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I Gave Up on Packing Healthy Lunches for My Kids — and I’m Not Ashamed to Admit It

lunch
Image Source: Monica Bielanko

I once saw a kid at my daughter’s school eating cucumber slices. CUCUMBER SLICES. Kids don’t eat cucumbers. That’s not a thing. Pickles, maaaybe. But not cucumber slices.

Every mom has that one chore they hate doing. Me? I detest packing lunches. (I hate putting away laundry too, but you can always procrastinate until your couch appears to be made out of laundry piles.) Lunches require immediate action. Every. Single. Day.

There’s never a good time to pack lunch, is there? If you’re on your parenting game, you’re packing it the night before when you’re exhausted from dinner and dishes and you just want 10 minutes to yourself already. I mean, is 10 minutes so much to ask?!

Yes. Yes, it is too much to ask. You just finished dinner dishes, but you’ve got tomorrow’s lunch to make, MOM. Also, can you do some laundry? Because someone can’t find their favorite Pokemon t-shirt.

If you’re anything like me, you’re frantically slamming lunches together in the midst of the brutal morning routine when you’re trying to get yourself ready, wake up kids, make breakfast, and shuffle everyone out the door in a timely fashion without tears. Too late, you’ve already cried. Twice.

I suppose it’s glaringly apparent I’m not artfully carving adorable vegetable people with raisins for eyes that I delicately place in carefully curated Bento boxes. I am not that mom. Hell, I’m not even friends with that mom. But it’s not just because I don’t have the time to craft artisanal lunches. It’s because I actually want my kids to eat the food I put in their lunch bags — and a “creative” carrot stick is still a carrot stick my kid ain’t eating.

Before you shake your shamer-finger in my direction, you should know I gave healthy lunches my best shot. I started with a tiny Tupperware container brimming with ranch dressing in the hopes that, much like the gratuitous salads I sometimes serve with their dinners at home, the kids would use the accompanying carrot sticks as a ranch-to-mouth delivery mechanism. Alas, the sad sticks returned, withered and untouched. Celery and peanut butter didn’t fare much better. Upon unpacking lunch bags at the end of the day, I’d note that, while the peanut butter container was licked clean, I was throwing away four wilted celery sticks.

The last thing I need is a note from school telling me to pack healthier lunches. Because no. This mom ain’t having it.
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In an effort to curb the veritable vegetable massacre happening in my home, there was a brief foray into granola bar territory — but with similar results. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? I’d ask my notoriously picky daughter when the melty, smooshed granola bar would return in her lunch bag at end of the day. THERE ARE CHOCOLATE CHIPS IN HERE! A careless shrug met my lunch lamentations and I was left to peruse grocery store aisles, desperately holding aloft items for my kids’ inspection like a crazed “The Price Is Right” model: Raisins? You like raisins, right? I’d stroke the box temptingly. What about chocolate covered raisins? Oooh, these ones are covered in yogurt. What about yogurt? Applesauce? APPLESAUCE WITH CINNAMON? Why won’t you eat string cheese? WHAT IS WRONG WITH STRING CHEESE? C’MON, CHILD! WORK WITH YOUR MOTHER HERE.

Eventually, feeling as defeated as the brown bananas that returned in my son’s lunch bag, I gave up.

Here is what my kids eat: PB&J, chips/crackers/pretzels and a juice pouch. And maybe a package of fruit snacks. That counts as fruit, right? On a good day, I go all Donna Reed up in here and slice up some apples. But those aren’t for my kids. The apple slices are just an offering for their teachers and any other judgmental adults monitoring my kids’ lunches.

Lunch shaming is no joke, and the last thing I need is a note from school telling me to pack healthier lunches. Because no. This mom ain’t having it. I tried. Being a mom is hard enough. I know my kids, and I am carefully choosing my battles. I’m not about to die on a hill of wilted celery sticks because I’m trying to keep up with Bento Box Mom. Bring on the Cheez-Its and full tummies.

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