During my Spring Break, I join Zack and Zoe for lunch at their cafeteria, with their friends.
My son apparently has a harem or something like that because the closest boy to him is eight girls down the line of chattering first graders who all sit on the same side of the table facing empty seats where parents would be if they were visiting.
A tiny girl in front of my with angelic blonde hair and impossibly white teeth nibbles a cheese sandwich "with Mayo!" she proclaims, causing the girls and Zack to wince all grossed out.
They compare lunches, take sips and sit awkwardly.
I spy their high-class icepacks enviously. I can't find where they hide those suckers in the store, or/and when I do find them I think "oh, no, we don't really need new ones..." so I give my kids the same years-old battered and leaky blue packs, mummified in two feeble layers of zipped baggies.
I point it out to them. You have a soccer ball! Your mom rocks! And you have... an insulated sandwich holder! A+ supermom! And you have... a Princess icepack! Cold princesses, cool!
Zack and his harem all giggle, and I sneak my third mini-muffin from my son's lunchbox.
The girl with the soccer pack adds, "I used to have the Princesses! But they leaked...."
You had to throw it away? I ask, making an exaggeratedly sad face. I understand the sentimentality of the six year old heart.
She nodded, giggling and pretending to be sad. That is my cue. I take a carton of chocolate milk and hold it up as a toast.
A line of girls hold their juiceboxes and thermoses up. Zack smiles proudly, impossible to embarrass.
It's a good policy to throw leaky princesses away. We should all agree to that now. It's a good rule to have for life. No leaky princesses.
We high-5 each other and a cafeteria aid comes to stand near us and do this clapping thing that translates to "stop making noise, pay attention to me" -- and I stifle my frown. This is America, we are free to laugh, I want to say, but I don't because I know that's a lesson they'll have to learn on their own.