This Is The Stress Of School Lunch When Your Child Has Type 1 Diabetes

by Erin Turnham
Originally Published: 
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I’m staring into the pantry like a deer in headlights. Wide eyed, slack jawed… it can’t be THIS hard to come up with two snacks and a lunch for my kindergartner.

As we end the school year, you’ll get no judgment from me about what you feed your kid. I’m out of ideas, out of groceries, and short on sleep. Same old sandwich? Slap it together. No meat? Put a baby carrot between those two slices of bread and go to bed.

No, that’s not my idea; it’s someone else’s meme, but I think it is brilliant. Hey, it’s fiber, beta carotene, and carbs. Throw in a handful of chips from the bottom of the bag, some celery sticks from a veggie tray leftover at an end of year party, and a Dum Dum lollipop from Easter… or Halloween, who can tell?

Why am I spending 45 minutes fretting over this task when I should be plopped comfortably down next to Mr. Mister on the couch writing a blog post or watching some sci-fi B movie? Normally I ask Grasshopper before he goes to bed what he wants for lunch the next day. It is helpful because then I can work with him to pack snacks and lunches that have a balanced amount of protein and carbs to help avoid spikes in blood sugar — and that he will also WANT to eat.

But this is May, not August. May Mom. I forgot, and now he is asleep, and I haven’t been to the grocery store, and we don’t have a lot of our easy lunch staples, and my tired brain can’t think through the crazy doubts that creep in. And, and, and…

Ah, what a cute, clever, intentional background for the gaping maw of this empty lunchbox. NOPE. This is actually what my table looked like after Grasshopper and Sunshine exploded the construction paper pack.

Erin Turnham

Will he eat it? Yes. Will he eat it quickly enough so that his blood sugar won’t plummet? Who knows? Some days yes, some days no. Am I packing enough food for him? Yes. He says he doesn’t want any more than 3 items per meal so he can finish quickly and play.

What will his teacher and nurse think about the lunch I’m packing? They are not judgy about this. I am being judgy about my own choices. Will the other kids in his class pick on him because of it? Probably not because I’ve seen his class at lunch and they are more interested in talking about Star Wars. But if anyone does pick on him, he’ll have to figure out how to deal with it.

On, and on, and on…

These thoughts aren’t new. They’ve been running through my head for most of this school year. They seem louder now, though, because they have been on repeat for the past 8 months. All I have to do is pack two snacks and a lunch. To make sure Awesome Nurse Amber at school knows how much insulin to give him, I weigh out each item and figure out the carb count for each food. Three blank meal worksheets stare back at me.

Erin Turnham

Erin Turnham

I pull out some beef jerky, Costco’s Kirkland Steak Strips, and Veggie Straws for his morning snack. Should I check the expiration date on the packages? Mmm… he’ll be fine. Beef jerky lasts forever. Maybe I should get him used to pemmican. It worked for the Native Americans and it worked for explorers in the Antarctic… Maybe this is why it takes me 45 minutes to put together a lunch.

Erin Turnham

He likes hard-boiled eggs, so I boil some, let them cool and peel one. I remember lately he has asked for just one slice of bread, so in that goes. And then some dried cherries because why not. Pemmican is sounding like a solid choice now. I could learn to make it this summer and have a whole year’s worth of first grade lunches ready by August.

Erin Turnham

His favorite afternoon snack recently has been dried cherries and goldfish, so at least that comes together quickly. More dried cherries. Check.

Erin Turnham

Erin Turnham

Written out now with photos this seems like no big deal, but putting this together at the end of the day when I would rather be asleep is mind boggling. If he doesn’t like this lunch, then he can put together the next one.

What end of the year lunches have you sent with your child?

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