One of the perks of being fortunate enough to work part-time is that I've always had a few hours here and there to pop in and spy on my children--ahem...I mean "volunteer at their schools". For as long as I can remember, I've made an effort to be available once a month for each kid's particular grade level. During my stint, I'll do whatever the teacher needs, to make her life a little easier or help keep her classroom humming along. In Elementary School, of course, the volunteer process is as simple as signing up for a timeslot, showing up, and being assigned a job--I've done anything from sorting beans into cups for an upcoming science experiment, to changing a bulletin board display, to administering standardized learning tasks, to assisting students in editing their writing pieces (my personal favorite, naturally).
In Middle School, however, the opportunities for service become quite a bit scarcer. (Apparently, they don't want random parents sitting in on classes with their darling adolescent offspring--I can't imagine why not? How could that situation be fraught with peril?) So when a friend told me about the School Store gig as our kids entered 6th grade, I jumped on board. All you have to do is sit behind the counter in the cafeteria during all three lunch periods, selling pencils and notebooks and all sorts of silly novelty items to whomever approaches the window. Honestly, over time I've learned that ONLY 6th graders ever buy anything...so mostly I play games on my iPod or read a book...and of course keep a watchful eye on my own son when he saunters in for his lunch period, surrounded by his posse.
Now, keep in mind this is the third year I've been participating in this activity. And my beloved son, does he race over to greet me? Does he at least waggle a finger in my general direction? Oh, HECK, no. In fact, he Doesn't. Even. Notice. I'm. There. I'm not kidding, when I razzed him last month about failing to acknowledge the presence of his poor, crushingly-bored mother...he stared at me blankly and replied, "Oh...I forgot you were coming!" My reply: "Seriously, dude? I told you LAST NIGHT!" "Yeah," he laughed, "that was too long ago!" (Sigh...) Then he suggested, "Write me a note and put it in my lunch bag." (Wow. About that teenage boy brain...but okay, a mother's gotta do what a mother's gotta do...) So this month, I pro-actively announced that I would be showing up on Wednesday (and quickly added, "That would be 'tomorrow' for those who have no earthly clue what day it is"...and I could tell from his face that I had guessed correctly). Then I wrote a post-it that simply directed "Say 'hi' to Mom"...and attached it to his juice box.
At my scheduled time I arrived for duty and took my place among the random...junk...on which Middle Schoolers evidently want to spend their hard-earned money. The first two lunches passed with me ringing up a grand total of: $3 in sales. (Yes, yaaawwwnnn...) Then it was the appointed hour for the 8th graders to swarm the cafeteria. I stood prominently out in the open, so I would have even a snowball's chance of being noticed amongst the fray...and my child (who by the way towers over the majority of the other students at this point, so really, there's no excuse)...didn't even glance my way. After a few minutes had passed, however, I was rewarded for my patience (and correspondence) when he looked up from his meal, waited until he caught my eye...and waved. Yep, he must have reached the little pink reminder I left him. Now, I would have been satisfied with that much--I mean c'mon, he met the basic requirements for "saying hello"...in a non-verbal kind of way, right? So picture my surprise when he ambled over with a pal just a little later.
I was pleased, expecting some conversation (maybe they'd taken pity on me in my non-stimulating cubicle), maybe a bit of witty banter. HA! Silly, silly me...what actually happened was: they began pestering me for free stuff. Um...NO, I told them firmly, and sent them on their way, shaking my head at the utter obnoxious...ness...of 13-year old boys, sometimes. But did it end there? Oh, nooooo. Derek's friend approached me once more when it was almost time for them to return to class, clutching a small scrap of paper marked "Reward Dollar"--which I guess they hand out for good behavior...or something?--and asked if he could exchange it for an item. I gave him the Mom Glare, told him "absolutely not"... and only then did I notice that it belonged to another student! (So clearly I'm doing my best to thwart a budding con artist, yeah? Yay, me!) However, he had one more idea up his sleeve (sadly). This time he enlisted another boy to ask if he could (are you ready for this?) trade his cell phone for merchandise. Are. You. Kidding. Me? I shooed the little (actually, taller-than-me) schemers on their way and finally managed to beat a hasty retreat from the madhouse that is the Middle School Cafeteria.
I must say I was hardly prepared for these kinds of delicate negotiations when I agreed to sell trinkets to supposedly-innocent junior high kids. Perhaps next month I'll be much more specific with my parental instructions: come talk to me...but leave the riff-raff--I mean "your charming buddies"--behind!