Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Forget the Lunch Box, What are Mom and Dad Eating?

Like parents everywhere I dreaded a few things that the beginning of the school year brings - like rushing out the door in the mornings. Like sending your almost 6-year-old to her room to put her clothes on (nicely laid out!) and checking back a few minutes later to find her playing soccer. In her underpants. I also dreaded the daily lunch box blues.

What to pack, what to pack. I am, amazingly, blessed with a child who will eat peanut butter sandwiches every DAY. She doesn't even want the jelly spread on, and you don't have to cut off the crusts - just spread that peanut butter. So you can understand why I felt like crying when I got to the door of her new Kindergarten classroom and saw this notice: "This is a NUT FREE classroom." I had the new lunch box, the reusable sandwich wrapper/bag, a brand new, chic, recycled plastic ice pack. I was ready - but the thought of having to come up with something every day besides our old standby, peanut butter, made me weak in the knees.

A few days later, however, there was an email from our class parent bringing wondrous news: the nut free rule was a mistake. I actually got up from my desk and did a dance, singing, to the delight of my kid, a song about how much I love peanut butter. I see the sandwich as the main course of lunch - if I have that figured out, it's not a problem to add to that - an organic milk, some sliced carrots, a piece of fruit, done.

But this is not actually a post about what our kids are eating. This is a post about what we, their hard-working parents, are eating. My own routine is to walk out the door with a travel mug of coffee for the trek to school. Afterwards I usually clutch it for an hour or more, slowly sipping while I get started with work. Eventually I will stop and grab something to eat - a piece of toast maybe. Sometimes a banana. Lunch is a similar game of grab and go - usually yogurt with granola. I just don't make time for a proper lunch or breakfast. If the kid hits a "witching hour" of being tired and cranky, I don't think my not eating a real lunch before I pick her up from school is helping my own state of mind.

I'm afraid it may be worse for my husband, because I at least have access to a full kitchen and can heat up some leftover soup or make something healthy if the mood strikes me. My husband often - too often - takes a frozen meal with him to work. It's not something I feel good about.

I often think about packing him a nice lunch too, but usually all I can manage is to wash him any extra fruit that we have on hand and encourage him to take it with him.

Maybe we should think about packing lunch together, just like we make eating dinner together a priority in our house. Either way, three squares a day is important for mom and dad too, and I'm gonna try to do a better job of that - even if it means I have to steal my daughter's cheese sticks.