Back-to-school mania is here. Pictures of freshly scrubbed kids wearing new sneakers are flooding Facebook. School buses are again on the road, taking our kids off to spend the day with teachers (bless them) as mothers do the dance of joy because they don’t have to police arguments and slather sunscreen on kids.
And of course, everyone is complaining about having to make school lunches.
The school lunch box has caused ire for generations of moms. I’m certain that, as my mother slapped bologna onto Wonderbread, she, too, longed for the day when she wasn’t running after us with brown bags screaming, “If you forget your lunch, you’ll starve!”
It’s bad enough that our little circus monkeys want to eat breakfast and dinner every damned day. Now, you want us to craft a sandwich into the shape of an owl and cram it into a compartmentalized box? Fuck you, Bento, and your Pinterest perfection.
Mothers are tired of making lunches, people. (Okay, most of us are tired of making lunches. I see you, internet commenters, discussing how you actually don’t mind because it’s a “labor of love” or some other crap. Oy.)
But me? Packing lunches brings me no joy, so I started a revolution last year, and I challenge you to stand with me.
I am reclaiming my time in the morning, folks!
My kids make their own damed school lunches, and it’s liberating AF.
My grassroots movement started a year ago when my daughter came downstairs on a school morning and immediately freaked out when she saw the contents of her lunchbox. My crime? I’d packed baby carrots instead of sliced apples. Judging from the look on her face, you’d think I’d asked her to dip her carrots into motor oil.
It’s six-fucking-thirty, and I can’t see straight and you have an opinion on deli meat and produce?
Aw, hell naw.
Our mornings are chaotic enough with all four of us going in different directions before the sun is even up. On the mornings we are running late, I wind up playing the role of the mom screaming like a freak while wearing a fluffy bathrobe. I don’t have the time to do anything other than hand my kid a juice box and Lunchable on the way out the door, dammit.
I’m not sending my kids to school with fruit skewers in the shape of the Very Hungry Caterpillar. I need way more coffee and money if I’m expected to cut sandwiches into the shape of Hogwarts. So if my kids want fancy lunches, that’s on them. They are welcome to shape, cut, mold their meal to their heart’s desire, as long as they are not late for the bus.
Now, of course, giving your kids the freedom to make their own lunches requires planning and a few basic rules. Otherwise, if your kids are like mine, their lunches would consist of Snickers bars and Yoo-hoo. While I am no longer interested in being the ringleader of the mayo and bread shitshow in the mornings, I do encourage my kids to at least make an attempt toward healthy eating.
So they must follow what I call “The Rule of Five.” They have to check off on each finger: one fruit, one veggie, one dairy, one treat, and one protein. I do my part by stocking the fridge with easy to reach, quickly compiled fruits and veggies, and I am in the kitchen, sipping coffee, to oversee operations.
As for the other rules? There are none.
Just make your own damned lunches, kids.
Admittedly, we make our best efforts in the beginning of the year when it comes to healthy lunches. I’d be lying if I said their lunches didn’t resemble my college midnight snacking by the end of the school year, but frankly, I don’t give a fuck. I haven’t seen the inside of their lunch boxes in a year, and I don’t mind saying that I’m proud of my kids for stepping up to the plate (pun intended).
Since I passed off the brown bag torch, mornings really have become less chaotic. And there are zero complaints lodged about the quality of their lunches, because if they get to school and they didn’t close their Thermos properly and their soup is cold, this mom is not taking the blame. They have figured out what lunch ingredients keep them feeling full for the rest of the afternoon, and they are learning to shy away from empty calories and junk food because they realize (all on their own!) how much better they feel when they eat well. They are also realizing how much extra time it takes in the morning, and when one of them grumbled, “I miss when Mom made lunches,” I smiled into my coffee and pretended like I didn’t hear because there’s no going back now.
So, moms, join me in flinging those Bento boxes right out the window. Step away from cookie cutters and decorative skewers. You have carved your last rose-shaped apple, mamas. Take a stand. Show your kids their lunch boxes and wish them godspeed.
The freedom of never again having worry about fashioning a scene from Moana out of cheese tastes heavenly. Trust.