I think my son may be an elf. He’s always happy, is good at building things, and likes to sing. If it were up to him, his diet would consist of the four basis food groups – candy, candy corn, candy cane and syrup. But my son may not be the only elf living among us. To my dismay, his classmates also enjoy sugary snacks and they are perfectly free to pack their lunches with as many as they like.
I always thought the peer pressure we faced would revolve around name brand clothes or video games – not lunches. Because of his friends’ lunch-packing freedom, my son is constantly disappointed with the food in his lunchbox.
One day after school, he approached his mother.
“Mommy,” he said with an official voice. “Troy brought two big chunks of chocolate and kettle corn for lunch. Can I bring that tomorrow?”
“Um, no,” my wife said. “I can’t believe Troy’s mom packs that for him.”
“She doesn’t,” my son said. “He makes his own lunch. Can I make mine?”
Since then, the contents of his lunch bag have become a daily battleground for us, pitting his desire for control and unfettered access to sugar against our desire to pack a healthy meal for him.
The struggle started last year when he declared he was sick of having peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. My wife decided to let him buy lunch, but his lactose intolerance and a dairy friendly menu ended that course of action. The plan also had another flaw. Without our supervision, he indulged in cookies and popsicles on a regular basis.
My wife and I want our son to eat healthy, but we don’t want to restrict his diet too much. We both recall the scene from “War of the Roses” when the parents forbade their kids to eat sugar and they ended up being overweight anyway.
Although I’m willing to allow my son to make his own lunch, my wife is still apprehensive (see above reference to Elf). But we both realize that we will eventually have to loosen the reins and allow him to share the responsibility.
As parents we cannot control his behavior, but we can influence him through our actions. My wife and I try to model healthy eating. In addition, we talk to our kids about a balanced diet. I have no problem with my son’s placing a candy bar in his lunch a few times during the week, but he has to make sure that the rest of his lunch is packed with fruits, vegetables, proteins and grains.
In the meantime, my wife and I will increase his dental insurance and stock up on floss.
Questions: Do you still pack your kids’ school lunches? If so, what items do you place in their lunch boxes?