14 Sep 2014
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Raising Needham: My Lunch Box Dilemma

A week in the life of a kindergartener's lunch box can go from joyful optimism to disheartened frustration in the snap of a lid.

Raising Needham: My Lunch Box Dilemma


This is not an article about public school lunch options, pink slime or how to pick the trendiest lunch boxes for your child. This is an article about the ups and downs of what you put in your child’s lunch box day in and day out and the roller coaster ride that ensues. 


It’s Monday morning and I’m ready! A restful family weekend has renewed my spirits and I am ready to tackle my daily dilemma: what to pack in my daughter’s lunch box. I have a refrigerator full of interesting and healthy things and my creative juices are flowing. I smile at my daughter with a sense of determination. I am going to get it right today! Her lunch box will come home empty; I am sure of it.

With an article about creative ways to fill your child’s lunch box in mind, I start packing. I start with a whole wheat wrap, some hummus and a slice of nitrate-free turkey and roll with the confidence of Jamie Oliver as he preaches about healthy school lunches. He’d be lovin’ this one. I continue with fresh strawberries, a cheddar cheese stick and round out the lunch with the one thing I know she always loves: orange juice. As I stack the reusable containers in her pink lunch box, I smile knowing I’ve done it right, finally. 

But alas, 10 hours later, when that little pink lunch box comes home, it is looking as sad and dejected as I feel.

“But Mom, I drank the orange juice and ate half of the strawberries,” my daughter says with a confidence I can’t understand. Does she think that was a good lunch? Does she think I would be happy with that?

I ask her why she didn’t eat the rest and she just shrugs her shoulders and continues on with the afternoon. I contemplate putting the uneaten wrap and strawberries in the refrigerator for tomorrow’s lunch but know their outcome would be like today’s: uneaten and unappreciated. So, I eat them. I mean, I kinda feel sorry for the lunch box rejects.


As Tuesday morning wakes us and we start the usual morning routine, I decide I will not be deterred by yesterday’s pathetic lunch box showing. Out comes that pink lunch box and its sidekicks, the containers, and out comes my slightly deflated lunch-making skills.

Today’s lunch menu: homemade mini pizza on whole wheat English muffins with her favorite toppings, mushrooms and olives. She is going to go nuts for this one. I am smiling with a newfound confidence as I add some yogurt and granola and the much loved banana. I throw in Mr. OJ knowing at least he won’t be staring back in my face tonight. 

Ugh! At the end of the day, Tuesday afternoon’s lunch box looks strikingly similar to Tuesday morning’s lunch box! How can this be?

“The mini pizzas were soggy, Mom, but I did pick off the mushrooms and olives,” my daughter tells me.

Maybe I should just pack her a container of mushrooms and olives tomorrow.


As I pull myself out of bed Wednesday morning, I feel like telling her to just eat what the school is serving, but as we look at the menu we realize there is no way she is going to eat a meatball sub. So off I go to pack another uneaten lunch.

I am in a mood, and my choice for my daughter’s lunch shows it all: Whole wheat bagel and cream cheese, cantaloupe and banana bread packed up with an attitude. Have a nice day.

The attitude-filled lunch box comes back ... lighter! Half the bagel is gone, as is the cantaloupe. My daughter decided to eat the banana bread on the ride home from school, so technically the lunch box is practically empty. I will take it!


Thursday morning, I leap out of bed knowing it is a half day and I can make her something at home, and that is always easier. The lunch box has the day off, and I am sure it needs it after three days of rejection.


And then comes Friday, as it always does after so many days of failed lunch attempts. I am tired, the lunch box is tired, and I am sure my daughter is tired of getting lunches she doesn't want.

As I reach into the refrigerator, I decide to lean on the old saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them,” and pack her mac and cheese and peas and watermelon.

Yes, she loves it. Yes, the lunch box comes home empty and happy, and we all start the weekend feeling good.

The Moral of the Story

So what’s the moral of this week in the life of a kindergartener's lunch box? Be flexible and don’t give up. Since this snapshot of my daughter’s lunch woes, I have talked to her about what she wants to eat and figured out that she doesn’t like sandwiches or anything soggy. We now do lots of little containers of foods like turkey slices, diced cheese, hummus with pita chips, thermos’ with pesto and pasta, etc.

My daughter is happier, and her little pink lunch box is happier.

I have also started up my mother’s tradition of leaving little notes in her lunch box. Today’s note: “Hope you love your lunch as much as I love you!” 

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