Tonight's Table Topic: What's the funniest thing you've ever seen happen in a lunch room?
Well, I've seen a few food fights that were memorable. But I don't need to plant that seed any more than I need a call from the school about the money I owe for the damages to the cafeteria.
The boys had just finished telling me their favorite part of the day, at which point Tyler shifted the topic to talk about his saddest moment, when he really just wanted to hug Tucker but Tuck kept pushing him away.
(Don't feel too sad. They do this to each other on a perpetual basis.)
I suggested that maybe Tuck would handle that better next time.
Tyler said, "Mommy, that always happens."
"Tuck, do you think you could treat him better at school? That would mean a lot to him. And to me."
"Yes." He's noodling his spaghetti. I'm thankful I haven't worn them out on this meal yet, despite the twice-a-week routine.
So when this question popped up about the funniest thing that ever happened in the lunch room, I decided to do my own topic shifting.
"I can tell you something really important that happened in the lunch room once."
"Yes. Please. Tell us." I notice Tyler has Parmesan cheese on his nose.
"When Uncle Rob and I went to the same school, there was one day that we were sitting together at lunch time. There was room for eight people at the table, but we had tried to fit nine. The principal came to our table, and he said we had too many people. He said someone had to leave."
"That was mean of the principal."
"Well, we had rules to follow at our school, just like you have at yours. So he decided to make Uncle Rob move because he was the youngest person at the table. He said, 'You. Pick a different place to sit.'"
(In retrospect, I think he was trying to earn points with the seniors by bumping the freshman to a different table.)
"Uncle Rob said, 'But she's my sister. I'm having lunch with my sister.' And the principal said, 'There are too many people, and someone has to go. You are the youngest, so go.'"
The boys listened so carefully. Especially the youngest.
"Where did the principal want him to go?"
"He pointed to a table that was empty. He was sending Uncle Rob to eat all by himself, all alone."
I let the image sink in before I continued.
"But I couldn't let that happen. He's my brother. You guys, I know what it's like to have a brother, remember. He's my brother and my best friend, and I couldn't let him sit by himself. I just couldn't let him feel lonely."
"So what did you do?"
"I picked up my lunch, and I went with him to the empty table. And we had lunch together. Because he's my brother and my best friend, and you should always look out for your brother and choose him first."
The room was thick with implications.
"Well, when I get to the lunch room, Tyler is done eating and he leaves."
"Tuck, the issue isn't really the lunch room."
"But we're never in the lunch room at the same time."
"The point is, if you saw Tyler feeling lonely, or if you saw someone picking on him, you should step in and help him. Always. He's your brother."
"Tuck, what would you do if you saw that happening?"
"I would tell them to stop." (I happen to know he truly would, since I once received a phone call to tell me he had tried to choke someone who had hit his little brother. Not exactly the response we're looking for, but good to know the protective instinct is in high gear.)
Tyler jumps in with his own example. "And, if I saw someone being mean to Tucker, I would jump in front of them and yell at them, and then I would tell them I would use my karate on them."
"'Cause you know what happens when I tell people about my karate? They run away."
As well they should. Talking about your karate is threat enough.
"But, Mommy, just so you know, we don't eat lunch at the same time. We really don't."
"Got it." I pointed to Tuck with my fork for punctuation.
I want a do-over with my own kids, with you having come before me to inspire, encourage, and help make me a better mom.