Because Mr. Sandyshoes works at home on Tuesdays, I can sometimes go to the Bean's school to have lunch with her. This is a mixed blessing. On one hand, as long as it's allowed for parents to join their kids for lunch, and as long as the Bean wants me to, I'm glad that I can. On the other... it's lunch in the cafeteria with the whole first grade, and all the noise and mayhem that entails. Take your Advil before you get there so it's kicking in in plenty of time. Still, once a week, I can hack it. The Bean is a nice kid with nice friends, so overall, it's cool to hang with them for a bit. Her class is used to seeing me around; that's cool too. It's definitely a different perspective than seeing them in the classroom.
One day I looked up from talking with the Bean and her friend and noticed that the boy sitting across the table from me was trembling, and his bottom lip was quivering, and he was having a hard time holding it together. "Ted? Are you hurt?" I asked, and he just lost it. He told me he was upset because he hadn't finished some of his work so he'd had to have "time off" his recess.
Now, their teacher is very clear about the rules of the classroom, and the consequences for choosing to do other than follow them. One consequence of not finishing what you're supposed to finish is that you miss some recess to get it done. I don't know if he didn't finish because he was goofing around, or because the work was too hard or too much for him, or because he didn't listen, or because he forgot. I do know that he was stressed to the point of tears because of it, and his friends were starting to notice. Just what every kid wants: to be the bawling center of attention at lunchtime.
Fortunately he was sitting next to Marcus, a kid I've come to really like. Without skipping a beat, he took the spotlight, even while throwing a comforting arm around Ted's shoulders. "OH WOW," he said. "I'VE had to stay in TONS of times!" (Marcus talks in all caps, blue eyes wide as if he can't even believe it himself.) I nudged the Bean to tell about when she didn't finish and had to miss recess. She nodded, and Marcus remembered that day too: "YEAH! EVEN THE BEAN!" They all started talking about the times they got "time off recess." Ted forgot his tears, listening to his pals spin their tales of woe. Marcus had commanded a whole audience to another story of his own, by that point. The whole thing was just a moment, and the moment passed, and very soon it was time to pretend it never happened. I went back to talking with the Bean. From across the table I heard Ted mumble something to Marcus, and his reply, "no, it's not bad. You just look like you were running around. MY face gets REALLY red when I cry..." I peeked up at them, heads bent together, in damage control mode.
What a good kid. Sometimes, they are really all right. I felt happy to be there that day, to get that little glimpse of the kind people some of them are growing up to be.
It almost made up for all the times I've had to tell them to please not empty the last of their chocolate milk on each other's shirts.