The Kids are Alright: Ladies Who (make) Lunch

One down, 200-and-something to go.

That was my thought last night as I assembled the first school lunches of the year, with the help of not one, but two eager, picky participants.

“I want cucumbers,” said my six-year-old. Awesome. Cucumbers, coming up. “NOT LIKE THAT,” she screamed as I cut the cuke into rounds. Apparently, she was expecting spears.

“I would like a wrap, please,” my polite nine-year-old said. And so I started rolling.

“Is there cheese?”
“Havarti or cheddar?”
“I only like cheddar.”

Last year, she only liked Havarti, but I guess I missed whatever imperceptible shiver of a butterfly’s wing made her change her entire outlook on cheese. So I sighed, fed my husband an unexpected snack for which he was entirely more grateful than my children, and went back to lunch preparation. Actually, I missed a step. First I poured myself a glass of wine.

Now, before you roll your eyes and tell me that my six- and nine-year-olds are certainly old enough and capable enough to make their own lunches, let me set the record straight: I agree.

But take away the first eve-of-school micromanaging, and man – it’s just so much easier, faster, and cleaner if I make the lunches myself. With five years of school-lunch-making behind me, I have lunch-making down to a science. An art. I am a school-lunch-making boss. I have tricks and rules and go-to’s and my process starts long before school does.

To whit: I begin planning lunches long before school starts. I begin with equipment that makes life better, like lunch kits that open, close, and clean up easily (we use Planet Box kits); water bottles that can’t be broken, bitten or chipped without a greater effort than my kids are willing to put into wrecking stuff, and a list of approved foods that my kids and I assemble on a preschool reconnosaince trip to the grocery store. Grapes? Check. Carrots? Check. Celery sticks? Negatory. Turkey breast? Yes from one, no from the other. I start a second column.

Then we look online for school lunch ideas (check out my School Lunch Pinterest board at like wraps, dips, muffins, etc. and then I tack up the entire list of approved items in a clear and visible location so that I can refer back to it whenever my kids say they didn’t like something I put in their lunch. Like Havarti cheese. Which is not on the list. My bad.

Then, for my own sanity, I make lunches at night (usually after the kids are in bed because I prefer not to work under a dictatorship), and I even include a little note, something simple like a joke or an I *heart* you with a sticker or something, but I mainly do this to justify the fact that I do not work outside of the home.

And then I wait for the lunches to come back half-eaten anyway, because they didn’t have enough time, or they got a special treat due to so-and-so’s birthday, or they just like to see me weep.

Regardless, with this system in place, I do enjoy having a few more precious moments available in the mornings so that I can take care of the truly important things, like drinking coffee and checking Twitter. But like the skilled opportunists they are, my children will sense my moment of downtime, and pounce.

“So mum, if you’re not busy with making lunches, think you can make my bed?”

I laugh and take another sip my coffee.

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