This time, last September, we were only three weeks into school and I was already beating my brain trying to come up with healthy, fun and packable school lunches for my Kindergartener. (Did I mention my son suffers from “picky eater syndrome?”)
“Mom, there was seasoning on my noodles!”
“Mom, this felt yucky in my mouth!”
“Mom, this was too crunchy!”
“Mom, this was too mushy!”
“Mom, I like the way Grandma makes it better!”
“Mom, I told you this makes my belly feel funny!”
“Mom, if you put this in my lunchbox again I will DIE!”
“Mom! Mom! Mom! MOM! MOMMMMMY!”
It was enough to make me want to bang my head off the kitchen counter, and I’m almost certain I’m not the only one! But, don’t go out to buy a helmet just yet. I spent a whole school year learning from my mistakes as the mother of a picky eater, and I’m going to share a few secrets with you!
Let’s face it. The moment our children step onto the school bus, they are just outside of our reach. What’s worse is: they know it. We can’t be at school to encourage them to eat what they don’t like, so why pack it? All kids like something healthy. I mean, don’t get me wrong: my son is convinced he could survive on mini-muffins and chocolate milk, alone, but he also likes yogurt, cheese sticks, crackers and apple slices. Be the thermos that’s half full vs. half empty by focusing on the healthy foods they like rather than what they don’t.
Evenings at my house are undoubtedly chaotic. We are family that is a prime example that there just aren’t enough hours in a day. Each evening, I find myself frantically throwing a lunch together for the next morning, in between dinner clean-up and bath time. But when I started to view lunch-making as an activity for my son and I to do together, rather than a motherly chore, I started to notice how much more he was eating at school. He loves choosing his favorite healthy snacks and climbing up on a chair to pack his lunchbox. This way, there are no surprises. I know he likes everything we’ve packed and he is working on his self-help skills at the same time.
Between graphic design and scrapbooking, I consider myself a pretty creative person. But for some reason (and I guess it’s because I’m allergic to baking) I never realized how to put my creativity to good use in the kitchen! When I started cutting my son’s sandwiches into dinosaurs with a cookie cutter and turning his bananas into minions with a sharpie, he was much more receptive to the idea of finishing his lunches! (I think it made his school friends a little jealous, too!)
My son is my only child. We spend a lot of time alone together, and there have been times when I needed to wrestle him into the tub or send him to his room for throwing a ball in the house. But, there are also those times when we are climbing around together in a blanket fort or taking silly selfies to send to daddy when he’s deployed. I’m his mommy, but I’m also his friend. I am also a firm believer that kids need to be reminded that they are loved… especially at the beginning of the school year. This is why I started leaving notes in my son’s lunchbox. Sometimes they’re sweet and sometimes they’re funny, but it’s just my way of letting him know he's in my thoughts. I also like to think that when he’s having a bad day, they make him smile and allow him to enjoy his lunchtime.
See? Being the mother of a picky eater isn't so bad!