Happy Meal


This was Cameron’s lunch today.  Not all of it, but the main dish at least.  A few weeks ago Brendan was having a rough time, and in an attempt to placate him and keep him from having a full fledged meltdown I took some Lunchables out of the refrigerator and put them out on the kids plates in the shape of smiley faces.  Doing so had the exact result I was hoping for.  The kids loved it, and Brendan forgot all about his troubles.

Now the only problem is my kids loved it so much that they ask for this at just about every meal.  And no, I don’t allow them to eat Lunchables 3 meals a day every day.  In fact they are a rare treat in our house.  I keep a large stash of them on hand for the days when Brendan wants to take a cold lunch, but they are (in my opinion at least) too expensive for every day consumption.

I’ve gotten some advice from friends of mine to stop wasting my money on the Lunchables themselves.  That I can create a “homemade” lunchable for much cheaper.  And they’re right.  But apparently my kids didn’t get the memo.  I don’t know what it is, but none of my kids will eat lunch meat.  I know what you’re thinking…those little pink circles in the picture are lunch meat.  And you’re absolutely right.  But for whatever reason they will eat the unidentifiable pink circle like it’s candy, but when I’ve bought actual lunch meat cut thick so I could fashion it into the same exact thing they thought it was gross and wouldn’t eat it.

It’s the same thing with the cheese.  They’ll chow down on those little orange squares like they haven’t eaten in months.  They eat Kraft singles as often as I’ll let them.  They demand a handful of shredded cheese any time I’m cooking with it.  Oh, and Velveeta, who could forget that wonderful cooking tool.  To get a slice of that is like getting a little slice of heaven to them.  But cut off a slice from a block of actual cheese and 9 times out of 10 they’ll take one bite and throw the rest away.  And I’m not talking your fancy schmancy cheeses either.  Nope just your typical grade A Colby Jack cheese.  (Incidentally, the same kind that I get in the shredded form for cooking)

Now the crackers in the Lunchable are a whole other story.  My kids love crackers.  They could practically live on crackers.  Their favorites are the little rectangle ones that come in the green box.  But, on any given day they’ll leave over half of their Lunchable crackers uneaten (or with only a single bite out of each) littered on their plate.  When asked why they don’t eat the crackers the most common answer is that they don’t like crackers.  WHAT?!???!  Are you kidding me?  Of course you like crackers.  Let me just pull the green box down off the shelf and see how quickly you’re at my feet salivating and begging for some.

I’m generalizing and implying that this is true for all of my kids, and at one point or another it has been true of each of them.  Brendan, however, has started to really grow up.  He’s more willing to give things a try.  And, as long as I don’t make him eat a large amount, he’ll even consent to eating things that he doesn’t like (such as vegetables at dinner).  And his willingness to branch out is growing by the day.

Today, for example, there was an item on the list that doesn’t come up very often; Sunbutter and Jelly sandwiches.  His school is a peanut free facility (as are most schools these days), so they don’t serve PB & J.  Believe it or not, you can still bring PB & J in your lunchbox, but the lunchbox must be kept sealed until lunch period and the kids with allergies are kept separate from the kids potentially eating peanut butter.  The kids also get to bring a snack for mid afternoon, but those must be nut free.

But back to the sunbutter and jelly sandwiches.  They aren’t something that is on the lunch calendar often, but once in a while they are there.  This morning, while reviewing the options with him, Brendan asked me what sunbutter was.  I explained that it was like peanut butter but made out of something that the nut allergy kids wouldn’t be allergic to.  He seemed interested but hesitant to tell me what he wanted for lunch.  So I prompted him.

Me:  “Do you want to try it?”

Brendan:  “It sounds good, but I’ve never had it before.  What if I don’t like it?”

Me:  “Well, you don’t have to try it, but you’re never going to know if you like it or not unless you do.”

Brendan:  “That’s true.”  (still pondering his choices)

Me:  “Tell you what, why don’t you try it today and if you don’t like it you don’t have to finish it.  I’ll pack you a snack for this afternoon that will be a bit more filling, that way if you didn’t get enough to eat at lunch you’ll be able to make it through until you get home.  Does that sound good?”

Brendan:  (brightening)  Yes!  I think I’ll do that.

I really think he was afraid to not eat his lunch and go hungry.  We had a similar discussion a few weeks ago.  One of the other options that comes up on the menu is Fruit, Yogurt, and Muffin.  Brendan thought that sounded good and ordered it a couple of times.  But the third time it came up after trying it he didn’t order it.  Curiosity got the better of me so I asked him why.  He explained that he really wanted to order it, because he really, really liked the muffin.  However the fruit and yogurt weren’t enough of a lunch to fill him up and he didn’t like to be hungry so he’d rather have a different lunch.

I was so proud of my boy for being grown up enough to not only recognize that a particular lunch wasn’t good for him to order since it didn’t fill him up, but also to deny himself something he really wanted in order to make a better lunch choice.  I tried to offer an alternative, saying I would pack him the main dish of a cold lunch to take with him and supplement the fruit, yogurt, and muffin.  But he said, “We aren’t supposed to do that mom.  Where would I stand in line when we went to lunch, with the hot lunch kids or the cold lunch kids?”  I know the school better than that, and all he would have to do is order the hot lunch option and carry his lunchbox with him, but I was unable to convince him that what I was suggesting would really be allowed.

I’m very intersted to see how he liked his new lunch experience.  Meanwhile Cameron and Kaylee greatly enjoyed their happy faces for lunch, and devoured every bite (minus a half dozen crackers with nothing but a single bite taken out of them).  Oh well, tomorrow is another day in which I’ll have to raise the lunch bar a whole lot further.


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