For the first time since he was in fourth grade, I’m making lunches for my youngest son.
Did I mention he’s a sophomore now?
And I pack him a lunch every morning.
Because he’s 16, I cannot make all those cute little things that other mommies try to make you feel guilty for not making, like lunches that look like Legos, or Star Wars themed sandwich sets, complete with Yoda shaped homemade potato chips.
Seriously, who has that kind of time? It would take me 20 minutes just to find a straw, let
alone cut out cute little circles on a square of bread to make it look like a building block…
He’s too old for that anyway – too old for cute shaped cheese slices or ants on a log (peanut butter filled celery) or packets of fruit snacks stapled to little “I love you” notes.
But I’m still packing his lunch.
The reason for lunch packing mania is simple – it’s cheaper.
And since I’m working from home now, it is just easier to make lunch for him instead of buying something from school that he won’t eat.
On the flip side, whatever I make for him, I make for everyone else, as well, so, really, lunch for all four of us is typically done by 7:30 a.m. SCORE! That means I can go back to sleep and work through lunch, right?
(Uhm, no, but it’s a nice thought)
I’ll not say it’s been easy – we’ve had our ups and downs with the menu over the past three weeks.
At first, it was chicken quesadillas, with a container of tortilla chips and fire-smoked salsa (no, not homemade), some grapes and a small bag of cookies.
Pretty cool, huh?
He was ecstatic.
I mean, who in high school gets quesadillas in their lunch box?
I’ve done yogurt with mini M&Ms, paired with veggies and dip, cheese squares and apples… oh, yeah… and a brownie. That was a hit too.
One day, it was ramen noodles with chicken and green onions. Another it was hummus and pretzel chips, tuna in a pita pocket and a Nutty Buddy bar.
Ramen noodles? He was in love. Tuna fish and hummus? Not so much.
Then there was the day he asked for pancakes and bacon.
Usually, when I make pancakes, it’s after I get up around the crack of 10 on a Saturday, to make it for the boys and whoever of their friends has stayed over the night before.
Now, he was asking me to get up at 6:45 to make pancakes and bacon, stuff it into little Tupperware containers and make a healthy lunch out of it.
Instead of rolling my eyes, I did it. And I’m not talking pop a few hockey pucks of dough out of the yellow box in the freezer and throw them in the toaster. I’m talking mixing the batter from scratch, and plop in a few fresh fruits just for good measure. All before my morning coffee…
He was thrilled.
I worried a bit about what everyone else at the lunch table would say – you know, kids can be mean at that age. Okay, at any age.
But what I found though was that everyone was jealous. He says everyone wants to see what he gets to eat for lunch. One girl even tries to steal his lunch every day and trade him her school bought lunch. He won’t have it.
There have been some slip-ups… the chicken schwarma salad with lemon basil vinegarette? Not a hit. The homemade pimento cheese? Good the first time, not so much the second. Pitas and pita chips are not a favorite. Peanut butter and jelly on honey wheat with potato chips, always still a go-to selection.
For him, packed lunches are great. He gets what he wants to eat, every day is a surprise and he gets something to look forward to at lunch.
For me, it’s good too. I know he’s eating, instead of throwing away what someone else puts on his plate. I know he enjoys being a little different and having everyone want what he’s got for a change. I know he knows I care – which can be pretty important to let kids know when they get to high school sometimes.
And it’s good for the two of us, as well. We spend time talking about food and about what we’re going make for future lunches, what is healthy to eat, as well as about what he really likes and doesn’t like.
For instance, he really likes grapes. He’s a little ticked at me right now, because I haven’t had the time to go to the store to get more grapes. He ate an entire 3-pound bag of grapes in a week, and that was WITH me telling him to cool it so he’d have some for lunches.
A teenager… eating grapes… like they were candy… Who knew?
We decided that this weekend that we’re going to make homemade pretzels together, so
- He will know how to make them, and
- We can experiment a little with them for lunch. We were thinking maybe we’d try making some with pepperoni and parmesan, and add to it a container with some marinara sauce for dipping.
And I found a few recipes using Pillsbury Crescent Rolls that I think I can turn into some fun stuff, so we may make something with them too. Heck, just flattening out biscuits and turning them into pizzas is an option. Won’t THAT make him the hit of the lunch table?
For now, packing lunches works. He’s eating. He’s eating relatively healthily, for a teenager. He’s being looked up to, instead of looked down on. And he’s happy.
If any of that changes, I suppose I’ll change too and figure out another way.
But for now, I’ll go on packing his lunch with a little creativity and a lot of love.
Tomorrow – peanut butter and jelly. And on Friday? It looks like I’m making pancakes – for lunch.
Copyright © Liz Carey 2015