Well I can’t blame an evil publishing giant this time, but tonight I’m clambering back on to my school lunch soapbox. You see, last night it took me no less than 40 minutes to assemble three sets of kinder/school/work lunches. Seriously. And as I finally snapped the lid on the last box I wondered – what is wrong with me? Surely it shouldn’t be that hard.
But after debriefing with friends today, I find it’s not just me. Evidently, there is a certain state of mojo required to expedite a school lunch. And if you’re not feeling it, you’re in trouble.
Now in retrospect I have to admit that the wine (and the resultant CBF state of mind) probably didn’t help. But I also blame the cute kleptomaniac who now lives with us.
At one stage I had to give chase in order to wrestle a sweet potato from her jaws (mental note: never look other way with pantry door ajar). A moment later I turned around to find her balancing on top of the rubbish bin – looking simultaneously gobsmacked and delighted by her own daredevil feat. And seemingly every two minutes from that point, I was downing tools to rescue various household objects or human appendages from her needle-sharp choppers.
Added to the amusing puppy antics, it seemed like every plastic container I sought out was either missing a lid, needing to be washed, or had mysteriously vanished from the face of the earth.
So what did the lunch boxes finally consist of? As you can see below, I seem to have peaked early, with child 1. By the time it came to packing my own lunch, I was functioning solely on autopilot, and all I could muster was a Vegemite sandwich. I was suffering a bad case of burnt chop syndrome.
Anyway, burnt chop or not, it got me thinking about the other unfortunate school lunch scenarios I’ve encountered over the years. And here’s a sample of my top five.
Can I hear a few ‘HELL YEAH‘s in the house?!
Scenario 1. The Incorrect Fruit
Mother: (unpacking lunch box) Why didn’t you eat your banana today?!
Child: (looking revolted) Because I hate bananas.
Mother: No you don’t – you like bananas. You can’t tell me you don’t like bananas.
Child: No I DON’T like bananas and you don’t know because you’re NOT ME.
Mother: (breathes deeply) You ate two bananas yesterday. Of your own volition.
Child: (sulking) Well I don’t like them when they’re black and squishy.
Mother: Now come on – I put that banana in your lunch this morning and it was not black and squishy then. It’s black and squishy now because it’s been thrown around in the bottom of your bag all day.
Child: (stoney-faced) Well I don’t like bananas anymore OKAY?
Outcome: Mother mentally crosses banana off ‘acceptable fruit’ list, sighs and absentmindedly takes bite of squishy banana (then forces self to chew and swallow when realises child is watching intently). Mother looks at bowl full of bananas purchased that day, and inwardly screams.
Scenario 2. The Incorrect Cheese
Mother: (unpacking lunch box) Why didn’t you eat your cheese today?!
Child: Because it looked funny.
Mother: What do you mean it looked funny? It was just cheese.
Child: But it didn’t have a picture on it.
Mother: That’s because I cut it off a block of cheese.
Child: (withering look) Well I only like the wrapper cheeses.
Mother: But the wrapper ones cost $60/kg, and the block of cheese is the same thing but costs $15/kg. I don’t see what the problem is?
Child: It IS NOT the same! Your cheese is disgusting!
Outcome: Mother feels defeated by marketing conglomerates and pours glass of wine. In future, mother buys ‘pretty’ cheese with strange girl or robot faces on the wrapper in order to provide cheese option which child will actually consume. Child / marketing company celebrate.
Scenario 3: Sandwich Rage
Mother: Okay, quickly now, would you like ham/cheese/tomato, or turkey/cranberry lettuce, or tuna/celery/mayonnaise in your sandwich?
Mother: (visibly tenses) I didn’t offer jam. What about cream cheese/carrot/sultana?
Child: (deadpans): Honey.
Mother: (through clenched teeth) Are you serious?! ARE YOU!?
Child: (defiantly) Well I don’t feel like any of those options! Why can’t I just have jam?
Mother: (in small, tight voice) Because you had jam yesterday. Because you can’t have jam every day. Because you need to eat VEGETABLES!
Child: (sighs dramatically) Okay well give me cheese then.
Mother: (no words… Stalks to fridge, takes cheese slices and slams into sandwich, throws into lunch box)
Child: (face crumples and begins to wail dramatically) Why do you have to be so grumpy at me? You don’t even LIKE me! (stamps ridiculously out of room).
Outcome: Mother feels simultaneously furious (for being stamped out on), dejected (over recurrent lunch drama), mean (over shouting and sandwich slamming) and exhausted (always exhausted).
Husband enters kitchen with ‘what’s all this about’ look on face and receives ‘don’t look at me that way’ face in return. Mother wonders what is wrong with her as she is already shouting at 8am, when she had vowed it would be a shout-free day.
Scenario 4: The ‘Forgotten’ Lunch
Child: What’s for afternoon tea? I’m starving.
Mother: (staring in disbelief at contents of lunch box) You didn’t eat ANY of your lunch today! What is going on?
Child: Oh. I forgot.
Mother: (still incredulous) What do you mean you forgot? How can you forget to have lunch?
Child: (looking furtive) Well it was Lucy’s birthday and she bought in cupcakes.
Child: And Charlotte’s mum was on canteen so we got a lolly snake and Jumpys.
Mother: And so I wasted my time packing you a healthy lunch today, so that you could eat lollies and cake all day instead?
Child: (angelically) I didn’t waste ALL of it – I ate the Tiny Teddies at recess.
Outcome: Mother throws sandwich in bin, feeling her life is one big cliche, and curses self for implementing spartan Mon-Thurs no drinking rule. Mental stocktake of house for any form of liquor uncovers half bottle of sticky in fridge from weekend entertaining. Mother wonders at acceptability of drinking dessert wine before dinner.
Scenario 5: No Bread In House
Mother: So sweetie, we seem to have run out of bread. You’ll have to have biscuits and cheese today.
Actually.. sorry.. I think these biscuits are a bit stale.
Child: I’ll have to have a lunch order!
Mother: (sounding upbeat) No no, I’ll just make an antipasto plate for you – you don’t need to have bread every day.
Child: (uncomfortable with deviation from the norm) But I just want a sandwich…
Mother: How about some…. baby beetroot… and some crab dip… and some chorizo and rice crackers…?
Child: (panicking now) Why haven’t we got any bread!? I can’t eat any of that – I need a lunch order!
Mother: (slowly losing resolve) But it’s good to try something different! You might start a new trend amongst your friends – I bet they’ll all be jealous… ?….
Child: (detects weakness and goes for the kill) Everyone will laugh at me and I’ll have no friends and I’ll be hungry and (sobs) I – just – want – a – lunch – order (sobs again while peering through hands).
Mother: (dejectedly) Oh okay I suppose. But no party pies.
Child: (Miraculously recovers from lunch panic and beams triumphantly).
Outcome: Mother sips tea and tries to look at upside – calculating minutes of free time bought by lunch order. Contemplates drying hair or putting on make up, then looks over at younger child and realises kindergarten does not have canteen.
Mother takes deep breath, channels Zen state, and returns to fridge…