The Scary School Lunch Box

One of my most dreaded tasks of the school year is to make lunches. Every mom I know hates the gaping hole of an empty lunch box. But while we are exploring the topic of school lunches and snacks let me take a moment to gripe about the paltry amount of time these kids are given to eat their lunches. On one hand, children love to talk and mess around and perhaps given more time they would simply engage in launching food across the room. But it is a mixed message that the school sends our children.  Commanding them at the same to “Eat healthy foods or your innards will rot!” and then “Eat super fast so you can get to recess!” I like the idea that food preparation as well as taking the time to have a nice, well mannered meal, should be apart of every child’s school day.  Until that blessed day comes I will continue my struggle with the lunch box.

In my new quest to get happy and remain happy as well as to understand the thoughts in my head, I decided to engage in some mindful thinking while making lunches this morning.

I grabbed juice boxes and bottles of water.  Ambivalence about the sugar content and question what the company considers to be real juice.  Make a cheese sandwich for the boy.  Processed cheese… twinges of guilt… want to feed him better.. lacking funds… he likes it… also rationalise that I lived on it as a child and survived.  The bread is not filled with sugar so that’s a positive.  Reach for a plastic baggy…. wish the school had the Mixed Bag fundraiser so I could feel virtuous with a reusable sandwich bag instead feel bad that another piece of calendered plastic will hit the landfill… but there is hope he will bring it home and I can reuse it tomorrow. A mini bagel and cream cheese… okay I guess. But he just ate a bagel with peanut butter for breakfast.  Add Pirate Booty.. it makes him happy and is poofy cornmeal and cheddar with no sugar that bad? Next.  Mixed fruit with cherries… in juice (still 18 grams of sugar!) but not a sugar syrup!  Does it matter that it was sitting on a grocery store shelf for some unidentified amount of time?  Still wishing I had real fruit to add to this lunch box.  I curse the grocery store for the horrible looking and expensive oranges.  Let’s call this a job done.

Move onto the girl. Crackers. That’s all she wants to eat. I have, in the past, placed a salad in this lunch box. Salad (or sometimes just cut vegetables) return warm and soggy. Untouched. Maybe if I include different types of crackers she will at least have a slightly varied diet? Ritz and flavor blasted cheddar fish. Pirate booty. A cheese stick that will return home limp and warm. A cut apple with some lemon (my attempt to keep it fresh). She may eat a bite.  Most likely I will see this later today and throw away this fresh apple I paid top dollar for at the orchard. One bite of fresh apple better than none? Job done.

I’m sure whomever is on lunch duty is judging me. How can this mother feed her child crackers? Or maybe that  mother has the same problem… a child she is trying to unsuccessfully wean from crackers. At the beginning of the year I was set on changing her habits. Less than two months into school I broke down. If she eats nothing in her day, which seems to be her other choice, then how will she function?  Shy, introverts at least need some sort of food otherwise all functions may break down. Well at least that is how I am justifying her lunch.

What do I want them to eat? More protein, vegetables, fruit and less sugar. They both usually eat a healthy dinner complete with protein and veggies.  Does that make a crappy lunch excusable?  I’m not smiling about it. I’m aware of it.The kids will change. They will grow. Crackers will eventually go out of style?

I had no idea I spent so much time beating myself up about lunch box choices… these compromises between the kids’ tastes, what is available at the grocery store, and my own limited time and funds. Vow to become more creative at finding new and more healthier foods for them to eat at lunch. Maybe this vow will last longer than two months!

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