Sloppy Joes and Dim Bullies

I have the luxury of sometimes joining my son for lunch at his school.  The first time I did this I was quite nervous as the protocol for being a cool mom changes every year.  This year especially since we went from a private school (where we knew everyone) to public (where aside from two kids from the neighborhood every other face was a stranger).

I have learned since that first time it is not cool to wave wildly at a kid I do know and yell out “Hieeee!”  Nor is it cool to spill ice-tea while trying to balance a tray of food and grab a spork (or foon) at the same time.  I have also learned that cafeterias today smell exactly like they did in 1983.  Upon entering, mass-produced comfort food, industrial-strength cleaner, and a hint of Crayola marker wafts through the lunchroom and into the nostrils.

The food is actually way better than it was in the ’80’s and ’90’s, at least at this particular institution.  I’m not sure what I ingested in my youth, especially if it was encased in a bun.  Today I had a chicken/soy caesar salad with actual romaine lettuce and a rather crisp, slightly sweet green apple.  My son did not have the quintessential Sloppy Joe, but a rather sloppy slab of lasagna.  He proceeded to inform me he’d never had lasagna before and I felt a small pang of guilt for never including it in my small dinner repertoire.  He ate the entire thing and a couple tiny bites of his peas, per my nagging request.

One of our first school lunches together this year. There was a mad game of checkers going on in between bites.

One of our first school lunches together this year. There was a mad game of checkers going on in between bites.

We ate outside under a live oak as a rare chilly breeze staved off sweat and buzzing insects.  Parents aren’t allowed to eat inside the cafeteria as there are not enough seats at the tables.  We had a nice conversation (as they tend to be now in his ninth year of being a child) although it was heated at first as he begged for five dollars to buy a Rainbow Loom bracelet from another kid.

“That’s a rip off,” I told him.  “You could make one yourself.”

“No, I can’t,” he countered.  “This design is too hard.  Plus you have to have like four looms.”

“It’s still a rip off.  Tell the kid you won’t go higher than two bucks.”

“But he’ll say no.”

“Then ask him who else is gonna pay that price?  I bet no other kid has five bucks to spare for just one rubber band bracelet.”

“They go for ten bucks on Amazon, Mom.”

“This conversation is making me upset.  Can we please talk about something else?  I came here to have lunch with you, not haggle over obscenely priced jewelry.”

So he finally let it go and proceeded to tell me he fell asleep in class.  Then he asked how my day was.  Happy sigh.  I gave him a run-down of my usual– biked the trail, walked the dog, laundry, chatted with grandma, started some writing.  Then I asked him if he could tell me what the bully looks like.

The bully has put squished grapes from the cafeteria floor as well as ketchup in my kid’s soup and salad at various lunch times.  I want to strangle the bully.

“It’s easy,” my son says to me.  “He’s the one with no hair.”

Of course, I say to myself.  Buzz cut.  They are always the ones.

As lunch nears its 30 minute mark I notice my son’s class lining up outside to make their trek back to class.  I tell my kid I’ll take care of throwing the trash away (as I now know it is also not cool to walk with your fourth grader to the rubbish area).  He gives me a pathetic look and pleads, “Four dollars, Mom?”  I look through my cash and see that I have only one dollar bill and a five.

“Here’s a one,” I say.  “Make it work.”

He sighs in resigned desperation and I coolly nod to him as he joins the class.  I scour the line for a glimpse of the no-hair bully.  That one has medium length blonde hair.  Nope.  That one has short hair but it is still present.  Nope.  Ah, there he is.  Hair shaved like an incarcerated mass-murderer.  Skinny little goofy-ass kid.  Even though I have my sunglasses on I look directly at him and give him an eat-shit-and-die-look.  Hell yeah, that asshole saw it, too.  Bet he’s a little shaken.  The kid looks right at me and freakin waves!  All Eddie Haskell-like!  I look away and roll my eyes to the December clouds.

As the class line disappears and I gaze down at my new sturdy Croc flip flops I wonder if the bully will continue to haunt my son.  Or will he heed my undeniable shade-covered warning?  You mess with my son I mess with you.  You have no idea what a really crappy Sloppy Joe tastes like.

10 Comments

Filed under Observations

10 responses to “Sloppy Joes and Dim Bullies

  1. I just read this out loud to Little Dude. He finally understands why I love blogging! He’s also in the 4th grade, and while he rocks a mohawk and does indeed look like a serial killer (I have described him so), he is the furthest thing from a bully!
    I love your fierce Mom-love! Eat shit and die, bully!!

  2. Haha! Oh man, the topic of bullying… I imagine it must be incredibly difficult to know that’s going on with your kid and NOT throw a beat down on the other child. I’m glad you gave him THE LOOK though. If it’s as fierce as your writing then I’m sure he’s rocking himself to a nervous sleep right now 🙂

  3. LOVED this post, Jen. You took me right back to the old days of cafeteria experiences too. You’re are such a cool mom. Love how you balance being cool and real with your kid all at the same time too. Can’t wait to hear how that $1 transaction worked out for him.

  4. I’d be such a fierce, dragon mum if I had kids, probably just as well I didn’t, they’d have probably died from embarrassment anyway….

  5. Carol

    Your son must be as cool as you are. My kids would have been mortified to have me show up at lunch at their school!

  6. This hit home with me, as I was a bullied kid in school, and that’s putting it mildly. I wet the bet until I was 14 and was raised in such poverty that we had no water in the winter sometimes, as our pipes froze, and we had to get large garbage cans of fresh water from the neighbors. (I swear I’m not making this up. Ha.) It was…that bad. We melted snow on the wood-burning stove to take baths; I guess you could imagine how difficult all of this was, having been a bed wetter.

    For years my classmates tormented me! I was “Stinky”. I would set my plate down at a table and the kids would run away screaming, “Ewwww, it’s Stinky!!? Hahaha….yes, I can laugh about it now. :0)

    I would go off somewhere and sing (usually in the bathroom) to comfort myself. I should say that after years of singing to comfort myself- I’m a darn good singer!

    Fast forward many years. I decided to stop being the victim. The bullying had long since stopped as I grew u and moved away, but the inner bullying continued. One day, I said, “No more! I will NOT be a victim any longer.” And that’s when I wrote my children’s book, “Peanut Butter Soup”. (I may have shared that with you already.) It’s 100 wacky, whimsical poems for kids, but there are strong messages throughout it of social acceptance; accepting people- all people- of all minorities, races, etc. It’s an anti-bullying, “love and yourself everybody” book for kids, written by a former bullied kid. (Me. :0)

    My lifelong revenge came in the most awesome form. I was invited to be the guest author at my former elementary school for Read Across America week! Come to find out, one of my childhood friends who was kind to me (we sat together on the bus) and she was now the head of the school board at our former grade school. Wow, talk about fate and destiny intertwining, eh?

    I accepted her invitation, and read to 7 classrooms as she sat smiling, quietly watching me with the children. The real kicker is that these children were the children of my bullies! I was able to plant some awesome seeds in those kids that day: Love yourself, be kind to one another, do good to others, watch your words! Don’t hate. Do good things and other good things will come back to you.”

    They made me sing too. And I did, in 5 out of the 7 classrooms- a capella. I had had a lot of practice in that school singing… isn’t life funny? God is a Master Author- only He could have written this script…heheh.

    I know this is long, Jen, and I apologize, but please share this with your son. Tell him that I know exactly how it feels, and please- tell him for me- that the bullies are bullying him because he is very special! Kids bully other kids when they’re jealous, you know? That’s what it’s all about. I hope your son will realize this. :0) xoxo

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