Friday, 28 November 2014


My kids don't come home for lunch. This is despite them, for much of their school careers, attending a school 3 blocks away and with me home. When asked by them why they can't come home when many of their friends do, I have a simple answer: "I don't want you here."

Harsh perhaps but I have no worries about scarring their egos. For one thing, have you ever talked to a boy between the ages of 3 and 13 - in their humble opinion, they are AWESOME! At EVERYTHING! Their egos are untouched by reality. I think actually some of these punks could do with a little regular ego puncturing. But that's just me being mean, or truthful... or both.

I explain to my boys that I have sacrificed a lot by being home and putting myself at their general disposal and being available to go to appointments, to be home for sick and PA days and to take them to various activities and that, if they were to come home regularly, I would get even less done than I normally do. They look at me blankly and say, "Huh?" or something along those lines - they have clearly long ago moved on.

I also wonder, why would they want to come home anyway? It's boring here. At school during lunch hour they can run around and yell and play games and, from what I can tell, are often pretty much unsupervised - except for one teacher on yard duty who is on serious zombifying medication wishing she had made different life choices. I don't get it - lunch hour was the best part of the day in grade school for me - almost al of my memories of that period of my life come from recess. That's where you really learn stuff about the world.

However, to show I do care about them, I instituted a policy that I take each out individually once a semester to a local restaurant of their choice. This is a treat for all of us - I get out of the house and eat junk food and joke around with my boys one on one for an hour and they get the same benefit - when you're one of three kids you get lumped in with the group and don't get much personal time. This has been a very popular lunch program.

Today I took out my middle son for our term lunch date. He's new to the school this year but his older brother has been there for a few years. He was quite excited to try out Hero Burger and its bottomless soda fountain. I will try to remember the last Friday of the month is the worst day to go to this restaurant - it's the only hamburger joint in walking distance of the rather massive grade school and, by the time we walked there, we were number 70 in line.

I had my son stake out a table and I eventually placed our order, while witnessing hosts of tweens begging each other to lend them money to buy fries. Having the older boy at the school for the last few years means I have got to know a number of these kids from field trips, classroom visits and school teams. A number of boys came up to our table to say, "Hi, Sweeney's Dad. Where's Sweeney?"

I had to laugh. Growing up with a common first name and surname that already seemed a nickname, I was known as Sweeney from Grade One onwards. It always tried my mother's patience when kids would call our house (On a land line! I know, old school, right?) and ask for "Sweeney".

"Which one?" she would sigh, "There are 6 of us."

I think it's possible many people didn't even know my first name. I did actually have a guy come up to me in high school one time and ask why people called me Sweeney. I explained that it was my name. He looked disbelieving. (Yes, I'm talking about you, Arash - someone I would have thought would be more sensitive about names, frankly) I also still regularly have people who believe my name is 'Mike'. Not sure where that came from.

My surname has been morphed into many forms over the years as well: Sween, MacSween, Sweenster, Sweendawg and, perhaps the weirdest, Sweeneyburger.

On that note, at Hero Burger, in answer to the question, "Where's Sweeney?" I gestured to my second son, and said, "Right here. He's in Grade Four."

"Oh right, this is Middle Sweeney. I heard he was here now."

I think my son and I both got a kick out of it. He likes knowing he's part of something and that bigger kids know who he is because he has an older, popular brother at the school. It certainly helped him feel more comfortable with the transition. And I just like that he is known as a Sweeney. Even though I growled to him after the kids left, "Sweeney's Dad? Mr. Sweeney would have been just fine," I didn't really care. We both enjoyed that kids knew who I was and felt comfortable coming up and talking to me - like I was some kind of local celebrity. But not so friendly they asked for money to buy fries, thank god.

Something about that exchange made me feel good, like that, even though I don't have my kids coming home for lunch everyday, I'm doing something right as a dad.

Or, then again, it could have been the fries with gravy that made me feel so happy.

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