09 March 2009

Barbarians at the Cafeteria

The cafeteria turns out to be a tough place for a kindergarten kid to negotiate, which was somewhat of a surprise for me. I went to a private kindergarten because in the late 1960s in New Hampshire, public kindergarten was still an option a town could choose to pay for, or not. I was in a group of a dozen or so little kids, and I went home for lunch.

But in New York City today, kindergarten goes from 8:15 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. -- same school day as for the bigger kids. Pedagogically, this is very sound: kids who are cared for by someone who talks to them, reads to them, does craft projects with them, and takes them to the playground are just as well off at home.

But kids who watch television or are otherwise left entirely to their own devices while a caretaker works all day at home will have a much better time catching up if they start schooling early and for as much time as possible, especially if the language spoken at home is not English.

So the kindergarten kids eat lunch at school in the company of a couple hundred other little barbarians with a few harried aides trying to keep control.

First, there was the matter of the lunchbox. A kid in another class started hassling my kid because "Betty Boop is for girls."

Hmmm, by the time he gets to middle school, maybe the other kid will rethink that one.

The Betty Boop lunchbox was The Offspring's choice three or so years ago when we bought his first lunchbox. At the neighborhood Duane Reade, it was that or Homer Simpson. I have to admit I was kind of pleased. Recently, though, it finally got battered enough to be replaced, and this time the choice was plain black.

It wasn't until after that, that he finally told me about the problem with the Betty lunch box.

Then there were the rugelach. The Dad was packing lunch one morning last week and started putting chocolate rugelach -- one of The Offspring's favorite snacks -- into a baggie. "Noooooo!" There were tears, there was howling, and finally there was an explanation.

"The other kids will make me share!"

I suggested that he keep the rugelach hidden in the lunchbox, and pull them out one at a time when he was ready to eat them. The Mate told him to tell the kids that his Dad said he wasn't allowed to share.

I think I'd better get a hold of that book about all the important things the author learned in kindergarten and see if deception and appeal to higher authority are among them.