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Is It Really a Big Deal That I Ate Lunch with My Kindergartner at School?

Photograph by Twenty20

Earlier last month, a Connecticut school district unexpectedly went viral for their decision to ban parents of kindergartners and first-graders from eating lunch with their children in elementary school cafeterias. The local newspaper in Damien, Connecticut, reported the ban was made for "educational" as well as safety concerns.

The bold and reportedly abrupt move by the school district was met with a wide range of reactions. Some parents applauded the decision, citing "helicopter" parenting as disruptive to the important growth and development that children go through as part of the school environment, while others downright mourned the loss of being able to share that cherished time with their kids. Parents mentioned loving the opportunity to visit their kids at lunch for everything from having special birthday lunches to simply being able to drop in on their lunch hours and feel part of the school community.

As the story has spread over the internet, mixed reactions have rolled in from parents across the county. "Snowflake parents need to grow up & have lunch with adults and let their children learn social skills," wrote one commenter in support of the ban.

On the flip side however, many more parents expressed sadness over the decision. "So thankful for the hundreds of lunch dates throughout the years with my girl," wrote another grieving mother. "You see, I lost her her senior year and you don’t realize that a simple moment can become an everlasting memory until you lose part of your heart and soul."

While I certainly can't speak to the specifics of what was happening in this elementary school, I can say one thing: I ate lunch with my oldest daughter in her school cafeteria when she started kindergarten and I 100 percent do not regret it.

When my daughter started school at age 5, she had a really tough time transitioning in the first week. A typical firstborn, she had loved preschool and was excited beyond belief to start kindergarten, but as soon as school actually started, there was an instant change in her demeanor.

I mean, my daughter was freaking 5 years old at the time; sometimes, kids need their parents—even at school.

My previously bouncing, always-happy, little girl was coming home withdrawn and not talking, crying about going to school and was overall not herself at all. I chalked it up to the fact that she just needed time to adjust to the new environment and the change from preschool to an all-day school. I decided I would help support her through the transition and asked her teacher if I could go in and have lunch with her one day in the cafeteria as a way to get a feel for how she was acting, see her interact with her peers and overall just be there for her during a tough time.

And I'm so glad I did.

During the second week of school, after I had let her have some time to settle in, I brought her a special treat and sat with her at lunch. I was able to observe her in the cafeteria, meet her new friends, the school staff and volunteers and get a good feel for how she was adjusting. I'll never forget the relief that settled in on her face when she saw me walk in that day and I know, without a doubt, that it was the right thing to do.

I mean, my daughter was freaking 5 years old at the time; sometimes, kids need their parents—even at school. Heck, adults still need their parents sometimes. Life is hard, school can be hard, and if I was able to help in some small way simply by spending 20 minutes with my kid one time during the school year, then sign me up. I'm not saying I need to go have lunch with my kid every day, but when my she was struggling, you better believe that I showed up in the ways I could to see her through a tough time.

I wasn't helicopter parenting or snowflake parenting, and I definitely wasn't overbearing parenting—I was just parenting, period. So, yes, I'm a parent who ate lunch with her kindergartener. And I would do it again in a heartbeat because that's what parents do: We show up when our kids need us.

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