More than once, my elementary-school-aged son has asked my husband and/or me to come and eat lunch with him in the school cafeteria. Other kids' parents had done it, he reasoned, so why wouldn't we? Right away, I was all like, "Ummmm, no thanks." Because aside from the fact that he has two little sisters — and it would be a logistical nightmare to drag them along — I share two other meals with him at home daily, so what was the point? But the practice is so rampant in some places that schools are forced to ban parents from eating with kids in the lunchroom because they're so extra. Yes, for real.
As WSB-TV Atlanta reported, the Darien School District in Connecticut recently sent home a letter letting parents know they're no longer welcome to eat lunch with their elementary-aged children at school. And some parents are not happy with this decision. “It feels like a punch in the gut,” parent Jessica Xu told the AP, noting that six or seven parents were in the cafeteria with their kids on a normal day. “I chose the town for the schools, I’m so frustrated the schools don’t want me there.” Other parents at recent board meetings said they used the lunch visits to help kids resolve problems with classmates and to see how they were doing in school.
Tara Ochman, chairwoman of the Darien Board of Education, issued a written statement concerning the policy, according to WSB-TV Atlanta, which read:
We believe that schools exist for children, and we work to develop the skills necessary for students to grow into engaged members of society. We work every day on this mission so that our students embrace their next steps confidently and respectfully.
If you still don't think that having too many parents butting in on students' lunchtime could be a potential issue, then you need to check out some of these comments actual teachers recently made on the subject. A middle-school teacher in Connecticut told The Atlantic that she has seen parents eating lunch with their children cause problems in the past. “The parents would bring pizza for some students and not others. It became a little bit of a circus and I do remember feeling like it was disruptive instead of being just a sweet lunch between just the mom and the kid,” the anonymous teacher said. “I think she was using lunch to try to buy her daughter friends,” the middle-school teacher said of one parent.
For the record, the helicopter parent problem in the cafeteria isn't unique to just Connecticut. “Some parents come in and actually spoon-feed their kids, kids who don’t need to be fed,” Katelin Chiarella, a second-grade teacher in Hayward, California, told The Atlantic. “Some parents make hot lunch at home and bring it to them.” Chiarella went on to explain that at least seven or eight parents show up in her school's lunchroom every day — and although the school has attempted to cut down on this number, they keep showing up anyway.
As you can imagine, the Twitter-sphere has a lot of feelings about extra AF helicopter parents taking over school lunchrooms. One Twitter user wrote, "Unless there is some relevant special needs issue, parents do not need to be in the lunch room. Let your child have some space to be themselves, make mistakes, learn resilience. So they don't like the lunch and don't eat. *shrug* They'll survive. Or they'll learn to eat stuff."
Another person commented, "This is unhealthy. As a child I would have been seriously embarrassed if my Mom did this." Same.
Yet another Twitter user implored, "Park the helicopters, folks."
Sill, one Twitter user pointed out the pressure put on parents to show up at the cafeteria. "My kids were thrilled to have me eat lunch with them in elementary school. Not showing up is now one more sign you’re a terrible parent. Parenting standards are officially insane. Fortunately by middle school they are mortified by the idea and you are off the hook."
Another parent wrote, "My kids ask me to come eat with them. I got maybe twice a year. I think that’s reasonable."
Look, as I already hinted: I have zero desire to sit in a cafeteria filled with 7- and 8-year-olds and partake in a school lunch. (I've had my fair share for a lifetime, thanks.) Not to mention, I can definitely see how regular visits by too many parents would be disruptive — and potentially upsetting to young kids who don't want their mom/dad to leave without them once lunch is over. (But if it only happens a couple of times a year, then meh. You do you.) So let's all take it down a notch, folks. Because our kids are perfectly capable of getting through school lunch without us hovering over them.
While we're having a heart-to-heart, can we all agree that spoon-feeding your second-grader and bringing in pizza for only some students are huge school cafeteria no-nos? Sorry, not sorry, but that's over-the-top extra. And these people are ruining it for everyone.