Our kids pack their own school lunches.
There are several reasons for this. First, it fosters self-sufficiency and independent thinking. It also gives them some awareness and appreciation of how much work goes into planning and preparing a meal. More importantly, a child who’s chosen his own food is much more likely to actually eat those foods than a child who is surprised and disgusted by the choices someone else has made for him. No food is nutritious if it goes uneaten!
Best of all, it’s so much easier for the parents. Packing lunches is a lot of work, and this way, I get to just put my feet up and relax.
Of course, first I have to remind the kids to make their lunches. I have the choice of doing this as soon as they get home, when they are exhausted and cranky, or later, when they are cranky and exhausted. Either way, there is occasionally a bit of resistance; but this can easily be overcome with some firm, cheerful reminders. Here is a sample dialogue:
Parent: [Child’s name], please make your lunch now.
Kid: [No answer.]
Parent: [Child’s name], will you please make your lunch now. [Child’s name.]
Kid: [No answer.]
Parent: [Child’s name], please make your lunch now [Child’s name.] [Child’s name.] Make your lunch.
Kid: [No answer.]
Parent: LUNCH. LUNCH. LUNCH.
Parent: Please make your lunch.
Kid: Okay. Sheesh! You can’t just say “Lunch!” and expect me to know what you want!
The child will now need to locate his or her lunch box. If by some miracle the child has not left the lunch box at school, on the bus, or in the Dunkin’ Donuts bathroom where you stopped for an emergency poo, you will be able to easily locate the lunch box by the cloud of fruit flies hovering overhead.
Your child may notice that their lunch box “smells funny for some reason” but may need some assistance in identifying that reason as last week’s tangerine peel collection that it seemed like too much work to throw away, so they brought it home because surely their mother needs some elderly tangerine peels.
No matter, you can easily wipe down today’s modern wipeable lunch box with a damp cloth, perhaps give it a once-over with some baking soda to ameliorate the stench, possibly douse it with kerosene, pat it dry, and you’re ready to pack the lunch. I mean your child is ready to pack his lunch all by himself, while you put your feet up.
He will accomplish this by packing one snack pack of chocolate pudding and then going to lie down under the table. Why is he lying down under the table? Because there isn’t any food in this house.
You will point out to him — possibly waving your arms a bit, as you point it out — that there is so much food, in such vast quantities, and in such an array of varieties, it would have rendered Mansa Musa instantly insane as his brain tried to comprehend the sheer opulent luxury of it all.
But no dice. All you ever buy, it seems, is dumb boring things that are barely even food, like fruit and meat and cheese and yogurt and crackers and trail mix and cookies and pudding and hummus and chips and vegetables and fruit snacks and pumpkin seeds and bagels, and meanwhile all the other moms are buying Flamin’ Hot Sharkleberry Pop Tarts with Limited Edition Rockin’ Sockin’ Tropical Holographic S’mores Drizzle Pods, because other moms love their children.
At this point, you may be tempted to remind your children that, when you were in elementary school, you used to bring in a baloney sandwich, an apple, and a couple of store brand graham crackers with jelly on them, and you considered it a special treat if the jelly had seeds in it. And there certainly weren’t any insulated bags or adorable mermaid-shaped mini ice packs to go in those lunches! We got salmonella and we were grateful for it! We considered it an honor!
But this approach is an error. Your child will consider the fact that you ate graham crackers just further evidence that you are some kind of defective moron who is incapable of judging right eating, and he will make fun of you on TikTok. It’s not fair, but that’s how it is.
Eventually, with some persistent reasoning and bargaining and a little bit of screaming, your child can be coaxed to continue adding food items to his lunch box, until finally he discovers that it is nearly full. He will have achieved this all by himself, with only a little bit of help from you, who will by this time have spent the last forty minutes standing there with your head deep inside the cabinet, mumbling, “How about Triscuits? okay, then how about Ritz crackers?okay, then how about Goldfish crackers? okay, then how about Wheat Thins? okay, then how about Saltines?” and all the while you can actually feel your bones wearing down and turning into dust inside you. How about Wheat Thins with the bone dust of your mother on them? How about that?
But your untimely demise aside, the good news is, your child will finally have a hearty, nutritious lunch. Well, a hearty lunch. Well, it is mainly chocolate pudding, but at least you know the little creep is going to eat it. And best of all, he made it all by himself, and saved you so much work. Looks like this generation is off to a fine start, and you can go put your feet–
-Oh no, wait. This pudding was produced on machinery that also processes nuts. I guess junior needs some help after all.
PBJ Image: JefferyGoldman, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons