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Raising Lexington: My Lunch Box Dilemma

A week in the life of a Kindergarteners lunch box can go from joyful optimism to disheartened frustration in the snap of a lid.

This is not an article about public school lunch options, pink slime or how to pick the trendiest lunch boxes for your child. This is an article about the ups and downs of what you put in your child’s lunch box day-in and day-out, and the roller coaster ride that ensues.  

It’s Monday morning and I’m ready! A restful family weekend has renewed my spirits and I am ready to tackle my daily dilemma: What to pack in my daughter’s lunch box. I have a refrigerator full of interesting and healthy things and my creative juices are flowing.

I smile at my daughter with a sense of determination. I am going to get it right today! Her lunch box will come home empty I am sure of it. With an article about creative ways to fill your child’s lunch box in mind I start packing. I start with a whole wheat wrap, some hummus and a slice of nitrate-free turkey and roll with the confidence of Jamie Oliver as he preaches about healthy school lunches. He’d be lovin’ this one. I continue with fresh strawberries, a cheddar cheese stick and round out the lunch with the one thing I know she always loves -- orange juice. As I stack the reusable containers in her pink lunch box I smile knowing I’ve done it right, finally.  

But alas, 10 hours later when that little pink lunch box came home it was looking as sad and dejected as I felt. “But Mom, I drank the orange juice and ate half of the strawberries,” my daughter said with a confidence I couldn’t understand. Did she think that was a good lunch? Did she think I would be happy with that? I asked her why she didn’t eat the rest and she just shrugged her shoulders and continued on with the afternoon. I contemplated putting the uneaten wrap and strawberries in the refrigerator for tomorrow’s lunch, but knew their outcome would be like today’s, uneaten and unappreciated. So, I ate them. I mean, I kinda felt sorry for the lunch box rejects.

As Tuesday morning woke us and we started the usual morning routine I decided I would not be deterred by yesterday’s pathetic lunch box showing. Out came that pink lunch box and its sidekicks the containers and out came my slightly deflated lunch making skills. Today’s lunch menu: homemade mini pizza on whole wheat English muffins with her favorite toppings, mushrooms and olives. She was going to go nuts for this one. I was smiling with a newfound confidence as I added some yogurt and granola and the much loved banana. I threw in Mr. OJ knowing at least he wouldn’t be staring back in my face tonight.

Ugh! Tuesday afternoon’s lunch box looked striking similar to Tuesday morning’s lunch box! How can this be? “The mini pizzas were soggy Mom but I did pick off the mushrooms and olives!” Maybe I should just pack her a container of mushrooms and olives tomorrow.

As I pulled myself out of bed Wednesday morning I felt like telling her to just eat what the school was serving, but as we looked at the menu we realized that there was no way she was going to eat a meatball sub. So off I went to pack another uneaten lunch. I was in a mood and my choice for my daughter’s lunch showed it all. Whole wheat bagel and cream cheese, cantaloupe and banana bread packed up with an attitude. Have a nice day. The attitude filled lunch box came back….lighter! Half the bagel was gone, as was the cantaloupe. My daughter decided to eat the banana bread on the ride home from school so technically the lunch box was practically empty. I will take it!

Thursday morning I leapt out of bed knowing it was a half day and I could make her something at home and that was always easier. Lunch box had the day off and I am sure it needed it after three days of rejection.

And then came Friday as it always does after so many days of failed lunch attempts. I was tired, the lunch box was tired and I am sure my daughter was tired at getting lunches she didn’t want. As I reached into the refrigerator I decided to lean on the old saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them” and packed her mac and cheese and peas and watermelon. Yes, she loved it. Yes, the lunch box came home empty and happy and we all started the weekend feeling good.

So what’s the moral of this week in the life of a Kindergarteners lunchbox? Be flexible and don’t give up.

Since this snapshot of my daughter’s lunch woes I have talked to her about what she wants to eat and figured out that she doesn’t like sandwiches or anything soggy. We do lots of little containers of foods now, like turkey slices, diced cheese, hummus with pita chips, thermos’ with pesto and pasta, etc. My daughter is happier and her little pink lunch box is happier. I have also started up my Mother’s tradition of leaving little notes in her lunch box.

Today’s note: “Hope you love your lunch as much as I love you!”  

Denise Fernandez April 24, 2012 at 05:40 PM
I love this article Audra!!! The one thing I try to do especially with growing boys is to try new foods during one of the many growth spurts they go through. They will eat just about anything I put in front of them which is a great opportunity to try new healthy snacks and foods. By the way, I will eat your lunches...they sound good to me!!!
Audra Myerberg April 27, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Thanks Denise! That is a great tip. I just laugh about it now but I hate waste so it can be frustrating.

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