School starts back in a few days. You have been planning (and rejoicing in advance) for this moment all summer. Why then, are you suddenly getting an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach, a feeling that can only be described as……….. Dread? Because of the Lunch Wars.
All last year, you dealt with The Lunch Wars, and apparently you have them to look forward to for the next 12 years. Have you repressed this fun memory already? Try to think back:
Day 1: You innocently enough pack your child’s lunch into a trim little red Toy Story 2 lunch box that he himself picked out at Target in July (you dragged yourself and your son there way back when it was 100 degrees to get a jump on the “good” lunch boxes before they were sold out and your son might get stuck with—gasp!—a solid navy blue one). Additionally, you went above and beyond by asking him the night before if he had any special food requests (one rice crispy treat, an innocent wish that you did grant). So far, so good. You put some baby carrots in there, some fresh apple slices, and you made a decent sandwich with ham taking the starring role (truth be told, the sandwich was only composed of ham and bread because your child will not tolerate lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mustard, mayonnaise or anything resembling a sauce or topping of any kind). Whew—it took some effort, but you did it! A yummy lunch that he will eat!
Not so fast, sister. When your child gets home, he is in tears. Understandably, you go to comfort him (was he bullied on the playground? ignored by his teacher? did he spill paint on his art project? perhaps he had separation anxiety and missed you terribly?). He wants you to “Get away now!” because, you soon find out, you were the one who (unwittingly?) caused him this distress.
“Today was pizza day!” he bellows, about 6 inches from your face. “I went to use my secret code to buy pizza, but,” (sniffle, sniffle) “my secret code didn’t work because you didn’t sign me up to buy lunch!” (angry glare) “Almost all the other kids bought lunch and I had to eat dumb ol' carrots and apple on the special day: PIZZA DAY!” (again, for emphasis).
Wow, you screwed up. All this time, you (mistakenly) thought that if you packed a healthy lunch with an acceptable treat, you would be home free. Uh, no. You get on the computer that very night. Much clicking of bank codes and restricted passwords and hefty deposits into lunch accounts takes place. You can sleep now and go back to your dreams about cameras and exotic trips to South America.
Day 2: You vow to get this right. Just to confirm that he does in fact prefer to buy lunch today, you wisely show him the school calendar announcing the meal (macaroni and cheese). His face lights up, “Mom! I LOVE macaroni and cheese! I knew this would be a great school for me!” You grab the newspaper, because you now have time to read the Style section, as you have been granted a day’s reprieve from lunch-box-packing duty.
3 PM rolls around. He bounds off the bus. You are watching carefully—was today a Good Day? He hugs you and tells you his favorite part: you guessed it, the delicious macaroni and cheese (“A million times better than the one you make, Mom!”).
Day 3: This is getting easy. You both scan the menu. Today’s offering is deemed Acceptable (chicken nuggets). You are starting to wonder if maybe you can return the Toy Story 2 lunch box and possibly even exchange it for a couple magazines to read when you are through with your lovely newspaper, what with the abundance of free time you now have.
He gets off the bus on Day 3 with an ugly scowl. Someone has done him wrong, and he is looking for her (uh, that would be you). What now? You wonder to yourself if you can do anything right (answer: no). Once in the door (he amazingly has the good sense not to start yelling at you in front of the other Bus-Stop Mommies the very nanosecond his foot hits the pavement stepping off the bus—a favor you will most likely return in his teen-age years when you refrain from criticizing him in front of his peers), he unleashes a torrent of bitterness: “MOMMY! You made me eat a school lunch! And it was spinach pinwheels! Do you know how icky spinach pinwheels are? They are completely green AND they were even covered in a green sauce! I couldn’t eat any of it! Paul had to give me some of his Chips Ahoy cookies so I wouldn’t just fall down and starve! It’s all your fault! You've ruined my life!”
When you recover from the latest episode from Mr. Drama (and shouldn't you be looking into getting that kid an agent in New York or Hollywood at some point in the near future?) you realize that you don’t even know what a spinach pinwheel is. It have to admit that it doesn’t sound appealing.
In a futile attempt to defend yourself, you drag your child to the kitchen and show him the calendar stuck to the refrigerator. For the date in question, in clear black letters it says, “Chicken Nuggets”. See? You say to your child. See, it was not Mommy’s fault this time (you very much need to grasp onto that one little piece of gold you found: “this time”). Then, you catch a glimpse of the bottom of the calendar and you see an asterisk and in teeny tiny writing with a font size of about a 3, “Food Services may make appropriate substitutions on an as-needed basis if supply runs low.”
(“Munching Other Vittles”)