Miss M is in Year 4. Add Kindy and Pre-School to the mix and she’s been a school-going kid for 6 years. This means that I have been a school lunch making mama for six years. For most mums, this is par for the course. For me – this has been divine torture.
You see, Miss M is the world’s pickiest eater. She has been this way since food was introduced to her at 6 months. She absolutely refused solids – by refused, I mean she karate-chopped the spoon-pretending-to-be-an-aeroplane out of my hands with ninja precision. Let me be clear – the mushy food stage was entirely deflected by Miss M. I watched all my friends’ babies gobble down pumpkin mush while I wore pumpkin mush. I witnessed their babies guzzling mashed avocado while I got a bonus (all be it, unexpected) avocado face-mask. You get the picture.
Then came the chewy-food phase. This looked promising. Miss M would happily crawl around on the grass and pick up leaves and beetles and eat them with relish. The cheese pieces, apple cubes, mini sandwiches I made her? Didn’t get touched. My desperation to feed this baby got so out of control that I resorted one day to breaking her sandwich up into tiny pieces and scattering them in the grass, hoping she would mistake them for beetles. Yes, you read right. And don’t judge.
Eventually, we accepted that this kid was just plain fussy. She liked sausages. She liked Weetbix. Some raw veggies, but only if they weren’t touching anything else. That’s all. By age 4 I managed to get her to sometimes accept a sandwich. Hooray.
Then came the big day my Little Miss M started Kindy. The pressure of not one but two lunch boxes: one for morning tea and one for lunch. Boy, did I work to make her lunch boxes appealing. I cut cucumbers into star shapes, I cut sandwiches into teddy bear shapes, I made the food spell out her name. I get a (self-awarded) gold medal for effort. I hope her teachers appreciated it because Miss M was not moved. Every soul-squashing day when I emptied her school bag, there I found two lunch boxes with sandwiches untouched.
Fast forward three years. Imagine the beaten-down psyche of a mum who has sent lunch boxes like this every day for three long years and faced daily rejection. (I know it’s not about me, but c’mon, gimme some love.) I had to accept that Miss M eats nicely enough at home and that despite being ridiculously fussy, she still gets enough fruit, fresh veg, protein, carb etc (so don’t worry – my child DOES eat… as long as it’s raw, has no sauce, hasn’t touched cheese…the list goes on). Imagine it’s 11pm, I am exhausted and now have to make school lunch for the kids before I get to collapse into bed. I cut up carrot sticks and cucumbers, I make slinky-apples (if you do not own a slinky-apple-thingamajig, you need to get one pronto) and get ready to make the sandwiches.
Oh, did I mention Miss M loves peanut butter sandwiches? Which are banned at school? Delicious irony, huh. Anyway, back to the story: It is at this point that I realize that I have only enough bread for one sandwich. And I have two children. At this point, I have an Oprah-esque “A-HA moment”. I decide that since Miss M has never eaten a sandwich at school anyway, I simply won’t send one! WHY HADN’T I THOUGHT OF THIS BEFORE?
Whistling a happy tune, feeling deliciously light with the sandwich-weight lifted from my weary, beaten down shoulders, I made Little Man’s sandwich (he is a great eater) and threw crackers in Miss M’s lunch box where the sandwich used to go. Oh, the relief!
The next day, I sent them off to school, smiling and happy. I imagined, smugly, Miss M’s delight at the change in her lunch box. I had visions of her skipping joyfully out of school and presenting me with an empty lunch box and a gap-toothed grin.
Now, this would be a good time to point out that, in the body department, Miss M takes after her Dad. That is to say she is genetically built to be very lean (hubby apparently was so thin as a kid that relatives would joke that if he turned sideways he was invisible). I can also assure you that mommy-guilt-driven pediatrician visits had confirmed that Miss M was fine and thriving, so please don’t send me comments about my child’s health – I assure you she is incredible healthy.)
With that out of the way, I can continue.
This part you need to visualize. The end of the school day arrived and I waited to fetch the kids in a central spot, where there were maybe 15 other mothers waiting. The bell rang and out of the classroom, like a crazed, post-apocalyptic zombie, came flying Miss M. She was howling and red-faced. All the other mothers were staring at the spectacle because obviously this was one traumatized child. She ran up to me, tears pouring down her cheeks, outraged and cried loudly, “You didn’t pack me a sandwich today! I was staaaaarving! Look how thin I am!” and with that, she lifted up her top to reveal 12 perfectly visible ribs.
Oh, the shame!
Those other mothers didn’t know that she had never. ever. once. ever. eaten a sandwich at school. They didn’t know the great lengths to which I had gone to provide this child with Pinterest-worthy lunch boxes. All they knew was that I was a baaaaaaad mummy and I was clearly starving my painfully skinny child.
Red-faced, I herded my kids out of school, feeling the judgement. Burning with the humiliation of it all. Of course, when I offered her a sandwich when we got home, she said no. Of course.
That night, and every subsequent night since, I made her sandwiches.
Did she eat them? Of course not.
Parenting. This gig ain’t easy, I tell ya.
Do you have a fussy eater? What crazy things have you done to get your kid to eat?
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