While Pinterest would have us believe that bonsai shaped broccoli, storm trooper sandwiches and apple roses are key when it comes to packing school lunches, I have found that the key ingredient, when it comes satisfying the two little stomachs that I pack meals for, is the act of listening. Defined as, giving attention with the ear and attending closely for the purpose of hearing, it is this seemingly simply act, that can help you gain valuable insight and, make the completion of tasks (such as packing lunches), a whole lot easier. Yes, you read that right; the act of listening has taken a great deal of effort out of meal prep.
I learned this valuable lesson on the eve of my children’s very first day of school two years ago. I was ready to simply pack up leftovers from dinner and send them off on their merry way. Given that it was a pretty important first day though, I decided that before moving forward with my lunch plan, it might be a good idea to inquire, rather than assume. I felt it best to ask so that at least one component of their day would not be surprising or overwhelming for them (this was after all a brand new experience for all us). So I turned to my little ones and posed the question that has since been our evening ritual “what would you like mommy to pack for your lunch?”
Funny enough one of my girls answered without hesitation asking for lasagne. While I love my daughters dearly I wasn’t prepared to pull and all-nighter creating an Italian casserole, so lasagne were a lunch box no-go. After explaining to them that mommy couldn’t get that particular lunch made I posed the question again. They pondered for a few minutes and then responded with the next, more feasible option. While I don’t recall the exact noon hour nosh they requested, I do recall that they each asked for something different (which has typically been the case since).
While you might think that given the choice, children will gravitate towards unhealthy options, but I have actually found the opposite to be true. Of course my girls will ask for cookies, bags of chips or juice boxes on occasion (they are kids after all), but for the most part, they make great choices and by involving them in the process, I empower them to make those choices.
So before running out to buy a bento box in which to compartmentalize googley-eyed oranges and critter shaped cucumbers (which admittedly yes I have done from time-to-time, heck even I like to pack a little pinspiration), try listening to what your children (and their taste buds) have to say. And by the way, since I did take the first day off school off, I had plenty of time to layer noodles and make the girls their lasagne to enjoy as a special dinner on their first day of school, and to pack for lunch the next day. Here’s to a happy and healthy start, to a new school year. Buon Appetito!