Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Lunch Lady Land

Deep breaths.  Deep breaths.


Charles takes his lunch to school.  Not because he doesn’t like hot lunch – he does, and some days (okay… like, twice, ever) he buys hot lunch.  But most days he takes his lunch because his best friends take their lunches and he wants to sit with them.


This stresses me out for two reasons: 1) he wants lunch from home but he would prefer not to eat real food, and 2) by never eating hot lunch, he is participating in de facto segregation.  I assume.  Which is where this post turns into mostly my paranoia about raising a socially-conscious kid who voluntarily eats healthy food.


This motherhood gig is not easy, y’all.


So, thing the first: Charles doesn’t want sandwiches or wraps in his lunch.  He doesn’t want a selection of meats or cheeses.  He will not eat vegetables.  He would like cookies, please.  And squeezy applesauce, but not the kind that has vegetables mixed in.  He wants water, not milk or chocolate milk (which is fine, but kid needs to ingest some calories!).


I usually make a sandwich (PBJ, PBH {H for honey}) or a wrap (ham & cheese) or this morning I convinced him to have a mini bagel with cream cheese.  He might eat half of it.  The wraps were going really well for awhile and he would eat the whole thing almost every day, but then he got bored, I guess?  I don’t know.  He doesn’t want them anymore.


For, like, a day he really liked cashews in his lunch.  He begs me to buy strawberries and raspberries for his lunch, but they’re super out of season right now.  Raisins or craisins get a cringe.  Carrots get ignored.


Consequence?  I stuff him full of vegetables at dinner, since that’s the only meal at which I can influence his choices in real time.  And tonight I’m going to make muffins to see if he’ll take one of those in his lunchbox.  I’ll try new things until I find something he’ll like!


But thing the second really gets my sad-worry juices flowing.  Charles’s school is 79% free or reduced lunch (below the poverty level).  Those kids all eat hot lunch.  And the hot lunch kids sit separately from cold lunch kids.  The last thing I want to do is raise a kid who thinks he’s better than another kid just based on lunch.


For the record, I don’t think Charles thinks like that (yet?).  I don’t remember thinking like that when I was a kid.  I had lunch from home when I was in grade school, and I remember it mostly being because I had an unfounded terror of going through the lunch line.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve trained away the terror, or at least turned it into a generalized discomfort when I go to cafeterias or places with some amount of diy-ness: what if I do it wrong?  What if I get through the lunch line and I forgot to pick up silverware at the beginning?  The first time I went to Chipotle or Taco Del Mar, I had the same anxiety, the what do I do? unease of a new place where I have to follow some sort of established protocol and I don’t know what that protocol is.  Wine tasting.  Build-A-Bear.  Cooking class.  I feel like such a fraud.


It’s ridiculous, really, and I know that now and I am mostly over it.  There’s a first time for everything, right?  Anyhow, that’s why I didn’t eat hot lunch.  I don’t know why Charles doesn’t eat hot lunch, other than he’s picky, picky, picky all of the sudden.  I just don’t want it to turn into a thing.  I remember my whole third-grade class picking on a couple of girls who lived in the trailer park not far from my parents’ house.  We would say they were smelly.  We bullied them.  It was awful, and I am ashamed.  Yesterday, Charles told me that a friend of his (who is a boy) wore his older sister’s “girl shoes” to school that day.  What made them “girl shoes”?  Little hearts on them.  We talked it through and then I lectured him to never, ever make fun of someone because of what they wear.  I happen to know that this kid lives with his three siblings and a parent in a low-income apartment near us.  Maybe his shoes were just dirty, or maybe his family can’t afford new shoes for him and these were the only ones that fit.


Kids do this, and I know it.  Some amount of “bullying” at the younger grade levels is kids just figuring out how to treat people.  The anti-bullying movement has made us hyper-aware of the consequences of hateful speech, and we’re calling kids on it, which helps.  I’m doing my part by having open conversations with my kids about words and actions.  I asked Charles why the hot lunch kids and the home lunch kids don’t sit together and he told me it was because the hot lunch kids have to go through the line.  But still.


I wish I could have some assurance now that he will grow up to be a good person later, but I guess I just have to put in the hard work and hope for the best.


Janine said...

I had the same reservations when I found out that the "hot lunch" kids were not sitting with the "cold lunch" kids. I pestered and wheedled them about why? Why aren't you sitting with them? Why are you excluding those that take longer to get their lunch? And then the same internal debate...today, lunchtime biases. Tomorrow, who knows what biases.

And then my youngest said to me. "Geez, Mom. It's just lunch. They can sit wherever they want. It's not my fault they don't sit with me". A lesson in that it goes both ways from a 7 year old.

Stephanie said...

Why do they fit separately? Is it a school policy? My kids have to sit with their class. Anthony likes that kids with cold lunch get first choice of seats at the table...

Amelia said...

It's not school policy, just that the cold lunch kids file in first and then sit together. Maybe it will change in the higher grades.

Amelia said...

This totally made me feel better than any other advice :)