The allure of the lunchbox and all its fillings

Many moons ago when my daughter started kindergarten, she asked me if I was a buyer or a packer. In all honesty, I had to tell her that my mother packed my lunch every day. For my entire school career. Yes, even in high school.
“I think I’m going to be a packer, too,” was her response, and I immediately felt tired for the years of getting up early to pack tiny sandwiches that I knew were in store.
Sure enough, I found myself setting my alarm clock earlier and earlier to wake up and concoct a smorgasbord of edible delights, somehow packed with as much love as I would give her at home, if not more. There were days when I thought I would need a bigger lunchbox because I missed her so much. As if packing it full of her favorite things would somehow make me miss her less as she because her educational career and I sat home and dreamed up creative ways to make peanut butter and jelly.
“I like peanut butter and jelly” she told me after just a week or two of school, but I, in my ate-out-of-a-brown-bag-for-13-years wisdom, thought that she would like something else.
So I set to challenge the lunchbox, to shake things up and serve my kid a variety of vittles.
I created my own lunch-snacker, where I meticulously cut up cheese, trail bologna and neatly packed it with crackers.
I sent cold pizza when the leftovers were just right and no one got to them for a midnight snack.
I even created this great noodle meets chicken meets broccoli dish that I would heat to near vaporization and pack in her cute thermos so that by the time she cracked it open it would be mildly tepid.
There was the infamous wrap, which I thought allowed me to sneak in really obscure foods like lettuce and cheese and maybe a bit of meat.
“But I like peanut butter and jelly. Can’t you just make me that?”
So I tried again.
I tried nuking macaroni and cheese and putting that in her thermos, again proving the well-known fact that it is absolutely impossible to reheat that stuff without it going through a state of matter metamorphosis, congealing to itself while creating a most powerful glue. “It’s got to be better than PBJ day after day,” I convinced myself.
I went the sweet route, serving up raisin bread with jam and cream cheese.
And the savory route, thinking that if I eat cold chicken nuggets standing up while washing the kids’ dishes and call that a decent lunch, she might too. Especially when served with ranch dressing, aka the stuff that kids are truly made of.
“Hey, tomorrow, can you make me peanut butter and jelly?” she asked.
It took nearly a year, but I realized that as much as we foodie parents like a change of menu, kids don’t. Aren’t these the same little people we literally trained to go to bed at the same time each night? It actually makes sense that they find something they like and stick with it.
That doesn’t mean I’m not going to throw in something new and crazy every now and then, but I know that when it comes down to it, it’s the routine and the normalness of her lunch that she needs, even now that she’s in second grade. She’s still stuck on her one, single favorite dish.
And for my daughter, it is obviously the good ol’ PBJ. So to satisfy my own selfish needs to serve something different, I get up extra early every Friday morning and cut the sandwich with mini cookie cutters until she’s got a little container filled with tiny tea-sized peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The rest of the lunchbox? Love, love, love. And you know, a few more snacks. And hopefully I remember the juice box.


Popular posts from this blog

Needs and wants and dirty feet

Old mom, new tricks

How to choose the perfect Christmas present