The kids participated in their Fun Run, a school fundraiser where students run laps, and friends and family pledge donations.
In the weeks before the Fun Run, the students watched a show during lunch to hype them for the coming event. Colin loved this, and every day after school, he summarized the unfolding plot for me and speculated on what would happen tomorrow. Poor Annabelle found it stressful.
“I forget to eat because I’m watching the show,” she told me, “and there’s a woman who keeps walking around saying, ‘Eat! Eat!’”
Too many things are stressful at school for Annabelle, and lunch is a time when she feels especially homesick. “Don’t worry about it,” I say. “You can eat your lunch after school.”
“I can’t! The woman! She keeps coming!”
Colin confirmed the persistence of the “Eat! Eat!” lady.
I then coached Annabelle on how to pretend to eat. It’s a life skill we all need sometimes, and I’m glad to see it’s being integrated into the Common Core Standards.
There was a competition among the classes for who could raise the most money for the run. I gave a flat donation because we are not pledge-per-lap risk takers. Unfortunately, the flat donations don’t count towards the class or individual totals. This knocked my kids out of the running for the grand prize, which was three months of cereal, free! Colin, ever the problem solver, told me that next year I should pledge $20 per lap, and he promised to only run one lap. Twenty extra bucks would lock in the class win, and for the next three months, all I’d have to do for dinner is pour some milk over cereal. I congratulated Colin. If my kids learn nothing else in school, at least they’ll have figured out how to work the system.
Carson and I volunteered at the event. Carson helped by sleeping in the front pack, and my main job was to refill water cups and to tell kids to cut down on trash by hanging onto their cups. The kindergarteners were hilarious. They were not into landfill lectures. “Don’t throw away your cups!” I’d say. They’d lock eyes with me, hold a cup over the garbage, and wordlessly release it like a mic drop. Then they’d run a lap, grab another cup and make sure to hold eye contact with me while tossing it again.
I guess I should be happy they threw their cups away. I watched another kid crush his cup, drop it in the grass, and run on like he was gunning for the Boston Marathon finish line. (“It’s not a race,” the Fun Run people say, but no one believes them.)
Other kids drained their cups and then left them on the water table. I tried to toss them whenever I noticed this, but sometimes I didn’t. Then the empty cup would get refilled, another kid would grab it, and influenza was happy that it got to live another day.
Colin ran his little heart out and had a blast. I watched him race another boy, edging him out for a lap, and then soundly beating him in subsequent laps. “It’s not a race,” I told him. “But way to leave that guy in the dust.”
Annabelle ran for about half of the time, got bored, and then hung out with me at the water table. Every now and then she’d walk back from the water table to the finish line to get another tally mark, gaining credit for a full lap with only a fraction of the effort. It did my heart proud, watching my five-year-old find and exploit a loophole. It also reaffirmed my decision never to donate per lap.
In between this rigorous workout, Annabelle wanted to help fill the influenza cups. Mostly, she poured water all over the table, and sometimes it accidentally made it into the cup. Observing the children, she asked, “Why can’t these kids hang onto their cups? Can’t they just follow the rules?” Then she wandered to the finish line for another tally mark. And I wondered why I keep sending her to school when it seems like she’s already learned everything she needs to know about life. Except, I guess, how to eat while watching TV.