“Mom, you pack bad lunches.” I try not to. I pack a nice lunch for camp every day.

I ask, “What do you want for lunch?” I don’t sneak in liver and broccoli when he’s not looking.

“You don’t pack what the other moms pack. I want lunches like they pack. You know, normal food.”

It was only a matter of time. You can’t live out of a mason jar forever without expecting Other Moms to stare. “What do The Other Moms pack?” I’m about to find out just how crappy I am.

“Other moms pack Cheetos and candy. You don’t even give me a sandwich!”

“Because you told me you outgrew them.” I kept throwing sandwiches away. “You can be hungry until you decide not to outgrow your lunch every day.”

The school nurse called  to make sure I wasn’t starving my kid. He was hiding his lunch, telling the world I didn’t pack food. He opened a credit line with the lunch lady and fleeced her for any morsel of junk they served, the dye-filled yogurt, the raisins at the top of the salad. He’d throw away the actual food.

That was his $2.40 lunch. I got mad. The credit bubble’s over. You don’t get an open-ended zero-interest rate line of credit at age seven–business owners don’t get free money like that anymore. And I have raisins and dye-free homemade yogurt at home.

I’m not ready to cave in to the American kid diet. I might have to.

“Mommy, how about Pirate Puffs?” Hmm….corn puffs with salt and fake cheese? At least there’s no bright orange color and preservatives. I stopped buying snacks because Declan used his ninja skills to hide them behind the sofa. He’d go radio silent, and I’d discover him there, feasting. I won in the end–I pulled the consumer purse strings. I buy fruit and veggies now.

Want a midnight snack, kid? Peel a carrot.

We went on a day trip. I didn’t pack food. “Mommy, I want the bread you make.”

A compliment? Moms aren’t used to compliments.

I started to make The Daily Bread once again.

It’s simple: twenty ounces of King Arthur bread flour and twelve ounces of water (by weight), a teaspoon of yeast, and about a teaspoon and a half of sea salt. Mix with the dough hook while you drink tea at night. Leave on the counter in an olive-oiled bowl covered by a bread towel or plastic wrap overnight…plop it on a pizza stone in the oven as hot as possible. I get it to about 475 before the fire alarm goes off. I throw it in the oven for a half-hour when I wake up while drinking coffee.  Not much labor at all.

The house smells like heaven. Declan’s eating. I’m happy. No Cheetos.

I’m sorry I’m “not like the Other Moms,” that I’m the freak packing the no-waste lunch, talking about GMOs, and carrying tiffin boxes to work. Declan stares and blinks when I do these things, but the training’s got to start somewhere. The cashiers used to blink and stare when I’d bring my own bags. Now they stare if I don’t.

Sure, I wish my kid would eat carrots in ranch dressing, but that’s not my lot in life. I’m not sure how I got Freaky Food Kid, and I don’t know how Other Moms defeat it. For all my efforts to banish processed food, I’d actually be happy to see him eat a chicken nugget. Alas, he’s a “fruitatarian who eats candy.”  But he’s also an entrepreneur. Sometimes I give him a quarter to try a new food. I don’t tell him I took the quarter from his bank to avoid being fleeced since he should try the food because I said so.

He tries a new food, spits it into the garbage, I pay him his own money, and we both feel we got something good.

Parenting isn’t about winning. It’s about creating the illusion I’m winning.

Teaching’s not much different. As long as I can make all the kids in my life think I’ve got something over on them, I’ve still got the magic. It’s when they realize I don’t have any superhuman powers up my sleeve, that it’s all been a charade, that the game’s over.

For now, I’m packing bread so I can be more like the Other Moms even though my bread’s a funny shape. I still skipped the Cheetos, though.

I’m only human. It’s the best I can do.



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