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The Cheez Doodle Principle1
Recently, I estimated that I've packed 2,179 school lunches.
That's something like 1,084 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, 829 tuna, 45 egg salad, 143 bologna and 78 unidentified. Only 1,822 of those were actually eaten by my children.
Of the 2,179 carefully packed pieces of fruit I've lovingly included for balanced nutrition, I'd say most, if not all, are now compost at the bottom of some landfill. Add the thousands of carrot sticks, dozens of cherry tomatoes and scores of cheese chunks that go directly from lunch box to trash can, and I have 2,179 reasons to sleep in.
The only foods I'm certain get eaten are the factory-packaged, artificially colored and flavored, chemical infested, sugar- and fat-laden goodies that I warn the lunch-box carrier not to eat until after the healthy stuff is gone (which kids define as wadded up, smashed beyond recognition and soaked with milk before being thrown away.)
That leaves me to conclude that if you are what you eat, then my children are Cheez Doodles and Ho-Ho's.
I have other options in the Lunch Box Game. I could stay in bed, forget about packing lunches, and look like the Joan Crawford of all mothers—or pack what they do eat—namely, junk food. That might win points with my kids, but word would leak out and I'd become the dreaded "other kids' mom," as in, "Other kids' moms pack candy bars and fried pies in their lunch boxes."
I could make them eat cafeteria food, but as I've been duly told, "Cafeteria food is garooosss." Case closed.
That leaves packing the lunch box.
As a veteran packer, I've observed several Lunch-Box Laws and Principles:
The Law of Negative Consumption. Simply stated, expensive sandwich fillings such as roast beef or honey-glazed ham never get eaten. Out-of-season fruit gets sat upon on the bus. The last bagel that you secretly coveted but gave to your child gets immediately drenched in red Hawaiian Punch.
The Law of Unbearable Temptation. This occurs whenever a child is confronted with a food having a higher playwithability factor than eatability factor. These include raisins, which get arranged barricade-style then flicked across the table; bananas, which are used as guns and/or nonreturnable boomerangs; and marshmallows, which occasionally get eaten, but only after the child stuffs them all into his cheeks at once.
The Law of Leakability. This law states that even if you wrap your child's field-trip permission slip/report card/school picture carefully in triple plastic bags before putting it inside his lunch box, his leak-proof factory-sealed boxed drink will leak, destroying everything in its wake.
The Law of "Oh, No!" Under this law, soda in a thermos explodes, Jell-O melts and mustard permanently attaches itself to white clothing.
The Principle of "Go Figure." Ziploc bags neither zip nor lock when in a child's possession. Metal spoons and expensive plastic containers never come home, but disposable plastic spoons and Cool Whip containers do. The same kid who won't eat a broken potato chip at home will smash a bag of chips into chip dust—then eat it with a spoon. Go Figure.
There is a bright side. Even if my children never eat the thousands of lunches I pack for them during their school careers, my efforts are not in vain. Colossians 3:23–24 reminds me: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward."
There's also an end in sight—my last child graduates next year. Until then, I'll just take things one day at a time. Meanwhile, pass the Cheez Doodles—the bus is almost here.
1. "The Cheez Doodle Principle" by Nancy Kennedy. This article first appeared in Christian Parenting Today magazine (September/October 1997), a publication of Christianity Today, Inc. Used by permission.