In a desperate attempt to make any food more palatable to my 3-year-old connoisseur, I often send her with fun lunches. Due to my inability to plan ahead, this more often than not includes such quick and easy things as cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Her fruits and veggies are carefully separated with silicone cupcake liners shaped like butterflies. And I have a bunch more ideas I plan to break out as the school year unfolds.
There are things I can't make palatable thrown in there too of course. Like edamame, which can send her into hysterics if she notices it's there, or pretzel rods (I keep trying though!). Or sometimes I have to pack an unplanned extra lunch one week and end up throwing together anything and hope she'll eat it.
One day when came to school to pick Ryann up the head teacher said, "I wish someone would pack butterfly sandwiches in my lunch!" To which I said, "Aren't they cool? Ryann picked out the shape" but for some reason inside I cringed. I suddenly became acutely aware that I was one of those working moms who overcompensates for not being home with an adorable lunch. In that moment I didn't feel judged by her teacher, but I felt this weight of the realization that while I felt like I wasn't overcompensating, maybe I was. And even if that wasn't what I was doing, maybe other people saw it that way and was that the way I wanted to be seen?
Then I read this lovely post about showing your kids you love them over at Simple Kids that put me back in the proper perspective. One of the many ways Kara listed to show your child you love them (rather than just saying it over and over) was to write notes in their lunch box. I realized that as the mom of a pre-reader, my love note WAS the lunch. A lunch packed with care means so much more than just lunch. Of course Ryann's teacher was just expressing how good it feels to have someone pack you something you will enjoy, just for you. Apparently Ryann showed everyone in the classroom her butterfly pb&j that day. It meant a lot to her. And it means a lot to me to be able to make her day special.