Childcare parents will know more than most that chef-prepared meals are a Godsend. No lunches to worry about, maybe the odd snack or two but once they transition to school, it's all over to you!
The school lunchbox has been my nemesis for as long as I’ve had to pack one.
There’s a balance to be found between snacks you know they’ll eat but you’d be judged for packing, and food that you’d show off on Instagram so everyone can see that you’re 'winning' at parenting but you know damn well is all coming back untouched and seasoned with a dash of attitude.
And here’s the thing, you can do both. You can pack the Twisties, the hot cross bun, the yogurt pouch, and the donut - and that too can return perfectly preserved because they weren’t hungry that day. Which typically means they were hungry but something else was happening at lunchtime to distract them.
Similarly, the days where you try to make a stand and fill the thing with carrot sticks, cheese, grapes, and crackers, thinking “I don’t care, if he’s hungry he’ll eat it,” he eats the whole thing. Lid and all. I don’t believe you threw it at Thomas, I think you ate it by mistake along with everything else in here.
Questionable behaviour indeed
On those days, doubt seeps in. Did he trade it with the other healthier kids maybe? The ones whose parents pack way better lunches and therefore they’re used to these kinds of snacks? I remember once I opened his bag and saw a completely empty lunchbox.
A first for my son.
I peered over the empty box at him as he stood in front of me. “Wow,” I said as I gestured to the lunchbox, “You must have been very hungry today?” He smiled and nodded and then confessed he’d thrown it all in the bin so I’d think he’d eaten it.
I'm not a quitter!
Don’t worry, I’ve not given up. I also have no solution. As with everything when it comes to navigating this parental path, it comes down to balance. There’s no rule saying I can’t cut up carrots and cucumber and offer them with a little dip while sneaking in a little chocolate or a pack of Tiny Teddies at the same time.
Not the chocolate chip ones, they stay home and magically disappear when dad’s feeling a little “eleven o’clock-ish” to quote someone else who often wanders the house in nothing but a t-shirt.
Balance and talking to other parents. I genuinely was struggling for the longest time, trying to get it right and feeling like such an idiot. Especially as a lot of the food I was packing for his lunch that came home uneaten was the same food he’d asked me for at home. So it was stuff I knew he liked.
Back to the village
Talking to other parents helped me to understand that everyone has a similar story and everyone feels like they’re fighting a losing battle. We all know it takes a village. But also, each and every one of us has at least one little trick that we’ve picked up and can pass along to help the next person, hopefully. One parent suggested leftover pasta. Which was an absolute game-changer for me. Cold pasta and once Dad remembered that a spoon was also integral, we were onto a winner.
Oh. This is the part where I suggest something to you, the reader. Some glorious hack I’ve discovered, a little gem to help you out.
Ok, so - leftover pasta. Over to you!