I make my kids lunches because their school doesn’t provide hot lunch.
I’m okay with this because I didn’t love eating hot lunch.
Of course, no one really cared about school lunch nutrition in the 80s. If they did, it was in the form of flat, bland burgers, greasy pizza, chicken nuggets that were semi-warm, and soggy french fries that weren’t.
My mom worked full time when I was growing up, so I almost always had hot lunch. When I wanted to take lunch, I got a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a bag of chips and some milk in my thermos—or a can of Pepsi wrapped in tin foil to keep it cold in my brown bag. Sometimes I made that lunch myself. On hot lunch days, in the morning I would have a stack of quarters equaling $1.00 wrapped tightly in saran wrap to take to school to buy my lunch ticket.
When I decided to stay home with my kids, I was going to make them the best lunches ever. I was going to make star-shaped sandwiches and cut their cheese into hearts. They would have nutritious foods and full lunchboxes. I would shape their fruit and buy butterfly-shaped crackers and veggie straws for color. I would put it all in a bento box just so I could give them dipping sauces and it wouldn’t spill over my labor of love.
And I did.
I made all of those things and you know what?
It was exhausting.
Especially since they barely touched their food because they only had twenty minutes to eat and used that time to talk to their friends and eat whatever was for dessert. They would bring back food that I would have to recycle into tomorrow’s lunch or toss. They would boldly declare that they didn’t like those “weird-shaped crackers,” and say things like, “Jane has these fun dipping pretzels, Why don’t I ever get dipping pretzels in my lunch?”
The bag of fruit always comes back, but I send it anyway to make myself feel better. Often, it gets added to their dinner plates that they also won’t eat.
“What’s for dinner?”
“AWWWW MAN I HAAAAAAATE CHICKEN!”
[insert stompy, floppy arm dance of disgust]
“With the grapes, you brought home from school.”
“I don’t like grapes.”
“You asked for them last week.”
“But that was last week.”
When I was a kid I envied those magnificent lunches made with love and tenderness so it used to bother me that my kids didn’t like my lunches. But, to be a parent you have to have thick skin and know when it’s time to get over it and pull your big girl panties up. I’ve scaled back the lunches and now there aren’t many complaints, except when I send fruit.
Which is every day.
I also recently started to put jokes in their lunch boxes. It was something new and different. Sometimes I forget to toss them in when I get busy or we’re running late. On days when I do forget, they tell me they didn’t get a joke and I can tell they were disappointed.
Which is good.
Sometimes disappointment leads to a greater appreciation.
When they do have a joke in their lunch, they’re excited. They tell the joke 40 times at dinner, all at the same time talking over each other. They don’t give any time for you to guess the punchline before they blurt it out in between giggles.
“Why did the gum cross the road? Because it was stuck to the chicken’s foot.”
And it’s all fun and cuteness until someone snorts milk out of their nose. Then, another wants to be funny like that and does it on purpose. Then, the third one joins in and spits out food until everyone is on the floor laughing hysterically; except for the baby who can’t get out of his high chair.
This is right before they’re all sent to their rooms.
My dreams of being a magnificent lunch maker fizzled out faster than I could push that star cookie cutter through their ham sandwich. But, it appears I inadvertently started a new tradition of really dumb jokes in their lunch. They probably won’t remember the star sandwiches or butterfly crackers when they get older, but I bet they’ll remember the jokes in their lunches every day.
It’s not exactly what I had planned when I set this whole thing in motion, but whatever, it works.
I’m sure when they grow up they’ll have their own traditions with their children. I mostly hope they aren’t so bothered by childhood lunches that this even becomes an issue for them like it did for me.
Also, I hope they don’t bring their grapes home today.
Because we’re having chicken for dinner.