The school nurse called. I didn’t pack Declan the right lunch. Declan doesn’t eat, but worse than that there seems to be some suspicion as to whether I feed him. It appears the boy “outgrew sandwiches.”
We’ve been making jelly sandwiches since he could walk. We bonded over the process. We picked the fruit and made the jelly together. We make the bread dough at night. I bake the bread and make the best sandwich in the world every morning. I cut off the crusts. I told him how I ate jelly sandwiches when I was his age. It’s one of those classic things you pass from generation to generation.
Sadly, my dad made me watch The Blob, a movie where a big thing of grape jelly eats the city. It ruined jelly sandwiches for me, but Declan didn’t watch it. I figured the jelly sandwich would be safe through high school. Still, the school nurse called make sure I’m feeding him. He’s a scrawny kid. We promise we are.
“What do you want for lunch?” I decided to ask. Declan’s a picky eater.
“Yogurt.” I bought yogurt in the overpriced little containers because it’ll take a couple of days until I get my yogurt cultures up and running again. I packed the yogurt, American cheese, an apple, and some crackers. Lunch success.
His lunchbox came home full.
“You forgot the ice pack! I couldn’t eat lunch!” I was a bad mom again.
“For the sake of all that’s holy,” I wanted to shout, “yogurt is made by putting milk on the counter and leaving it there.!” I discovered this in Moscow when my container of ultrapasturized milk turned chunky. I was sad. You don’t just go shopping in Moscow. You go hunting and praying.
“No! Don’t throw it out, it’s yogurt!” My friend showed me how he intentionally turned milk into yogurt by leaving it in the sun–a delicacy. I stirred in sugar and coffee crystals–if I died, my student loans couldn’t follow me. It was tasty. Making yogurt isn’t such a hard thing.
The boy was mad. “Your yogurt was fine,” I said. “Besides, the other day you cried because you don’t like ice packs.” It’s not like I’m asking the kid to lick a counter spread with raw chicken.
“Well, I like them now!” It’s tough to keep up. Maybe there’s an app for that. “And you gave me CHEESE!” It wilted but looked fine to me. It’s American cheese, that unique brand of “cheese” that’s not really cheese at all–it’s oil whipped up into a square by some miracle of processing. French foodies develop allergies to the stuff, I’m told.
I pack lunch again, with an ice pack, in hopes it’ll be consumed without an inquiry from child welfare. I put in cheese and crackers, yogurt and the requested fruit. I even include a tiny little brownie left from a picnic. I write a note, “I hope you like the lunch I packed for you special with all the things you wanted.” When he rejects lunch, he fleeces the lunch staff for school lunch on credit. I wonder if they checked his credit application. I haven’t co-signed it. They must know he’s got a business in the works, and he’s good for the money.
“My lunch was YUCKY. I bought lunch.”
“Your lunch was not yucky.” I tell him. “I packed everything you wanted, and I didn’t give you lunch money.”
“Yeah, but it was yucky anyway.” I ask what he ate. I might change my mind about school lunch if he ate regular kid food. I might even cave to a chicken nugget.
“They gave me the salad.” I make a really big deal–he usually doesn’t eat salad. “I didn’t eat the salad. I threw it away. I ate raisins. And a bread stick. But I peeled the crust.”
$2.50 for raisins? I have tons. And bread sticks are crust, by definition.
I think it’s time to starve the kid out–to be a really bad mom indeed. It’s my job to win, and I’m not doing very well.
Instead, I take him to the store and make him pick out his own fruits and healthy foods. No yogurts with neon colors, and Lunchables are out of the question. Time to pack your own lunch, kid. He does. It’s there on a pile on the counter.
I’m putting in a note, “If you don’t eat your lunch, I’m throwing away all the candy and treats in the house and I won’t buy more ever again.” Kindness doesn’t work. Unreasonable threats do. I do it to my students all the time, “Last one to class writes a five page essay on the topic of my greatness…”
It usually doesn’t come to that, but if it did, throwing away candy and hearing how great I am are never a bad thing. Let the lunch wars begin!