My daughter spent her Reception year on school dinners. They were free for all reception age children, and in theory should have made my life much easier. They didn’t.
Every day I collected my daughter and asked her how her day was, and what she had for lunch. Every day she would reply that her day was fine, and that she had had a jacket potato, or a cheese sandwich. Every. Day. I was aware that there were other options on the menu, and regularly asked why she hadn’t chosen something different. It turned out that even though school had pasta bake, and she likes pasta bake, she felt safer choosing a cheese sandwich or a jacket potato. The pasta bake looked too different.
It struck me that this could be some sort of anxiety; choosing the same “safe” option every day is something I did as a child – and it was through a feeling of anxiousness. For about a month I shrugged it off, but the repetition of cheese sandwiches and jacket potatoes soon caused an almighty case of constipation. Something had to change. I tried talking to her teacher, but expecting staff to watch what the kids are eating and remember that they ate that the day before is a big ask. I tried talking to Sprog about how she likes lots of different food, and maybe picking something other than “the usual” would be a good idea. I tried reminding her that the repetitive lunches had given her a very bad tummy ache. She didn’t care. There was no changing her eating habits at school.
So in September this year, when she started Year 1, I bought her a lunch box. We searched high and low for the perfect lunch box: a pink one featuring Disney’s (effing) Frozen with glitter on the front. She loved it. I loved it. I packed fresh fruit, cooked veggies and even eggs. I packed pasta. I packed homemade granola bars and cut wholemeal sandwiches into fun shapes. I put notes in her lunchbox. She ate the fruits and veggies, along with everything else, and regularly told me that she loved the lunch I had made for her. She saved the notes and stuck them on her bedroom wall. Everything was working fine.
Cue a catastrophe. Last week, amid this fine November weather we are having, Sprog went nuclear. I had collected her from school and stopped to say hi to her best friend’s mother, who was feeling a little under the weather. She told us she would be skipping the club our girls go to weekly, as she was just too ill. I nodded understandingly, and after prying the girls apart, we went on our way. Little did I know that there was a tantrum brewing in my little angel, the likes of which I had never seen. We made it another 10ft down the road, and as we waited to cross she let out an almighty wail, stomped her feet, launched aforementioned treasured lunchbox into the oncoming traffic and went limp on the floor. My jaw hit the curb next to her in shock as I desperately tried to lift her off the ground and half carry half drag her across the road.
When we got to the other side I asked her what on earth she thought she was doing, and in a demonic growl she informed that she had overheard the earlier conversation, and was annoyed that she wouldn’t be going to the club. Guess what, earwig? That’s not what we said. I explained that she had heard wrong, and she glanced back at the lunchbox – or it’s remains – in the middle of the heavy traffic. She burst into tears and threatened that she would be even more angry if I didn’t go and get it. I didn’t go and get it. I dragged her stroppy mess of stomping, hitting, flailing self all the way home in silence. I sent her to her room and told her to think hard about what she had done, and to understand that she threw her lunch box and the consequence was that she no longer had a lunch box. She screamed. She begged me to buy a new one. I stood my ground.
So since last week she has gone to school with her lunch in a plastic bag. It makes me think she looks scruffy, and I worry that the other kids will say something, but I need her to understand that I will not simply replace impulsively destroyed property.
The only downside to this new plastic bag system happened this morning, when we both walked straight past the generic plastic bag that I had left on the dining table, and didn’t realise until we got to school that Sprog had no lunch. As I write this I am eyeing up the torrential November rain, trying to spot a break in it so that I can run lunch to school. Talk about a parenting fail, huh? 😂