Eating lunch (or not) and why I’m packing brussel sprouts

Stella attends preschool across town.  It’s a long, crosstown haul, but obnoxiously scenic. We skim the north end of Lake Union, gazing across the glimmering water at the cityscape, Space Needle, and all the quirky houseboats that the line the shores. The trek takes us through Fremont, past the troll and across the world’s most frequently opened drawbridge, a title clearly earned due to low clearance and heavy boat traffic. This bridge adds an element of excitement to our commute in that at any moment, it could go up, sending our already slim chances of being on time out the window.

Near that famous/infamous bridge is a natural foods grocery store where Stella loves to enjoy a slice of pizza or beans and rice. Now that it’s official and obvious that everything people enjoy eating–especially brown rice–is unhealthy and potentially lethal, those two options seem more equally weighted. Kind of takes the pressure off, you know? Stella often demands to go there after school, and I usually say “no-we-can-make-pita-pizza-at-home!” But sometimes, when I’ve only consumed a mere four cups of coffee and half a muffin all day, we dine there and then walk down to the chocolate factory for twelve-ish free samples and a bar for my stash. A stash used to be secret, until this week when I found Stella on a chair she’d dragged across the house, finishing off the stash of very dark chocolate, saying slyly, “I’m a chocolate robber.” My point? Stella is a good and eager but sometimes sneaky eater. Clearly, she prefers to hold out for what she perceives to be the best possible food options. She does not consider the lunch I pack to be a great option and has found ways to avoid it altogether.

You see, Stella typically eats about two bites of lunch at preschool. That’s not new and, actually, not uncommon. At pick-up time, I often see other parents peeking into their child’s lunchbox and frowning dramatically. This year, Stella did some mental math when she noticed that I stocked a large Ziploc bag with bunny crackers, chocolate chip granola bars and the like. This is the snack pack all parents must provide as back-up in case the impossible happens and a kid eats their entire lunch and is still hungry. Stella is now using that snack pack knowledge to game the system. She is not eating her lunch. Instead, she waits a while and then asks for snacks from her snack pack because she is so urgently and desperately hungry, but only specifically for her snack pack.

My plan is to extinguish this habit by replenishing the nearly empty snack pack with very un-exciting snacks. Kale chips. Raw nuts. Maybe some raisins if I’m feeling less evil. Definitely some nutritional yeast and old soy sauce packets. If they had a better shelf life, I’d stock it with brussel sprouts. Onions might work, actually. That’s it–I’ll just pack a bag of onions.

It’s been years since I worried about how much Stella eats. But it annoys me to an almost pathological degree when Stella snubs the salami, bell pepper, and pita bread, or organic f’ing adorable round tortilla chips and cuban black beans, or pumpkin-shaped cheese sandwich and grapes. I choose these things because they are wholesome but also because I know she likes them! But no. The thrill of eating half of a sawdust-like cereal bar is too great. She can not resist.

And for those of you who are still not on board with my frustration and see my tactics as cruel: When I first heard about this lunchtime avoidance/snack-pack-reliance practice, I oh-so-compassionately packed bunny crackers in Stella’s lunch so that she would just accept her lunch, eat at least some of it, and not bug the teacher about raiding the snack pack for bunny crackers. This strategy failed. Stella did not eat the bunny crackers! No, because they were provided lovingly in her lunch and did not have to be commandeered from the snack pack, apparently. Can I get an “ARGH!”

But it’s all good. My plan is in place. Lunchtime order will be restored. If I could just rig the Fremont Bridge to stay up when I’m in the vicinity, we’d be golden. Aside from inevitable brown rice arsenic poisoning.

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About amberhj

Mom, writer, worrier. And a stubborn idealist nonetheless.
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2 Responses to Eating lunch (or not) and why I’m packing brussel sprouts

  1. Jessica says:

    You definitely get an “argh!” from me! L has had the same lunch for about 3 years now. Peanut butter and honey sandwich, some fruit, pistachios and something else – depends on what we have on hand! Sometimes I throw in a cheese stick but he doesn’t like them to get “warm” (even when packed on top of the frickin’ ice pack). So although it’s easy – because I know exactly what I’m making every single day – it’s annoying!! He just doesn’t want ANYTHING else. I stopped packing veggies because they just came home – so I save those for when he’s starving before dinner 🙂 And I just read that report about brown rice – AWESOME 😦 bleah

  2. amberhj says:

    Ha! and AH! That actually sounds like a good lunch–good fats and protein plus produce. Stella also will not touch a warm-ish cheese stick. At least it’s a low-stress preparation and you don’t have to toss tons of food. If Stella eats part of a lunch I pack I consider it a success and therefore pack it again, only to have it go untouched. I wonder if we’ll land on something the way Logan has. We’ll see….

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