First off I want to be known that I am not a blogger or a professional one at that. When I asked Mrs. Q if I could be a GUEST blogger I warned her that it might be misspelled or have horrible grammar but that I NEEDED to share my story!
I am a mother of three. I have a (step) daughter (we will call her MM) who is 7.5 (leaving second grade this year), a son (we will call him PJ) who is 6 (leaving kindergarten this year) and a son (we will call him CM) who will be 3 the end of July. I work way over 40 hours a week. For a little while I also was a high school cheerleading coach on top of my motherly duties and work duties. I am not claiming to be a busy mom because my children are still young but I am busy enough. My reason for writing to the readers is because I recently spent the day with my daughter’s second grade class and had to share with you what I witnessed.
I was originally supposed to escort MM and her class to the local public pool for a field trip. As I was pulling into her school parking lot the teacher called me and said it had been rescheduled for the next day due to weather. I had already gotten the day off for today (June 9th) and knew I couldn’t show up to work in my jean capris. I also knew I would not be able to take two days off in a row, so I told her teacher I would just volunteer in her class all day.
Note: PJ who is in kindergarten is only half day so he comes home to eat every day. MM is the only one that eats at school. PJ was in head start for two years and he HAD to eat the “school lunch” because it was a government based program. I felt bad everyday having him eat that but it does not happen now. MM lives with her mom who happens to be a teacher. Since kindergarten MM has bought school lunch 90 percent of the time, for whatever reason. (Side Note: I am not here to knock on anyone’s preference for parenting.)
I would pick MM up from school almost on a daily basis. We would talk about everything on our trip home. I would ask her about her day and what she had for lunch. In kindergarten almost every day she would tell me hot dog and cheetos with chocolate milk. I complained to not only her mother but to the teacher. I could not believe we were leaving a decision of nutritious meal choosing to a five year old (at the time.) Her mother told me that every morning she gave her the choice of “hot lunch” or cold lunch (sac/homemade lunch) and if MM chose hot lunch they would go through the choices and pick one. I had made the comment that just because she chose the tuna sandwich (for hot lunch) in front of you does not mean that is what she is telling the lunch lady to give her. Also, if you are giving her the choice, after how many times of choosing hot lunch a in a row do you step in. Well, the teacher agreed to start keeping an eye on her and her choices to help. I have not expressed my opinion about it since because it obviously got me nowhere.
This year MM took “cold lunch” a few more times than she did in kindergarten and first grade. Now when I say cold lunch I mean she took a lunch-able. There were still VERY few “homemade” lunches. To get you steered back to my day of volunteering, I made sure that the lunch I made for us (supposed to be for at the pool) was homemade. I have been reading this blog and a few others on healthier lunches for our school aged kids for a little while now. I am so inspired by what MM is going through and what Mrs. Q is going through to make my kid(s) lunch(es) better.
The night before my visit to her class I made our lunch. Now here in the Northeast of the U.S. our vegetables and fruits are now in season and are available at a better price. I have been stocking our house with tons of fresh fruits and veggies. I made turkey sandwiches (real turkey with cheese and mustard) on multi-grain bread. I cut up cantaloupe and watermelon with some grapes. Put some cut up cucumbers and green beans in a bag. Here is the “not so good” part of the lunch I had some “d-animal” (not trying to promote any company) yogurt smoothies and a snack pr-less grease-ingle-chips (get it.)I only packed those last two things because I am a mom and know kids love and deserve to indulge themselves in something “not-so-good” once in awhile.
I am not trying to fool anyone. I keep cookies, chips and snack foods in stock at my house. I have a husband (stay at home dad) and three kids. I know that if I teach my kids that these foods are available at anytime but that it is healthier to choose the grapes more often the cookies (and they do so) then I have done my job as a mother and done it well. Which not to pat myself on the back I have done so. My two boys will eat their veggies before anything else on their plate. My sons will also wake up every morning and have grapes and apple slices for breakfast instead of the sugary cereal I have in stock at the house. My boys know how important a good nutritious meal is. Not having MM that much it is very hard to teach her this. She is learning though.
To get us back in the direction (again.) I was very excited to eat this lunch with MM. When I got to her class she was very excited to see me (she figured since the field trip was cancelled that I was not coming.) She asked me to stay for something (cannot remember now what it was) and I told her I was staying the whole day. The smile that lit up her face made my century. Later on she asked me if we could “go out” for lunch (assuming she wanted BK or McDs as we call them). I told her I packed a lunch for us. Again, the smile that lit up her face was great. You could just see the excitement of knowing how good my lunches are that I pack. In the beginning of the school year she would stay a few nights during the week with us. I would pack her lunch for her with all kinds of yummy good stuff. As lunch approached MM got real excited to see my bag of goodies. I was like Mary Poppins pulling out of our food.
We sat at the cold lunch table. The kids are separated; I assume to make it easier for teachers and lunch ladies, by hot lunch and cold lunch. As we sat at our table, I saw lunch-able(s) at a mass quantity. I actually saw one lunch where the child had a sandwich, two juice boxes, crackers, a full size Milky Way bar and two snack size whoppers. I guess her parents thought the candy where good trading material? The child next to MM had a “nacho lunch-able, the child across from her had one also. The child directly across from MM had a cracker lunch-able and the child across from me had a homemade lunch. As soon as I started pulling our lunch out MM’s “cool” status broke the meter. So many of the children “ooooeeed” and “aaaaaahhhhed.” Right away the stock market exchange began. I saw hands go up with their item of trade and the bargaining being shouted. MM kept looking at me not knowing if it was okay. I ignored the offers and MM followed my example. We ate our lunch as the kids looked at theirs and realized how “un-cool” it really was. Eventually MM started handing out some of the fruits and veggies so that her “cool” status could remain. I even had one of the kids asking for the (fresh) green beans I was eating.
My point to this whole story is that if you pack it they WILL eat it. I hear so many times from parents “oh if I pack those veggies/fruit they will just throw it away or trade it away.” This brings me back to what I said earlier. Yes, my children love to eat the “not-so-good” stuff but I have TAUGHT them when to make those choices and how much to make those choices. As parents we have to teach our children how to be sensible. I know we already have so much on our plates as parents to teach but this is so important. Sp what if your child has a great metabolism or not they still need to eat healthy for their body. MM will be 8 in September and her waistline can still fit in a 3T pants (height wise she cannot). She has a great metabolism. It does not mean that she can eat junk food for the rest of her life and not die from a heart attack weighing 100 lbs. This happens on a daily basis. Again I am not saying that the occasional (I try to limit it to 2 unhealthy snacks a day) indulgence in a brownie or handful of chips is bad. I am saying that the processed food and “cheaply-made” lunch-ables are not healthy 3,4 or even 5 times a week.
I understand a lot of us are in hard times. I have a family of 5 that lives on a $34,000 a year income. I am by all means saying just because you get free or reduced lunch due to income, or because lunch-ables are 10 for 10 does not mean you need to do it every day. I could easily let PJ get his “free lunch” from the school next year. Our income sure enough qualifies us, but as a mother it is my job to TEACH my kids that eating like that does not give our bodies the nutrients to survive on the playground for recess. Or the energy to run in T-ball after school. At first I did not see that my kids were listening or understanding the big words I was projecting at them. Until, one day PJ was telling me he was going to have applesauce instead of a cookie because he wants to be able to play flash light tag later. MM told me that she was choosing the salad bar and sandwich at lunch now instead of the pizza or pancake sticks (how is that a lunch anyway) because she wanted to make good decisions for her brain power. As parents when we hear these statements from our children we know we have done our job. I am begging you to TEACH your children about nutrition. Offer them a cupcake and grapes but tell them how the grapes will help with brain power to read or leg power to run faster at recess. Tell them that the cupcake looks better and sure does taste better but will slow them down in the game of tag later. Be creative really!
I want to point out again I am not here to judge. I did not know how to teach my kids at first but I am getting there. It is people like Mrs. Q and her guest bloggers that have been inspiring me to get creative with my kids. I personally follow another blog found here http://bentolunch.blogspot.com/ that helps me really be creative on what to make. I might make you mad or annoy you or inspire you, but if I do anything with this guest blog I hope I bring to your attention that kids want to eat well and they want to learn about eating well. Even if I cause you to rethink how you make your food at home or pack their lunches, please remember you show them or teach them they will listen and learn.