"Today was library day and I got a chapter book. I'm already on chapter 8," Natalie's friend told me proudly.
I looked at Natalie, who was weirdly sticking a piece of lettuce from her sandwich against her nose. "What book did you get, sweetie?" I asked.
"A picture book about cats! I like the orange ones because they're like OUR cat," Natalie answered, nibbling on the lettuce that refused to stay on her nose.
I sighed inwardly. I wished Natalie would read chapter books. But she's...she's...what in the world was she doing with the mayonnaise on her sandwich?
"Natalie, it's not nail polish, let's stop," I suggested.
I was having lunch with Natalie. And Natalie always has to include her friends too. I was busy learning about the second grade gossip: apparently someone had burped that morning.
"Mommy," Natalie said, digging through her Subway bag. I brought her a Kid's Meal. "Mommy, you forgot my apples. Why did you get me this cookie?"
Oops. When the Subway worker asked what side I wanted, I said a cookie, because I love cookies, and I assume the people that came from my body love them too. But I always forget Natalie isn't a fan of cookies. She loves apples. Sometimes I worry she's going to turn into a giant apple.
"I'm sorry. But I got you a sugar cookie. It's delicious." With my own meal, I picked the two cookies as my side. Gingerbread and chocolate chip. I had already polished off the gingerbread. I sort of had to. Natalie's friend kept staring at me as if she was hoping that I'd offer her a bite. But no way, she's not mine, I don't have to share.
Natalie held her cookie between two fingers as if it were beneath her. "I don't want this."
Her two friends practically fell out of their chairs.
"I'll take it!" they said in unison.
"The thing we should do," Natalie said diplomatically. "Is play a game. Close your eyes."
I was amazed her friends listened. At that age I'd have been like, "I'm not closing my eyes. I don't want your old cookie anyway."
Natalie broke pieces of her cookies and set them carefully in front of her friends.
"Open," Natalie said with a smile, and her friends did, whooping as they found their treats.
"Aren't you going to have any cookie?" I asked Natalie, because there was only a little left, and I had paid to feed my child, not others.
Natalie shook her head. "Close your eyes," Natalie said again, and she rewarded her friends with the rest of the cookie.
As we ate, a lunch monitor said as she paced the rows of tables, "You're not filling my bucket."
"What bucket?" I asked. "I don't see a bucket."
"Oh, it's not a REAL bucket," Natalie's friend said matter-of-factly. "But if you bully someone, you make the bucket tip over. If you're nice, you fill it."
"What it it overfills?"
Natalie's friends blinked at me.
"A bucket?" I muttered to myself. "God, I'm old. We didn't deal with buckets when I was in school. It was like, 'hush your damn mouths' or, 'thanks for listening' when I was in school."
Eating with my daughter is always fun. I know there might come a time when she asks me not to show my face at school. But for now? Now she wants me to be with her, so I try to show up once every month.
Next time, I'll bring her apples.