Cooper started Kindergarten this week. I have been simultaneously looking forward to and dreading this event for the last few months. On the one hand, it’s so exciting to watch him grow up and mature and develop his own personality and all that stuff. On the other, he doesn’t seem nearly old or big enough to be conscripted into the public-school system and, of course, this brings him one step closer to his inevitable betrayal of our “Best Buddies for Life” pact. Some day he won’t need me anymore and, in that moment, I’m sure I’ll look back on the years and think, “If only I would’ve kept him out of Kindergarten for another year or five. That’s where it all went wrong.”
But, since I did not hold him out of Kindergarten for a year or five, we have tried to embrace his new life phase with as much excitement and as little terror as possible. Some misty eyes? Sure. A few Ron Burgundy in a glass case of emotions freak outs? Maybe (definitely). But I’ve balanced it with a ton of encouragement, big smiles, and exaggerated enthusiasm for literally every single thing about Kindergarten, hoping he doesn’t pick up on my own intense uncertainty about this whole thing. Every morning, Lindsey or I walk him to school and every afternoon, one or both of us waits outside the Kindergarten wing to pick him up. It is on the walk home where we gather the most intelligence regarding the events of the day.
“Today we went to the gym.” (“Good. Goodness knows you need all the help you can get developing some semblance of athletic ability.”)
“We did music today!” (“Crap, we’re going to have to listen to you practice the recorder at some point, aren’t we?”)
“Today we did science.” (*Extreme Jesse Pinkman voice* “Yeah science!!”)
I love this stuff for several reasons. One, we know almost nothing about what he’s doing on a daily basis. We know his teacher’s name, we know where his classroom is within the building, and we know when to drop him off and pick him up. That’s it. As a highly organized, schedule-intensive person, I would like to know more about what happens in his eight-hour school day. Two, I think establishing the habit now of catching up on what we’ve missed through the day (hopefully) leads to more open communication later in life. And three, it’s clear that the structure of Kindergarten is a bit tighter than Pre-K because this kid is DYING TO TALK when he gets out of class. In the Pre-K days, most of the time his response to what he did at school was, “I don’t remember” or, “It was good.” This week, he walked out every day talking at a speed (and sometimes decibel) that suggested he was full to the brim with the words and needed to get them all out before his little body exploded. No complaints here, though, I’m totally here for it.
On Wednesday, the post-school conversation skipped right past science and P.E. and straight into lunchroom scuttlebutt.
“DAD,” Cooper said, almost before I could ask him how his day was. “You will not believe this. There. Is. A. New. Lunchable. And it’s mini hotdogs!!!”
He virtually screamed this at me, completely overwhelmed with excitement that is usually reserved for receiving a new PJ Masks toy or meeting a new doggo. It was clear he’d been thinking about this for hours and couldn’t wait to tell someone, anyone. (Egotistically, I’d like to think he couldn’t wait to tell me about this new revelation but practically, I’m pretty sure he would’ve told the aforementioned new doggo if that was the first being he came in contact with once outside the Kindergarten Cone of Silence.) Then he sort-of chuckled to himself and shook his head as if to say, “Wow, the things these people think of, you know? Truly boggles the mind.” When we got home, he made his very loud announcement to Lindsey and, come to find out, he told my parents about it when he saw them as well. It’s entirely possible that he’s already set up his own blog just to tell people about the new Lunchable.
Now, it’s no surprise that the new Lunchable has touched such a nerve with my son. Lunchables make up an embarrassingly high percentage of his food intake. If you are what you eat, Coop is 80 percent pizza Lunchable, ten percent carrot, and ten percent milk. (I don’t know, guys, we’re doing things 20 percent right, okay?) I think Lunchables are disgusting; one time, Lindsey and I were in a checkout line behind two full-grown men buying approximately 50 Lunchables each and I’ve never felt sorrier for anyone in my life. Like, at least Hot Pockets are warm, you know? But to a kid (and maybe specifically my kid), there is no grander culinary treat than a Lunchable. So, while the idea of eating a hot dog Lunchable is so heinous as to cause me to wretch as I write this, I totally get where my dude is coming from.
I love Coop’s reaction to the Great Lunchable Discovery of 2018 for two reasons. One, he came home completely awestruck, like he’d stumbled upon this wonderous new world where someone actually thought to turn processed miscellaneous meat into a hearty kid lunch and he couldn’t believe what he’d just seen. He wasn’t demanding we run out and get him a crate of hot dog Lunchables, he was just so pumped that they existed. And two, the idea of one kid busting out a hot dog Lunchable at the lunch table and all the other kids losing their minds over it cracks me up. I imagine they all started jumping around like the player-spectators at the NBA Dunk Contest, one kid (definitely Cooper) yelled, “Whuuuuuuttt”, another kid passed out from the excitement… It’s an incredible visual and, while exaggerated, takes me back to my days in the elementary school lunchroom and the friendships formed over the original Lunchables and discussions about the cultural importance of Home Alone. I’m excited for Coop to experience these tiny events that matter little in the grand scheme of his life but are huge in the moment.
After a couple days of non-stop talk about the magical, mythical lunch treat, Lindsey and I both (without telling the other our plan) went out and found some mini hot dog Lunchables. On the way home from school, I talked up the “big surprise” waiting for him and by the time we actually got to present him with (the world’s worst) bounty of processed food, I thought for sure I’d overdone it and his reaction would be anticlimactic. But instead, he hoisted the yellow box over his head and yelled in triumph because, after all, how could anything be better than mini hot dog Lunchables?