My firstborn was starting junior kindergarten. It was a huge milestone and I was going to send him off to school just right. I remember how I naively looked forward to packing him cute and nutritious little school lunches. There were so many lunch bags and matching, stackable containers to choose from. There were even these adorable bento boxes I saw online. Insulated lunch bags and Thermoses and bento boxes-oh my!
I wanted it all. I mean, for him, of course. He was going to have the most well balanced, nutritious and perfectly portioned lunches in the history of school lunches. I was a school lunch packing virgin and I was about to walk blindly and enthusiastically into the most hellish experience of my adult life.
Thankfully I was able to keep some sense of practicality about me and when I saw the prices of the bento boxes, I decided to make do with the 1.5 million mismatched plastic containers that spilled out of the cupboard every time I opened it.
By the second week, I was realizing this wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. He wasn’t obediently devouring the healthy combinations I so lovingly created. Food was getting wasted and the lunch bag already smelt like old yoghurt. Lunch packing was already becoming mind-numbingly repetitive.
People were actually using sandwich shape cutters to make dinosaur sandwiches and little teddy bears with raisin eyes and equally overachieving creations.
So like any lunch packing virgin would, I went to Pinterest and searched “easy lunch ideas”. Big mistake. People were actually using sandwich shape cutters to make dinosaur sandwiches and little teddy bears with raisin eyes and equally overachieving creations. It went on and on and on. And on.
I instantly despised these creations. I can’t explain the level of hatred I felt for these adorable bread creatures. The fact that Pinterest labelled them as “easy lunch ideas” made me want to stab someone with a perfectly placed toothpick. (And I don’t usually exhibit violent tendencies). It just wasn’t right. It wasn’t natural. What happens to the rest of the sandwich that didn’t make the cut? (Quite literally) How do you think the crust feels, just being tossed aside every day?
And besides that, who has time for this shit? And whatever happened to throwing a sandwich in a paper bag and calling it a day? I mean, an environmentally friendly, reusable lunch bag, insulated to perfection.
That’s when I made a vow to never, ever be an overachieving lunch packer. Basic lunch packers unite! Your parenting is not defined by bento boxes and grapes cut up into minuscule pieces. At the end of the day, you just need to figure out what your child will actually eat that will keep them alive until they get home.
That’s when I made a vow to never, ever be an overachieving lunch packer. Basic lunch packers unite! Your parenting is not defined by bento boxes and grapes cut up into minuscule pieces.
I now have two school age children and in a few years, it will be three. As a lunch packing veteran, I’m an advocate of keeping my expectations low and their lunches simple.
So if you have to microwave some hot dogs, wrap those bad boys in tin foil and pray your child doesn’t get listeria, you do that! (I do). If your child will only eat bread and butter, pack their lunch bag full with it and be glad that it’s cheap and filling. When you oversleep and have to throw a giant bag of pretzels and an apple in a bag and send them out the door, you can rest easy knowing that they will be the most popular kid at the lunch table today.
I also like to tell myself that those overachieving sandwiches on Pinterest are made by robots who don’t actually have children. But sometimes, when I’m feeling extra ambitious, I cut their sandwich into four triangles. That’s only on special occasions though. And I always resent doing it.
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.