A couple of times a week, like many parents, I head over to my children’s school to volunteer my time in an effort to improve their educational experience.
But, unlike many parents, my time spent is not packing book bags or collating and stapling packets to be sent home in folders. Also unlike most who volunteer their time, my hours at the school are not spent in the classroom reading to kids, managing small groups or pulling children back to work on spelling words or math concepts.
As valuable as these things are to teachers and students, as a mother of seven — five of whom are school-aged children — I don’t have the time in my life right now to do it.
So, a couple of times a week, when all the stars align to allow me to do so, I pack my bag, load my toddler and baby up in the stroller and walk to the school just in time for my second-grade son to leave his classroom for lunch and recess.
While in the lunchroom, I get the chance to sit with each of my children for a few minutes as we eat. I make sure they eat the healthy food that was packed for them — something that I know will help them get through the day.
More importantly, my time in the lunchroom gives me a chance to watch how my kids interact with other children and how other children interact with them. It is in the lunchroom that I can sit and have conversations with my children and their friends without worrying about keeping them quiet or on task. It is here that I can joke with them, smile with them and observe them in a natural social setting.
As my last child finishes his final bite of lunch, I gather my younger two and head outside for recess — the most important subject of the day, in my opinion.
While outside at recess, I am able to watch up close and from afar social situations. I can see how my kids are being treated by others, how they treat others and how they treat each other. Nothing brings me more joy than to see my own children include one another in their social groups and defend each other when it is necessary.
There are those days, however, when friends don’t come as easily, and that is when my two younger boys come in handy. What group of fifth-grade girls can resist playing with a cute toddler? More than that, what fifth-grade ringleader can be mean to another fifth-grade girl when she sees she has a 2-year-old brother who loves her beyond measure and a baby brother who smiles ear to ear each time he sees her?
Sure, I may never be on a first-name basis with my children’s teachers, I may not be able to wear the room mom badge (ever), and my hours at my children’s school won’t be counted as community service in any way whatsoever. But the time I spend with my children during lunch and recess will undoubtedly go far in helping each of them have the best educational experience possible.
I know it helped me.
Arianne Brown is a mother of seven young children and is a Salomon at City Creek, Nuun and Unshoes sponsored athlete. For more of her writings, search “A Mother’s Write” on Facebook. Twitter: A_Mothers_Write