One night, while my wife and kids were out, I felt especially industrious. I decided to clean the kitchen, wash the clothes and make my children’s lunches. I developed a fantastic menu and toiled to pack the lunch boxes perfectly. Every kid at school would covet my children’s lunches and they would be the envy of the cafeteria. I envisioned my kids’ coming home to a chorus of “Our dad is great! His lunches are the best! Our dad is great!”
Things didn’t actually turn out as I had imagined. When I got home from work, my son and daughter looked at me with disappointment.
“Daddy,” said my daughter as she led me to a chair. “We need to talk.”
In the history of mankind, the phrase, “We need to talk,” has never been followed by anything positive. I prepared myself for the worst.
My son looked me in the eyes and said, “Daddy, please don’t make our lunches any more.”
I was shocked. How could they have not enjoyed the gourmet meal I had prepared with so much care and devotion. After a few minutes, I finally mustered the courage to speak, “What was wrong with the lunch?”
Both kids shook their heads and sighed. “Daddy, the lunch you made was weird,” my daughter said.
“I gave you a sandwich, some fruit, a bag of chips, and a drink,” I said. “What is weird about that?”
They spent the next five minutes carefully detailing my lunch making failures. Unbeknownst to me, there was a hierarchy of cool lunch food.
Certain chips were okay while others were lame. Certain fruit were acceptable while others screamed pariah. And I don’t have enough space to go into the juice box drama.
After I’d had enough of their belly-aching, I said, “Fine! Make your own lunches from now on,” and ran into my bedroom to cry myself to sleep.
That was one year ago. Since then, I’ve grown much wiser. I’ve studied the children in their natural habitat and I’ve become a better judge of lunch selections. I noticed that grapes are in and oranges are out. Cheetos = Yes. Corn chips = No. I also noticed that several of the kids in elementary and middle school were eating fruit cups. I had found a winning lunch item.
While shopping at Walmart for Christmas presents, I dragged my sons to the food section to pick out some fruit cups. I spotted some new Del Monte fruit cup flavors and asked my older son which one he wanted.
“I want the Diced Apples & Pears with Caramel,” he said.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “I want the Diced Pears with Vanilla & Spice.”
“Are you sure?” I asked again.
He looked at both packages unsure of which to choose. He finally blurted out, “Can we get both?”
I sighed and place them in the basket. I complied because the fruit cups contain 60 calories per serving, are gluten free, and don’t include high fructose corn syrup.
Later that week, I told the children to make their lunches for school. My older son diligently prepared his meal: sandwich, chips, fruit, drink and a piece of candy. As he packed everything into his bag, I jumped out of my seat.
“What is going on here?” I asked. “Where is the fruit cup? Why aren’t you putting a fruit cup in your lunch?’
“We can’t have fruit cups at school,” he said nonchalantly.
“What do you mean you can’t have fruit cups at school?” I asked with a slight edge in my voice. “Fruit cups are healthy and tasty. What is wrong with fruit cups?”
“My teacher said we can’t have them.” *Note to self – Have a serious conversation with the teacher about fruit cups at the next parent teacher conference.
“Why didn’t you tell me about the fruit cup rule while we were in the store,” I said.
“Because I like fruit cups and I wanted them for a snack,” he said. “Can I have one now?”
“Me too,” said his little brother.
I tried to burn holes through them with my eyes, but I relented and gave them each a fruit cup.
The boys devoured the snack as if they’d never eaten before.
“That was good, Daddy,” my older son said.
“Yeah, that was good,” repeated my younger son.
I was glad that they enjoyed the fruit cups, but my grand plan for lunch redemption had failed miserably.
“We can have fruit cups at our chool,” said my daughter.
I gave her a big hug and an extra weeks allowance.
“What about the cool factor?” I asked. “Are fruit cups cool?”
My daughter looked at me as if I were crazy. “Really, Daddy?” she said. “It’s just food.”
I think I’ll be crying myself to sleep from now on.
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