The first day of school makes me nervous. It’s not the waking up early, or the drive, or what the kids will wear. It’s not even about the tears I know I’ll shed. For me, it’s all about the lunches. For some reason I draw a blank when it comes to what to send. That and the fact that my youngest son, who just started a full-day program, only eats about five things, makes the whole process very daunting.
Over the years, his lack of dietary variety made me so nervous I took him to the doctor. In tears, I would beg, “Tell me what I can do? I’m so worried…he just won’t eat!” The doctor kindly held back her laughter and reassured me that he was fine. “He’s growing, so obviously he’s eating something,” she’d say. Other people would tell me, “He’ll eat when he’s hungry. Just keep presenting the food to him.” But his stubbornness won over mine, and soon we were down to a fairly strict diet. He starts the day with porridge and milk, has macaroni and cheese for lunch and tortellini for dinner. This is interspersed with the occasional hotdog and peanut butter sandwich, along with the typical goldfish and graham crackers. The only fruit he ever ate was banana until I recently forced him to eat an apple slice before he got his porridge. One slice of apple. It was a miracle.
Staring at an empty lunch box and wondering what to send for snacks, I reviewed my son’s limited palette and started packing whatever I could find for him. In went a peanut butter sandwich, banana, graham crackers, goldfish crackers, apple, and a few pieces of cheese. It was basically his whole repertoire apart from the macaroni or tortellini but I decided I’d better save something for dinner. I zipped his Thomas lunch bag up and sent him off to school, wondering if he’d even bother to explore all the tightly sealed tubs I had carefully packed up for him. Mostly I just hoped he’d have enough energy to make it through the day.
During the day I learned of the news that one of his classmates had a peanut allergy. Oh no! Peanut butter sandwiches were no longer an option. I can honestly say my eldest son took a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day of kindergarten. I just assumed I would coast along and continue the legacy of plain in my youngest son’s school career. My lunch trauma was growing and I seriously contemplated sending him with his tortellini during the day and feeding him a peanut butter sandwich at night. Or he could just stumble through the day, existing on the energy of his oatmeal, and I could feed him an extra bowl of macaroni and cheese for dinner. Could goldfish crackers and water sustain him for a whole day? Time would tell.
Energy didn’t seem to be an issue despite only eating some graham crackers, a banana and, surprisingly, a few pieces of cheese. While he was eating dinner and I was making the lunch for the next day he actually said, “Don’t forget the cheese! I’ll have 8 pieces please.” What? Maybe there is hope for this kid after all. His cousin did get him to eat some watermelon in the summer. And his banana was gone today. Maybe being in the classroom will sort him out and he’ll start trying things out of sheer peer pressure. I congratulated him on eating his banana and, with a big smile, he blurted, “It was brown, so I threw it out.” Or he’ll do that. I guess he’ll be having that second bowl of mac and cheese after all!
I hope your first day back to school went smoothly! If you are as lunch-box challenged as I am, check out these great ideas from the Kraft website (in honor of my son’s obsession with macaroni and cheese or, as he puts it, “The real kind…with the little orange noodles.”)