It's been almost 12 months since my last blog post so it's probably time I made a quick note. It would seem that after such a long absence I should get back into blogging with some important topic. But, before you get too excited I'd better let you know that I am just going to talk about filling a school lunch box.
Filling a lunch box… It sounds like it should be easy. Throw in a sandwich, some fruit, a snack or two. How hard can it be really?
Well… actually, I find it extremely difficult. Not only do I have the problem of remembering which child won't eat tomato, which one abhors cucumber, and which one prefers strawberries to grapes, (and many other personal preferences, likes, dislikes, etc) but I am now feeling the 'unhealthy lunchbox mum' syndrome. (That's not an actual syndrome, I just made it up.)
In recent conversations with an assortment of people I have begun to dread the possibility of anyone peeking into my children's lunch boxes. Recently I've heard comments similar to these:
"You wouldn't believe the rubbish some mums buy for their kids. They just give them pre-packaged chips and biscuits and other junk."
"It's so easy to just cut out sugar and preservatives when you give it a try."
"I've never had any plastic wrap in my lunch box!" (from a grade 2 child).
"What about your lunch boxes kids? What does mum put in there? She normally uses containers doesn't she." (From a teacher, talking about pollution and recycling).
"I just whipped up some home made snacks for the lunch boxes this week. You have to be so careful about what you feed them."
Each of these comments was somewhat okay in the circumstances of the conversations but, this morning, as I stood in the checkout queue at the supermarket and observed the woman behind me frowning at my purchases, each of these comments echoed in my mind and I felt the 'unhealthy lunch box mum' syndrome creeping over me.
I do believe mothers should endeavour to feed their children a healthy, balanced diet, but there comes a time for some mums when the battle they choose to fight that day is not the battle against pollution and national obesity. Rather it is the battle to get out of bed, ensure the children are fed, dressed in clean(ish) clothes, have something edible in their lunch boxes and get to school. The rest of the day will be spent battling to keep up with the demands placed upon them by a multitude of circumstances, which differ for every mum.
This is me on most school days. I try to make sure the sandwich is somewhat healthy, but yes, I normally use white bread. I prefer the sandwich gets eaten than returned to me at the end of the day. I always include fruit, especially for the primary school children. At our school it is required that this fruit be cut up, which means it has to be some form of fruit which can handle being jiggled around in a school lunch box with out getting squishy, brown and icky. I've seen pictures of lovely looking fruit platters and fruit kebabs as suggestions for lunch boxes, and I find myself wondering how different they look when they comes out of the lunch box to be eaten. Do they survive the bouncing, jiggling rush of being transported in a lunch box that is itself bouncing around in a school bag, being thrown into a car, carried on the back of a child running to their classroom and generally tossed around here and there. Do the cute little fruit kebabs come out all firm and crispy, looking oh-so-delicious and appealing, or have they disintegrated into a bruised, sticky, gooey mess, falling off a stick and dripping juice on all the rest of the food in the lunch box?
I also like to include some other snack food. If I get very inspired I will try to bake biscuits or cakes, but since I view cooking as a "has to be done for survival" type job, not as a pleasurable past-time, I find it difficult to get this done frequently. Plus, normally when I do get inspired, it's all devoured in a day.
The quick and easy solution is packets of biscuits or chips, some muesli bars (non-nut ones, of course), and other quick, simple prepackaged foods. This aids me greatly, because it means on really busy mornings the children, especially the high schoolers, can grab their own snacks and throw them in a lunch box as we run out the door. This also means a greater chance of the food being eaten as they chose it themselves.
The other big issue with lunch boxes is how much rubbish they generate. Now, my children have (or have HAD…) their own small containers for lunch boxes. These containers can be used to hold all their small snacks, instead of putting them in plastic wrap of some type. Sadly though, these containers have a habit of venturing onto the playground (apparently entirely on their own) and never being seen again. We have tried stickers to identify them, fresh permanent marker names every morning, and even engraving names into the plastic. Still… those little containers like to go astray and seek their own place in the world (they obviously do not desire to be a part of our household). I have found it difficult to keep up with the expense of replacing these containers and have resorted to using plastic lunch bags These come home EVERY day in either the lunch box or the pocket of the shorts (obviously lunch bags do desire to be a part of our household…).
So, I live with a fear that the teachers or parent helpers might peek in my child's lunch box one day, and I will be forever condemned as a terrible parent for contributing to both the national obesity problem and also to the destruction of our planet through pollution (not to mention I'm already contributing to overpopulation because I have five children).
As I stood in the supermarket this morning, I was tempted to turn to the lady behind me and say something like "Today I'm just trying to keep it all together. Maybe next week I'll be able to tackle the healthy lunch box issue, but please don't glare at me and condemn me today."
I didn't say it. She probably wasn't looking at me at all. Maybe she was just thinking of her own concerns and I should not judge her because I don't know what battle she had chosen to fight this morning.
In the car on the way home from school today, I asked my children what other kids have in their lunch boxes. It seems my high schoolers eat better (both more food and more healthy) than most of their friends, and my primary schoolers think they eat the same as their friends, so… maybe I'm not such a bad parent after all.
I hope this doesn't sound TOO much like a whinge. It's just been bugging me for awhile and I needed to get it out.