Important Advice for Parents Making School Lunches 08.26.2013

1.  Keep the faith.
2.  Do not lose your mind.

That's it.  That's all I have for you.

If you thought you were heading into a list of healthy suggestions for school lunches to feed your beautiful children, you are in the wrong place.  Anyone who tries to offer you such a list does not – I repeat – does NOT know your kids:  grain of salt, tread carefully, etc. etc.

Today is the first day of school and for those who make bag lunches for school-going kids, we're back in the trenches!  And if you've ever been in any kind of trench, you know that it totally blows.  It's repetitive, you lose your creative edge after a while, and you can't wait for an opportunity to get the hell out.  

Obviously, I want to feed my kids but packing lunches day after day after day after day after get the point.  Your kids either take lunch from home or eat school lunches (out of desire or necessity); mine have lunch boxes from home.  I fantasize about not making lunch, but I’ve seen the school lunch and it’s just not going to happen.  So, I’m choosing to make lunches, and I will whine about it. 

When I was in elementary school, a lunch from the school cafeteria meant corn dogs, hamburgers, and greasy pizza, and back in 1970s Houston, Texas, well, that was just fine.  Once or twice a year now, I get hold of a corn dog and it is pure decadence.  

Several times a week, when she had time, my mom would make bag lunches for us.  And by far my favorite lunch food was her tomato sandwich:  in between two slices of white bread spread with mayonnaise, three slices of tomato sprinkled with black pepper, salt, and mango powder.  And the creme de resistance?  A slice of American cheese.  And by the time lunch rolled around, it would be slightly soggy, the tomato and mango powder flavors having sunk into the bread, and the processed cheese was softer than it had started.  I didn't care because that sandwich was so damn good. If my mom made it for me today, I’d ask her to let that tomato sandwich sit in a brown bag for a few hours, get to room temperature, and then I’d eat it. With pleasure.

Now healthy eating is all the rage (well, more mainstream at least).  We aim to provide the healthiest food, but sometimes the goal to inject calories is greater than what children are willing to eat.  But we keep pushing, right?  That’s what you do when you’re in the trenches.

My kids have a stable of four things they love to eat for lunch and that is it.  The side items fluctuate from time to time:  my daughter went through a carrot phase, which pleased us to no end.  That phase is now over, and now she is going through an extended chocolate pudding phase.

And aside from the all the healthy-versus-not-so-healthy arguments we have in our heads, there is the time we spend making the lunches.  Its redundancy is up there with loading and unloading the dishwasher, but it must be done. 

Last year when my daughter started kindergarten, I was anxious and had everything ready the night before.  I carefully wrapped her sandwich in wax paper and secured it with Spider-man stickers.  I contemplated heart stickers to express my love, but that's not her:  Spider-man makes her happy.

This year I made both lunches in the morning, with a significantly lower level of anxiety.  I stuck love notes in each lunch ordering the kids to have a good year and professing our unconditional love for always and forever.  

Whenever Friday rolls around, I refantasize that next week I will be on top of things, I will plan, I will always make lunch the night before, and I will turn my 6-and-4-year-old kids into lovers of quinoa and hummus and portabella mushroom sandwiches, and not just cheese sandwiches and chicken nuggets (organic, of course) and chicken curry.  I know there are children already feasting on such treats (I’ve seen it with my own eyes) but I also know the complete opposite.  We straddle the middle and on most days achieve healthy with a side of fun.

Hope everyone out there with a first day back had a good one!  Happy eating all!

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