The unexpected joy of lunches at home

Like so many students across the US and even the world, Z spent most of their time at home for an entire year due to Covid.

From March until August 2020, we were all at home together, on lockdown as a family. School took place via distance learning and, despite initial battles, Z and I ultimately became a good team.

We had lunch together every day at our kitchen table. Our dogs thrived and flourished on all the time together as a pack – they got more walks than in any other year of their lives.

Then, at the start of September 2020, Z went back to school on a hybrid schedule, with two or three days at home each week for distance learning, and the other two or three days in-person at school. While this schedule was a bit of a pain at first, it soon became second nature – and Z thrived on it.

Hybrid life due to Covid ended up being our favorite school schedule ever – especially for an anxious, highly sensitive kiddo.

Z always knew if they had a tough or stressful day at school, they would be home with me the next day. And if they had an annoying or boring day at home with me, they knew they’d be headed to school the following. It worked so well for us.

I realize that the reason that wacky schedule worked for us is thanks to the flexibility I have due to owning my own business. I know it was a hellish and unmanageable situation for others; I’m aware of the privilege we have and I’m grateful we were able to make it work.

That said, even good things must come to an end. In March 2021, after a year of distance and hybrid learning, Olentangy Schools went back to full-time, in-person learning. No more splitting the students into an A and B group to allow for maximum social distancing with only half the kids there at one time – instead, they were back all together with full capacity classrooms. I was not happy about this change, and neither was Z.

Thankfully, things went smoothly with the return to school and many of our Covid-related fears have been assuaged. The kids are still social distancing and wearing masks, plus teachers and staff do a great job of enforcing those things. But the five-day “normal” school schedule still feels a bit grueling to Z after a year away from it. Normal sure doesn’t feel like normal anymore.

And so, Z and I have stumbled into having lunch together at home a few days a week. At first, I just checked them out for an appointment here and there. Then, we realized that the school didn’t care since Z wasn’t missing any class time – so Z started to ask if they could come home for lunch a couple of days a week. Since no one at school minded, it was a big yes from me.

I love having lunches with Z. It’s not just me they come home to see – it’s our dog and cat, our peaceful home and the hard-working E, toiling away in his basement office but happy to come upstairs for lunch with the fam. After we eat lunch, I make sure we get a half hour in the sun and fresh air, just as they would if they were at school for lunch and recess.

We walk the dog, take the cat outside on her harness, take turns on Z’s scooters or even jump on the trampoline. We enjoy the peace and quiet of the neighborhood. It’s a little stress-free time for Z in the midst of a day that can otherwise feel like a pot boiling over with academic pressures or peer drama. For E and I, it’s a nice break from work. We all enjoy the time together – Dani and Galaxy included.

Once in a while, a little voice in the back of my head says “Shouldn’t Z be having lunch at school so they can interact with peers, eat lunch in the cafeteria and spend recess on the playground?” Sure, I think back at that voice – maybe. But they still get to do that a couple of days a week.

And then I remember back when school was normal and none of us had ever heard of Covid. E and I used to have lunch with Z at school once a week. We loved the chance to see them in their daily environment, wave at their friends and enjoy lunch in the cafeteria with our kiddo. In my mind, our lunches together at home are just a continuation of that happy routine – and of our special time together during the lockdown and all those distance learning days.

And honestly, when your 11 year old tweenager still wants to have lunch with you? That’s a huge win – so that alone is enough to silence any nagging, critical voice in my head.

As long as Z wants to have lunch at home with me, I will always want to have lunch with them. I’ll cherish this unexpected joy for as long as I’m able.

Do you ever have lunch with your kids at school, or did you before Covid? Have you ever checked your kid out at lunchtime to take them to lunch? If not, you should surprise them one day – it’s a lot of fun!

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About the author

Proud and loving midlife mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog, cat and snake mom. Travel nut. Natural born writer. PR and social media pro by day - tattoo doula by night.
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