“That’s what you had for lunch?” I asked incredulously as the preschooler started the tantrum process (everything must be equal in this household) and the baby took up a chorus of “Chip! Chip!!!!”
“Oh yeah, and a chocolate milk.” (Note to self: the mystery of the two cavities before age 7? Solved.)
Normally, given the societal cacophony regarding that stuff we put into our mouth and also need to live, I try to reserve judgment on what my son has for lunch on the one day a week he’s allowed to have hot lunch with his kickball cronies. Especially since the other four days he’s stuck with a nutritionally balanced home lunch packed by me, I try to just take a deep breath and go to my happy place whenever he talks about chicken nuggies or tater tots or french toast sticks with vats of fake syrup. I may have mentioned it here a time or two but I have food issues. And I’m trying really hard not to pass those onto my kids.
But a rice krispie treat, chips and chocolate milk?!?!?
“Wasn’t there some protein? Or, say, a fruit or vegetable?” I croaked, visions of Wall-E dancing before my eyes.
“Oh yeah,” he nodded seriously. “They had that brown crumbly stuff on tortillas. You know that stuff?”
Do I know cafeteria mystery meat? Were there vegetarians in the Donner party? Some questions are better left unasked, son.
High Fructose Highway to Hell
As my mother is fond of reminding me, you can’t bubble wrap your children. Not only does it not work for protecting them from life’s hard lessons but it also says specifically on the wrap “not for use with children.” (Ironic considering I don’t know a single child who doesn’t adore the stuff.) It’s like those cruel plastics manufacturers read my mind and then stole the dream away.
Anyhow, part of letting my children grow up and develop a healthy relationship to food is allowing them to sometimes eat things I deem questionable (i.e. with more dubious ingredients than Edward Scissorhands had paper cuts). I tell myself that it’s about modeling good decision making and then giving them opportunities to make choices themselves.
Of course we are also talking about the same kid who just yesterday licked the metal frame of the bus window in -45 (F) degree temps and discovered for himself that The Christmas Story isn’t just a light-hearted holiday classic but also the harrowing tale of what happens when you gamble against the laws of chemistry. He’s six; he’s not exactly known for making brilliant decisions. (And yes, since I know you are wondering, he panicked and yanked his tongue off and his now the proud owner of a skinned tongue. Like I told my high-schoolers: Don’t mess with physics. It wins every time.)
So I tooled around his school’s website and discovered that the menu actually listed exactly what my little George Washington had said: soft taco, chips and for dessert they had a choice of a rice krispie treat or a banana. And like my son astutely observed, “We always, like, have bananas at home.” The other option listed in teeny tiny print was “green salad.” I considered calling the lunch ladies’ bluff and showing up to see if any elementary child has ever in the history of the school chosen the green salad option but, like I said, negative forty five here. I can’t even walk to my mailbox without my nose hairs forming a unique snowflake pattern.
In an attempt to be helpful, the school menu completed the trifecta of nutritional terror by providing the calories, fat grams and sodium content of each meal. I almost fainted. It makes a Happy Meal look downright sensible. Plus, at McDonald’s, at least you get a movie tie-in toy. Double the whiny fun!
So what’s a formerly eating-disordered mother to do? We’ve discussed the sensitive topic of childhood obesity here before. Do I take away his lunchtime ticket to coolville? After all, his fate as a geek was pretty much sealed the day he was born to my husband and I. Or is one school meal/nutritional train wreck a week an acceptable risk to take with growing bodies and minds?
At least the chocolate milk has protein in it, right? Oh fudge.