Thursdays are ballet day for Lulu Pie, her absolute favourite day of the week, and while she cheerfully skips her pink tutu’d self off to her lesson, The Guy kindly saves me the extra trip by staying for a dash of aftercare. He LOVES it, especially because he gets to take his lunch box to school – I have no idea why, but apparently this is a really, really big deal!
Recently, however, tragedy struck when The Guy’s treasured Spiderman lunchbox became warped and refused to behave itself and stay clipped. After one too many Thursday evenings spent fishing slimy yoghurt spoons and rotting apple cores out from the depths of his school bag I had had enough- no more! It was time to retire Spiderman and seek out a replacement.
Now apparently, I’m an uncool, old school mom because somewhere between The Schmoo’s pre-school days and now I had obviously missed a memo because I noticed that kids now take little silver-lined, fabric cooler lunch bags to school instead of a good, old fashioned plastic jobbie. Unwilling to risk another warping episode, I decided to ‘get with it’ and follow suit. Off we went, it was time to lunch bag shop!
I had seen what I was looking for, so we made a bee-line for the store and were immediately greeted with an extensive display of just what we needed. Jackpot! Spoilt for choice, my eyes scanned the shelves of green dinosaurs, red foxes, blue hippo and yellow lamas. Woah! Talk about a selection! Next to me, The Guy suddenly crackled to life and shot forward, grabbing a hot pink coloured racoon one, hugging it tightly to his chest, smothering it with kisses and lovingly telling it “My runchwox!” *kiss* “My runchwox!”. I should have known.
I have never been a ‘girls get pink and boys get blue’ mom, preferring to see what colours (clothes, toys, etc) my kids like with as little influence as possible, and while I was definitely entertained by my little boy smashing convention and falling head over heels for a pink lunch bag, I am not naive. It is a sad truth that we live in a world where people don’t always nurture a broken stereotype, so it was not without some trepidation that I watched my wildly happy little boy wind his way through the snaking lane towards the till, where him and his pink lunch bag screeched to a halt behind a number of big, buff men fresh from the gym, an elderly gentleman and a couple of trendy teenagers. At the Guy’s boisterous arrival, all eyes turned to look him, a tiny figure now standing quietly, still discreetly snuggling and kissing his pride and joy. Inside I was whispering a plea: “please don’t make him feel bad about the very thing that is making his little face shine!”
One of the gym guys spoke first.
Gym Guy: “What have you got there?”
The Guy: “RUNCHWOX!!! See?” * holds it up for gym guy to inspect *
Here we go, I thought. But do you know what? The wonderful man smiled warmly at my son and told him how lovely he thought it was, and what was that animal on the front? At this point everybody was enjoying the interaction, and many added their own words of admiration, one girl asked him if he knew what colour it was, gently correcting him when he incorrectly guessed that it was green. Another man wanted to know what The Guy was planning on putting in his lunch bag (“Runch for my ‘kool”). By the time we got to the front of the line even the cashiers were in on the game, gushing over this smart lunch bag of his.
The Guy could not have been prouder of his little pink bag, and I could not have been more humbled and grateful, in equal parts. Grateful that, in a moment where people could have been anything they wanted, they chose, as a collective, to be kind. They chose to build a little boy’s self confidence up. They chose to encourage his pride and invest in his happiness, despite the slightly atypical choice that he had made. Humbled because, despite the fact that I try my hardest to instil values of equality and acceptance in my children, in that moment in time I myself was the guilty party. Watching my child approach this group of strangers my mama-bear instincts caused me to judge people who I had never met, assuming the worst of them, worried that he would need my protection from a well-intentioned but prejudiced slip of the tongue that never came.
I am once again reminded that people are innately good, you just need to step back a little bit to see it. It seems that I still have a lot to learn about the world and the people I share it with, and my most recent lesson just came from a little boy and a pink lunch bag.