Originally posted May 22, 2008
Do I have "sucker" stamped on my forehead? Am I a
pushover? Do I look like I was born yesterday?
Apparently the kids at our elementary school think so.
The morning I was slated to make my debut as a hot-lunch lady,
Noah asked if I would sneak him an extra dessert at lunch time.
"No way pal. I'll be sent to the school volunteer hall of
shame," I replied. To his credit he didn't lobby later for an
extra dessert, but he did laugh at me when I whispered that I was
having a devil of a time and couldn't believe I'd been royally
scammed out of some ice cream sandwiches by a bunch of little
Hot-lunch duty isn't for the faint of heart. Now I
understand why all of the lunch ladies of my youth were so crabby
and beady-eyed. It's hard work, especially when the kids try
to scam you for an extra dessert.
"Make sure they actually have a hot-lunch," a veteran
hot-lunch Mom warned. How hard could that be, I
wondered? I found out, twenty minutes into my first
shift as a lunch-lady. By then I'd perfected the lunch-lady 'look':
the 'should I believe you?' gaze where I search the soul of
another, discerning the purity of his heart.
"I know you. I know your Mother! Hand it over, pal,"
I heard myself say, to a kid who already had ice-cream smeared on
his fibbin' face. Here's the pathetic part: I
actually have advanced training in school counseling. I
supposedly know how to relate to school children. Nowhere in
my books does it explain how to wrestle an ice-cream sandwich away
from a 90- pound fourth grader, however. That should be
required reading, if you ask me. (The ice-cream sandwich only
suffered a minor dent, by the way. The poor kid gave up when
he realized how serious I was.)
By the time I got to the next table I was on to them. The
kids all waved their eager little hands in the air, the 'I'm ready
for dessert' signal, but this time, not only did I look down to
make sure they actually had a hot lunch, I also scanned
for empty ice-cream sandwich wrappers. "Not so fast, buddy,
you already had yours," I smugly smiled.
Figuring I had the ice-cream-sandwich-scam licked, I confidently
gave in to a doe-eyed little girl who approached me with her friend
and asked ever-so-sweetly for dessert.
"You haven't had one yet?" I asked, bending down to get a better
look at her. I shoulda stopped in my tracks as we all walked
back to the freezer, when out of the corner of my new beady eye I
spotted her grinning triumphantly at her friend behind my
back. Had I been scammed again? I scanned her face for
clues as I s-l-o-w-l-y handed over the cold dessert, but got
nothing. She just smiled and thanked me.
Ready for a break, I leaned back against the wall next to
another hot-lunch newbie. We laughed about how deceptively
difficult hot-lunch duty actually is.
"Looks like she got ya too," she snickered, nodding in
"No way!" I said, whipping my head around to see what she
meant. Sure enough, doe-eyed girl had brought a lunch box
That does it. I'm playing hooky the next time I'm called
for hot-lunch duty.
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
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