads. For lunch. I mean, I like salads, don't get me wrong, but if I'm meeting my kid for lunch I want to bring something special. Salads don't scream special to me.
"Mommy! My Mommy!" Natalie bellowed as she walked in with her class. She waved wildly and her teacher allowed her to go. She skipped over to me--she skips, because it's not quite running so most people let it slide. "My Mommy!" she said again and my heart squeezed. Soon she'd be Tommy's age and she won't scream, "My MOMMY!" anymore. She won't skip anymore. She'll just stand there with a sullen expression and snort whenever I speak. I never ate lunch with Tommy because he seemed embarrassed over the idea. I would ask if he wanted me to come and he'd shrug and go, "Whatever. But you can't touch me."
I enveloped Natalie in a hug and smelled the strawberry shampoo in her hair.
"Taco bell!" she said cheerfully. "Look, I got Taco Bell!" she said to her friend beside her. When a parent comes for lunch, the kids get to bring a friend as a guest.
"So how was your day?" I asked, sipping my soda. Mm, caffeine.
"Good. Some people got red. That means the teacher called their parents," Natalie explained seriously. "Someone knocked their chair over. ON PURPOSE." She and her friend giggled at this.
Ahh, the lives of first graders.
Natalie pointed out the boy that likes to chase her at recess. "I pretend he's Flynn Rider sometimes. And I'm Rapunzel." She flipped her long hair.
We only had a half hour before Natalie had to go out to recess. To play Rapunzel, no doubt. She was not embarrassed to hug me goodbye. She flung her arms around my neck and whispered, "I love my Mommy." She pressed her lips against my cheek.
"You have a good rest of your day," I said.
"Oh, I will," Natalie said seriously. And then she got in line with her class and waved wildly. "Goodbye Mommy!"
I'll probably join her for lunch again.
You know, while she still likes me...