My oldest daughter started first grade this year. Kindergarten was supposed to soften the blow of knowing that she’s growing up, but it’s still not easy adjusting to the changes in her life. One of the biggest changes is lunch. Emily really hadn’t eaten many meals without a family member in her entire life until the first grade. Just the thought of her figuring out where to sit, who to eat with, what to talk about and how to feel about what is in her lunchbox every single weekday were all thoughts that raced through my mind before the first day. Growing up, lunchtime was one of those peer pressure-filled moments of my school days, so perhaps that’s what made me nervous.
It’s probably every parent’s nightmare to think that only his or her child would walk up to the lunch tables and be rejected by every kid there, ultimately eating at a corner table all by herself. Though I didn’t really think that’s how first grade worked, on the off chance that happened to Emily, I decided that I would keep her company—at least virtually—for a few minutes during lunch. So on day one, I wrote her a note. It started on post-its with simple messages like, “I can’t wait to see you for dinner” or “Remember that funny thing Cooper (her little brother) said this morning?” or simply, “I miss you and can’t wait to see you.” Day after day, I really enjoyed taking a couple of minutes out of my evening to think about what would make her laugh or think about our family at lunchtime. Soon, the post-its turned into stationery and the simple notes turned into knock knock jokes, drawings and more elaborate content.
Last week, I made Hello Kitty lunch notes for Emily:
I turned a personal stationery design into something that fit our tradition. She has Hello Kitty everything: backpack, lunchbox, rain boots. And I know she loved this design because this morning she read the note at breakfast instead of waiting until lunch. I had written an especially long and nice note to her since it was her first day back after the break, but all she cared about was how much she loved Hello Kitty…(First graders. What can you do?).
Emily is on something like day 59 of school now, and I’m happy to report that she’s had a lunch note at every lunch (there have been a couple of days when I frantically realized I missed the note and dashed to school on the way to work to slip it into her lunchbox sitting outside her classroom). I like to think that even for a couple of minutes every day, even in the midst of important first grade chatter, that she and I have a moment together through our lunch notes.