There are one or two minor things I don’t like about this parenting gig. The early rising, for example. The midnight sheet-changing. The diapers weren’t my favorite (past that!) and the Sisyphean dishwasher and laundry moments do get me down. But there is one thing, one single thing, one thing that’s somehow fallen to me in our house (all of those other things were or are shared tasks) that really pushes my buttons. One thing that looms over my head as we roll lazily into August. One nearly nightly chore that I dread more than any other, one thing I haven’t figured out how to make easier or pawn off on my children, one loathsome task.
And it’s coming right back at me this September.
Lunches. I hate making lunches. I hate packing lunch boxes. I hate emptying lunch boxes, I hate making sandwiches that may or may not get eaten, I hate finding little lids to all the little tiny boxes and then washing out the little lids and the little tiny boxes at the end of the day. I hate feeling guilty about the little individually packaged, over priced drinks and yogurts and puddings. I hate packaging my own drinks and yogurts and puddings. I hate that I haven’t figured out a way to make this my kids’ job, and not mine.
I always start out the year strong. The little containers all actually have lids, the new lunch boxes don’t smell, and the kids are delighted to line up and make their choices. One “protein.” One treat. One fruit. One drink. One more protein or fruit if you’re bigger, or if your school requires that we send a snack, too, not just a lunch, because that’s not enough, that we are already sending lunch! (Can you tell that my teeth are already clenching just thinking about this?)
Except for two weeks of day camp (which I cursed nightly) my summer has been blissfully free of lunchmaking. I don’t make picnics, I throw picnic materials in a bag that we put together when we get hungry, and at home lunches allow me to skip all the packaging and whatnot. But now, with September closer than anyone wants to think, the lunches are looming over me once again.
Should I order new tiny little clever lunch making containers that won’t fit in my drawers? Should I print their lunch options on color-coded cards so that they can choose and pack their own (knowing that I will still be slicing the fruit and measuring the treats and inevitably looking at the chosen card and saying “oh, sorry, we don’t have any whatnot today”)? Should I just get over it, just suck it up? Should I break down and weep at the idea of the 720 lunches I’ll be putting together before June? (No school lunch in our town. Some days, there’s a pizza option, but I’ll still be socking snack, drink and fruit into that bag.)
September, more than January, is for me a time of fresh starts. I’ll figure out a way to help the kids pack their own reasonable lunches this year. I’ll teach them to slice apples. I’ll find a way to make the containers fit in the drawer, keep their lids and be ready for each kid each night. I’ll take a deep breath and turn over the mayonnaise and sandwich bread and clean up the results. Maybe this will be the year this gets better, and I’ll be able to focus on my second most loathed parenting task: carpool scheduling.
Or maybe I’ll pay my fourth grader to just pack them all.