Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Life isn't fair when you're a kid

You know, there are times when I watch my kids and think, "Oh, it would be great to be a kid, when all I had to worry about was whether I would like the vegetables with my dinner and keeping my room clean."  But the fact is, life can be tough on kids sometimes, and although my kids point it out a little too often and with perhaps some exaggeration, life isn't always fair when you're a kid, either.

A case in point: Last Monday I sent Z off to school with an envelope containing twenty bucks, so she could turn it in at the cafeteria for her lunch money fund.  That day when she got to the cafeteria, the lunch lady told her that she didn't have any money in her account and she couldn't get lunch.  She eventually caved and let Z get lunch, at least, but told her that she had never turned in her money.

So Z tells us about it, and just to make sure we check her backpack and she cleaned out her desk at school.  No envelope full of cash.  Now the thing is, my kids loses stuff sometimes.  She does.  But she was really committed to the fact that she had turned that money in.  She told me all about it.  When she did it.  Who took it.  Her confusion about it not being in her account.  And this kid is pretty sharp.  There are plenty of adults I would put in second place to her on sheer mental acuity.  So I believe her. 

This week I went in to ask the lunch lady about it.  And you know what's weird?  She has pink hair.  Not that this bothers me, but I wanted to point it out just in case you had the stereotypical picture of a lunch lady with blue hair.  Anyway, I tell her who I am and tell her I want to see my daughter's lunch account balance.  She says this is no problem.  It's at negative one dollar.

"I sent in twenty bucks on Monday," I said. 

"I know your daughter and she never came in here with twenty dollars.  Maybe she gave it to the teacher."

"But she didn't give it to the teacher.  She brought it in here."

"I would have a record of that.  Look, here in the computer it says that she last brought money in November.  And I write down all the kids who bring it in by hand also."

"Maybe we could look at last Monday's handwritten list."

"Okay."  She goes off to find it, brings it back and sits down and we look over the list.  "See?" she said.  "She's not on the list."

Except that she is.  Right in the middle.  I point her out.  And now instead of the slightly defensive person having an internal monologue about how kids always lose stuff and parents complain, there's a conversation about not-knowing-how-this-could-happen and where is the money and whose account did it end up in.  I told her I was sure she would figure it out, she assured me she would, and I left.  Notice the lack of apology.  Nobody is going to pull Z aside next time she goes through the lunch line and say, "Hey, kid, you were right and all the adults were wrong.  Good job.  You deserve to be trusted."  Because she's eight years old, and she loses stuff sometimes. 

Sometimes it's good to be an adult.