Monday, October 09, 2006

Lunches at Southdale

I don’t think there was ever any meal in the last six years where I have not barked at my daughter to “EAT QUICKLY!” Not only has she perfected the two-hour meal, she actually elevated it into an art form!

And not only that, she is an infuriatingly picky eater. Our household survives primarily on fish and vegetables. But my opinionated daughter has long declared that fish is stinky and vegetable is yucky, hence an absolute “ewwwww!”. Believe me, short of starving her for two days so she would gobble up whatever is given to her, I have tried every trick in the book to no avail.

She seemed hopeless until she started eating her lunch at school. I was pleasantly surprised when her eating pace improved considerably. Let me qualify though. While Abby is indeed eating faster now, she is still almost always the last one to finish.

I suspect that she is bent on winning the trophy in the slow eaters’ category. Her closest rival for this honor is her school friend, Carla. Together, these two adorable girls effortlessly dried up their mothers’ supposedly ever-flowing springs of patience almost on a daily basis.

Other than that, lunches at Southdale are quite fun actually. The children either bring their meals to school or get them at lunchtime. It is a busy, noisy hour where younger children interact with those in the upper grades. They often dig into each other’s food and Abby’s soup has become everybody’s favorite. One can almost see the other girls craning their necks to see what her soup would be for that day.

Parents who are pressed for time often bought from Jollibee. Here is where some of us got into trouble with Teacher Maru, the school directress. Soda is not allowed in Southdale. Watching her check if the children were given softdrinks is very amusing. I got caught once. What could I say? except exclaim, “oh my gosh, I forgot! Soriiii!!!”

One pleasing outcome from our lunches at Southdale is seeing my daughter get her first lesson about individual differences. I can never forget the wide-eyed look on her face when the realization hit her. “Ate Jeina does not eat pork?!” Her utter look of disbelief was a classic!

It started when Abby urged Jeina to try her food and we had to explain that Jeina is a Muslim and does not eat pork. When Jeina’s mom approached the table, Abby turned to her and in her most authoritative tone, offered serious advice, “you know what, Teacher Maru? You should pray at our church because you will be allowed to eat pork there!” She was absolutely adorable as her young mind struggled to comprehend how people could bear not to eat the oh-so-yummy pork!

But she learned a valuable lesson that day, one that I hope will help shape her into the kind of person who will be respectful and tolerant, rather than be critical, of those who do not share her own beliefs and convictions.

I am glad that I decided to let Abby eat her lunch at school. I hesitated at first, but the decision was made for me when I learned that there was going to be a naptime for all the children after lunch. This is one great practice in Southdale and I welcomed this as an opportunity for my baby to get rejuvenated after being bombarded with the morning’s lessons.

Altogether, the lunches at Southdale sometimes translated into a learning experience for each child, be it in observing fine manners, social interaction, sharing, or respecting individual differences and boundaries. It is very gratifying to see the lunch area doubling as a classroom that prepares young children for the real world that is waiting beyond their school gates.

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