I am an unfit mother. Oh sure, other mothers might see the merit in hiding it better. But me, I work hard at it.
There are mothers who put time and effort into everything they do. Mothers for whom the perfect packed lunch is the pinnacle of parenting perfection.
They carve fruit into peeled quarters, trim sandwiches into interesting and crustless shapes, and insert homemade baked goods into each love-filled lunch. These women are troublemakers.
Me? I don’t do lunch.
Attempting. Oh sure, early in the school year I try. I really do. I mean to pack neat little lunches the night before – mainly because in the wee hours of the morning (oh say, before 9 a.m.) it is unsafe for me to wield even a butter knife.
At night, though, I am ready and willing to pack, pack, pack my little heart out. Sure, I can write, “Mommy loves you,” in block print upon napkins (so my kindergartner can read it) and stick in a nice sandwich on soft bread, a chilled drink and maybe some fruit. The flesh is willing, but the reality, alas, is weak.
Searching. What I am not able to do with any success is find actual food. Instead, I will lean on the refrigerator door for an interminable length of time while pondering, “How is it possible one can return $200 poorer from the grocery store yet not have a single edible item in the refrigerator?”
Perhaps if I didn’t shop where they offer steel tread radials, designer swimsuits, and electronics alongside the produce I might – just once – come home with actual food. Those cute flip-flops and the 48-pack of AAA batteries that were such “a steal” this afternoon at the super mart aren’t going to offer a single bit of sustenance to my first-grader come tomorrow’s lunch, now are they?
No, I will gaze at the contents of my refrigerator and wonder if I can make a tasty sandwich by mixing gourmet mustard with leftover Thai noodles. Or, perhaps the dusty can of evaporated milk that has followed us through two moves counts as a beverage?
Bagging. Worse yet, let’s say – just for laughs – that I do manage to cobble together a lunch of some sort. There I am with some semblance of a lunch, but alas, nothing to put it in.
I know we have owned, at one time or another, a fair share of lunch boxes. Elementary schools, however, are like the Bermuda Triangle of lunch boxes. The boxes go in, but they rarely, if ever, return.
If I do manage to dig up a box from the depths of a closet somewhere, it is invariably “for babies” and no self-respecting 7-year-old could possibly be caught dead with it.
No, he would subsist via sheer animal cunning and what he could gather from the bushes outside the school rather than be caught with that awful, awful lunch box (never mind that this same box was a “must have” just last fall).
By this time it is getting quite late and I might be tempted to fall back on the tried-and-true brown bag. That is, if every last one of them hasn’t been turned into a puppet or something.
This, then, is when I start eyeing the leftover plastic grocery bags. I wonder how bad would it be, really, if I simply tied up lunch in those and sent the kids on their way?
The benefit of this plan is that if any errant paper bags should come our way later, they would come in handy as “kick me” signs for the kids to wear in order to fully round out the experience.
Buying. So for this, and a myriad of other reasons, I am so grateful – heart wrenchingly obliged – to the school system and, in particular, to whoever the nice person is who plans ahead – by the month even! – to ensure my children always have lunch.
I happily send gobs of money off to my local elementary school cafeteria, where I know there is always cold milk and a hot lunch.
Sure, the money spent on the vegetable side dishes they won’t eat would be better off just set on fire for all the good it does us. Nonetheless, I get such a deep, selfish satisfaction each and every morning as I sail out the door secure in the knowledge that they never, ever serve Thai noodles or batteries.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt really doesn’t do lunch. She welcomes reader comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org; P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460; or at http://userweb.epohi.com/~kseabolt.)
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