Keeping it it simple isn’t just okay, sometimes it’s the best.

I have no idea what I was doing when they discussed this piece of advice in Parenting Class 101, but I was obviously distracted when they reminded us to keep it simple, stupid. It’s brilliant, really: keep it simple. But sometimes I get so caught up in the way things should be (at least my distorted version of same), that I forget it doesn’t have to be that particular way.

Take, for instance, school lunches. My mom packed school lunches for us every day of our elementary school lives. A sandwich, some snacks, and lunch money to buy a white milk. That was the golden standard that lived in Katie’s Parental Command Center in my feeble little mind. I had lunches made for me : my mom loved me :: if I loved my children, I would make their lunches every day, too. And, damnit, I WOULD LIKE IT. Ahem.

My kiddos don’t have the option of purchasing milk only (or, rather, they do, but the hassle of loading their debit cards, plus the time it would take them to wait in line, far outweighed any benefit). I agonized over the milk in the thermos route vs. the healthier boxed fruit juice options, convinced at times that I was rotting my children’s teeth and denying them calcium, but hating the stench and mess of leftover milk. So there was that anxiety.

I provided napkins (naturally), oftentimes writing sweet little notes of love and encouragement, but on the nights when I didn’t have time or wasn’t in the mood, and so I skipped them? Riddled with guilt the next day. Especially the days when one girl or another asked why there wasn’t a note. “Why wasn’t there a note, Mom?”=Momma fail.

There were arguments over snacks, requests during shopping trips for expensive/unhealthy/ridiculous snack-options, constant battles over making sure the girls had enough fruits and healthy options vs. providing food they’d actually eat and not just throw away. And there were always the battles of convenience and ease of packing the lunch vs. what was better for the environment (buying in bulk and using reusable containers) and cheaper for Mama.

But none of these issues compared to the nightly dread of actually making the lunches. OH, I hated it. Hated. Grilling the girls on what they wanted, negotiating (on nights I cared) for something a little easier, a little healthier, going through the onerous paces of pulling out the slices of bread and building sandwiches. The fifteen minutes it took me were the longest fifteen minutes of the day. It was pathetic. I was pathetic.

And so this year I made a change. At the end of last year, the girls began begging me to let them get “hot” lunches – school lunches. So I did a little research this summer and discovered school lunches cost only $1.50 per day. They included recommended portion sizes, a fruit or vegetable with every meal, and a beverage choice between white, chocolate, or strawberry milk. No snacks or desserts. No fried foods. No a la carte ordering was allowed. It sounded too good to be true. For $15 per week, I could buy both children a healthy lunch. Without the nightly stress of making it.

I loaded Gracie and Bee’s lunch money account with $30 at the beginning of the school year. They were thrilled. I know it’s a bit early to call a victory, but each day has brought happy accounts of the contents of their lunch trays and lots of smiles. So far, I haven’t had to deal with “but I didn’t like it and so I didn’t eat anything!” – one of my big fears. AND I’ve been a much happier mommy, with more time each night to read stories, grade papers, and deal with other end-of-day mommy chores.

It’s a small change, but it’s made a big difference at Casa de Katie. It might not be what’s tradition, but it’s what works for us. And that is what counts.


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3 Responses to “Keeping it it simple isn’t just okay, sometimes it’s the best.”

  1. Kathy Says:

    I must say, when my kids did not have the a la carte option I LOVED hot lunch. WIth age come the a la option and I hate it; they were eating junk and spending twice as much or more per meal. I still hate packing lunches with the fury of a thousand suns, but it is better for them in the long run. Can’t complain about homemade soup and a salad in one lunch box and a turkey sandwhich on flatbread with carrots and tomatoes in the other.

  2. Kim Says:

    Ugh, I miss my fruit truck in Philly. And the Vietnamese truck with that awesome hot soup. And the falafel place. I hates packing my own lunch.

  3. Gayle Says:

    You are so lucky they like the school lunches! Not one of my three kids liked school lunches, until my oldest got to high school. Then he would buy because he could get a deli sandwich at school. Now my youngest is in 10th grade, and he doesn’t even have a lunch period in his schedule! Crazy!

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