Apparently it isn’t cool to bring cupcakes to school for your birthday when you are in 6th grade. The Tortoise requested big bakery cookies from our mom and pop place down the street. There was a little concern about how many to bring at lunch. She and her friends sit split between two tables, now that the mean girls have taken over. There are 6 or 7 smarty pants that told The Tortoise and her friends that they needed to use the rest of the table, so The Tortoise and her friends would have to find somewhere else to sit. I really do try to stay out of these things. I give suggestions, offer up ways of dealing with the bullies but ultimately the girls have to figure some things out on their own. So for most of the year, The Tortoise and her friends have been sitting at two tables side by side.
I decided to go a little overboard and brought 4 dozen rather large, rather homey gooey-molasses and chocolate chip cookies. They had just been baked this morning when I called in our order. I also picked up her favorite fast food – Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich and a Cherry Coke. (And one for mom too of course!) A beaming 6th grader met me right as class let out. But when we got to the cafeteria, already some of the girls had frowns.
“Those girls won’t scoot down so that we can all sit together for The Tortoise’s birthday or to make room for you Mrs. W”
I surveyed the cafeteria. There was a large, empty table almost right in the middle of the room, a boundary of some kind between the boys and the girls. No man’s land.
“What about that table? We’d all fit there.”
“Mom, NO ONE sits there.”
“Well, today I am sitting there.” I said heading straight for the vacant seats.
As soon as I set the big box of cookies down, a flock of girls landed beside me. There was plenty of room for the usual crowd plus a few stragglers that rarely get to sit with her at lunch because there is never any room. And of course, a few that just came for the cookies.
“Hi Coach! What are you doing here?” or “I thought I saw The Tortoise’s mom come in.”
The more the merrier. The girls giggled and talked, passed cookies around the table and said their thank you’s mixed in with a few happy birthdays.
“I don’t know why we never thought to sit here before.” said one girl to my right. The girl across the table followed it with, “we should sit here every day!”
Suddenly the table became very quiet and all eyes focused behind me. I could feel someone standing just to my left.
“Hey – where’s my cookie?” she snapped. The Tortoise reluctantly held open the box as she dug around for the one she wanted. I didn’t turn around.
“Who was that?”
The Tortoise lowered her head, “One of the mean girls.”
“And you gave her a cookie, just like that?” I couldn’t believe it – we purposely didn’t sit at their table so that we could just enjoy our own little lunch.
“What else was I supposed to say?” she quivered. “There just so mean!”
As if on cue, the rest of the herd decided to come up behind me again. Now there were 6 girls standing there. No one at our table moved.
“Hey,” one girl honked, “We want cookies too.”
Before The Tortoise could reach for the box, I slowly turned around and looked up at one very startled face. I don’t think she realized it was a mother she was standing behind.
“Oh – I didn’t realize you were friends with my daughter too.” I smiled.
Flipping hair out of her face she replied, “We’re not really friends.”
“Oh – but you do know her, right?”
“Not really. We let her sit at our table sometimes.”
I couldn’t believe we were really having this conversation. But I kept going.
“Then what is her name?”
Silence. The Tortoise closed the big white bakery box.
“We don’t know.”
“Then I’m going to say no to the cookie demand then. You see, I brought these up for my daughter’s FRIENDS to celebrate her birthday and I find it rather rude that you would come ask me for some when you don’t even know her name.”
Her eyes widened. Just then our assistant principal came by, “Hey coach! Are we celebrating a birthday?”
“We sure are – would you like a cookie Ms. K?”
The mean girls left the table. The Tortoise’s body relaxed as she opened the box back up and the table started giggling and talking again. It was as if nothing had happened.
Once lunch was over, The Tortoise and I walked up to the office to give cookies to our principal and his office staff. On the way there my daughter took my hand in hers and squeezed.
“You’re a pretty cool mom.”
Apparently she is too old for cupcakes, but not for her mom.