School Lunches

So this morning my oldest daughter plucked her sandwich out of her freshly packed lunchbox and fed it to the dog.

I didn’t actually witness this happen, but little sisters see all, and the report was made covertly, while the culprit was in the bathroom combing her hair- a process which seems to consume most of her mornings lately.  She is, after all, ten.

My mother is here helping with the girls as my mobility is limited, but I still get up in the mornings and help herd the reluctant tween and her sibling from bed to bathroom, to clothing laid out the night before, to chores, to breakfast and finally out the door.  As many mornings as we have to do this, you’d think the routine would be somewhat repeatable, but it seems that every morning I have to rouse a child from the floor of the bedroom where they’re sitting in a state of undress chewing on a plastic toy and staring blankly at the wall.

Lunches have become and remained a problem, and I live for the day that the Montessori Charter School will announce that they’ll be serving hot lunch and I will Never Ever Again have to pack a wretched school lunch.  I.  Hate.  Them.  School lunches are the bane of my existence.  Trying to create a nutritious lunch for a picky tween and her little sibling who’d just as soon eat the scrapings out of the inside of the jam lid is becoming a feat of impossibility and I’m about ready to have the girls do it.  Except that’s just going to be one more thing I’ll have to stand over them and make them do.

I can’t help but picture the lunches of the other Montessori children with neatly sliced carrot sticks, gluten-free crackers, avocado sushi, fresh whipped hummus and organic seaweed packages and the teachers nodding in approval at these wholesome families and frowning at my children with their Scooby snacks, cheese balls and a white flour tortilla with butter.

I’ve tried packing the damn healthy lunches.  I understand whole foods and healthy eating, and try hard to practice good dietary principles in my life, but the kiddos are not with me on this.   Most days, my sprouted grain Ezekiel bread-almond butter and low-sugar organic jelly sandwiches return from school with a single resentful bite mark in the center, and I end up dumping them into the chicken bucket.  My sliced carrot sticks return softened and humid, the apple slices brown and soggy, and my fresh salad clinging damply to the inside of the lunch container.  At least I have well nourished chickens.

So when my daughter fed the sandwich to the dog this morning, after scolding her sharply and giving her a lecture about the humanitarian crises in Somalia and South Sudan and the hundreds of thousands of children dying of famine, I realized that I had indeed become my mother.   I made the resentful tween apologize to her grandmother who’d made the offending sandwich, which she did gracelessly, and I debated what to do about her food.

Then I had an epiphany.  I was going to do nothing about the now-light lunch.  My child had been handed a nourishing meal in her pack, and had chosen to rudely waste a good portion of it.  I guess she’ll be hungry at lunch time.  Bummer.

Tomorrow, she can pack her own damn lunch while I eat my own breakfast, drink my tea and look at the morning news.   If it’s not completed before it’s time to walk out the door, I guess she’ll be hungry at lunch time again.  And so on.  And so on.  It takes quite  a while to die from famine, so I don’t think she’s in any particular danger there.  My guess is that she’ll get the picture sooner rather than later and find a way to better manage her time and food preparation in the morning.

Mom from hell, or mom allowing natural consequences to shape her child’s behavior and choices?  We’ll see how the rest of this week goes, but my lunch packing days, for now, are over.