They Are Happy When They Open Their Lunchboxes.

Making my kids’ lunches is a time-honored tradition that I enjoy daily.

By “enjoy,” I mean it’s not the most awful responsibility in the world. I put little notes in their lunchboxes, although Dylan hasn’t yet found the one I left for him in 8th grade, so mostly I put notes in Shane’s lunchbox. And in spite of my insistence to the contrary, I make plain, creamy peanut butter sandwiches for them every single day because they don’t want anything else. Well, Shane sometimes eats cheese.

The kids have their own jobs, too. They put in two items for themselves, so that they are a little more prepared for the real world when they get there. We all try hard to limit the total lunch count to 50 grams of sugar – which is about three times what they should have for the entire day. (The good news is, they have substantially healthier lunches than most of the kids who bring Lunchables or Nutella sandwiches.)

As I make those lunches, while slathering on the peanut butter, I can’t help but think about my own mother. She had three kids, not just two, and she made our lunches for all of us practically until we went off to college. I remember buying lunch a few times in high school – yuk! – and after college, I could never quite get the mix of peanut butter and jelly right, like Mom used to do. I’m still trying.

My kids won’t eat jelly. In fact, when I try something new, they come home and politely ask to never, ever get anything in their lunchboxes except creamy peanut butter sandwiches. Boring? Sure.

But classic.

I occasionally got lunchmeat in my school lunches, which was okay – but not as good as peanut butter and jelly. So I understand when they ask for the same thing every day.

I used to get a sandwich and a dessert in my lunchbox every day. Dessert was usually a couple of cookies. Sometimes there would be Easter candy in there. Dessert was very exciting, so I saved it for last.

Additionally, I got something like popcorn or chips in my lunchbox. We called that the “middle thing,” because it wasn’t a sandwich or a dessert. It wasn’t healthy or absurdly sugary. The “middle thing” fell somewhere in the middle.

To this day, my kids have a sandwich, a dessert and a middle thing. It is an idea that I am passing down through the generations. Since both boys stay late at school, we’ve started adding a “snack item,” too, so they don’t starve after school.

Sure, there are other ways to make lunches. I could give them new, convenient, processed crap. Or I could just compile a bunch of healthy things in plastic containers and throw in a piece of gum for dessert. Or I could make great dinners then heat up leftovers – which I tried when Dylan was in elementary school. (He came home and asked for a peanut butter sandwich.)

This is what they like. Many of their friends “trade” in the cafeteria, because they don’t like what’s in their lunchboxes. My boys eat comparatively well, and they are maintaining healthy weights.

Best of all, they are happy when they open their lunchboxes.

Just like I was happy, when Mom made lunch for me.

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