School, Snips And Snails

Lunch and Taxes

Sending my child to school with a lunch is a lot like paying taxes. It just has to be done in order to stay on the good side of the law.

Every morning I expend a considerable amount of energy preparing a lunch I know he will not eat.  And I have to go through this exercise in futility because what kind of mother sends her child to school with no lunch? I will tell you the kind, the kind who are not afraid of the condescending looks from other moms.

My child does not eat food.  Food is for lesser mortals. My child has no need of food!  I sometimes see other children eating food and I say to him, “Look son! A child! Eating food! Wouldn’t you like to try this food eating thing? It’s fun!”  He shakes his head at me as if to say, “Silly silly woman! I cannot be bothered with eating! I have better things to do!”  My child is an air fern disguised as a boy.  And that makes me a little crazy. Would it kill him to eat a cracker to make his mother happy? Is that too much to ask?

Oddly enough, the “output” seems unaffected by the lack of input, thus proving that you can indeed make something out of nothing. To put it delicately.

Sean is now in the third year of his academic career. That means I have packed approximately 540 thoughtfully prepared, appetite-inducing, visually-pleasing lunches that June Cleaver herself would be proud of. Of those 540 lunches, Sean has eaten approximately 1. And actually, he didn’t eat that lunch, he just picked at the Teddy Grahams.

And so like taxes, making lunch everyday is a constitutional obligation I must fulfill lest I suffer the wrath of the republic and the other moms.  And just like my taxes, lunch will go right down the drain.

51 thoughts on “Lunch and Taxes

  1. I think this is one of those places where our mother’s curse “I hope you have a child just like you,” comes true in all its evil glory.

    I was a lunch-picker too. After the cafeteria ladies cracked down on us throwing away our food in the lunchroom, I would throw my uneaten sandwich in the box next to the bus driver. After he ratted on me (he was our ‘next door’ neighbor, a mile down the road and he told my dad), I started stashing them in the sandy soil next to our house as I walked up from the bus.

    And sure enough, my Boo is a lunch-picker too. If you ever head to the city by the bay, or I dare a trip to Texas again, we’ll have to arrange a lunch date where the boys don’t eat lunch together while you and I do!

    * * *
    Oh we end up at your way about once a year, so maybe we’ll go to lunch. And oh the scandal of two moms enjoying a lavish lunch while their children sit nearby with nothing to eat!! Ha! ~AM

  2. Antique Mommy you write so well! I just love this blog!

    It is tough to take the advice that you decide what he will eat and when and he decides how much when he decides on amount: nothing. When you have lovingly gone to so much work it breaks your heart and does sometimes cause worry too. But if Sean is a healthy boy other than having no appetite and you can avoid addressing his air fern status with him too frequently, you will have given him a wonderful gift: a healthy attitude towards food. It’s something that too many of our parents were not able to do for us. So years after our stick thin food picky childhoods, we are plate-cleaning adults with unhealthy middles.

    * * *
    I vowed before he was born that I would not make food an issue. He’ll eat when he eats one of these days. It doesn’t bother me except for the fact that I have to go to the trouble to make a lunch for just for appearances.

  3. When we were first married, my husband would frequently FORGET to eat lunch. My boy does the same. He’d rather slam back a huge glass of milk and call ‘er done. He does ENJOY the food. He just doesn’t have time.

    * * *
    I’ve never once forgotten to eat. The dinner bell in my tummy will not be ignored. It’s really not pretty. I told AD when we were dating that if he could keep me fed, warm and dry that it would go well with him.~AM

  4. I can tell you how some of the moms solved this problem at the preschool where I work—they send bags and bags of candy. Now their children eat and they are so happy.

    As director–I stand by your advice–don’t make food an issue. We do have one parent who just stopped sending lunches that her kid never ate–she knew he wouldn’t starve in the hour between lunch and going home, and she knew that if really did get hungry we would be thrilled to give him something nutritious to hold him over–hooray for her!

  5. What if…you just packed some fake stuff in the bag? Or stuffed it with tissue, the way girls stuff their bras?

    Sounds to me like you wouldn’t run into any problems.

  6. Too funny…we call our 13-year-old son “The Air Fern.” If he has lived this long without food, I am certainly not going to force it on him now. I am assured that at some point he will become a teenage food vacuum, Hoovering up everything in sight. That is going to be an entirely foreign experience.

  7. My body would seriously not even allow for that. I must eat not just breakfast, lunch and dinner, but usually several snacks. So I freaked out a bit when Anja went through a period of, as you say, subsisting on air. The pediatrician told me it was nothing to worry about, and that kids have food jags. However, probably not food jags that last 6 years… 🙂

  8. Oh AM I feel your pain. What a clever little post. So true- so true.

    Now, I am curious to do the math and figure out some of my numbers with life. How many lunches- how many baths- how many dinners- how many loads of laundry- how many errands- how many carpools.

    Not that those numbers matter- but it just might be a good stat to know in case one of my kids ever sits on a therapist’s couch and tries to tell a not so good story about me.

    I’ll have proof to the contrary sister! Proof I tell you!!!

  9. My daughter won’t eat school lunch, because they will make her try one bite of something she does not like, such as corn or beans. So I pack a lunch. And when she comes home, I unpack it. And I leave much of it in there for her to ignore tomorrow as well. Like the little box of raisins which I am considering her “fruit.” She doesn’t even open it. Whatever. Peanut butter is apparently too messy (it gets on my cheeks!), so I pack a bologna sandwich. Which she will nibble on even though I have painstakingly removed the crusts. The crackers or granola bar get rotated in and out so it looks like I’ve packed a new lunch.

    Shoot. Now my secret is out.

  10. As a voice of experience, it could be worse. My teachers were very adamant on the nothing-but-garbage thrown away issue, so I would bring home whatever I didn’t eat (most, if not all, of my lunch) and stuff it under my bed. I have no idea why, as my mom knew I didn’t eat it and didn’t care… She knew that I would eat when I was hungry. After a while she gave up on making me lunches and it didn’t matter in the least. The teachers all knew I didn’t eat at school and they never forced the issue.

    * * *
    And now, I think there is some state law where they are not allowed to take their back home for food safety. Last week he threw away an entire unopened carton of yogurt. Made me sick. ~AM

  11. I too have an air fern for a child. People ask if she’s a picky eater, and I have to say no. It’s not that she’s picky about what she eats, it’s just eating in general she doesn’t like. Her dr. is happy with her growth and health, but my three year old boy just surpassed his six year old sister in height and weight. People always think they are twins!
    We homeschool so I don’t pack lunches, but when we eat out as restaurants, I’m always tempted just to let her eat the free bread that comes with the meal. I can’t bear the thought of the waitress thinking I’m an awful mom though for ordering myself a wonderful dinner and leaving my child to munch on free bread and salad croutons. I wonder how much I’ve spent on kids meals that get thrown away.

  12. My son is the same way. I have to get him really, really hungry before he’ll eat a good meal. He eats for the basic fuel his body needs. (Wish I was that way.) That’s about it…unless it’s ice cream. He seems to find a huge desire to eat if ice cream is being served.

  13. Well said! I love it – just like my taxes, the lunch will go right down the drain. My husband is a pastor, so he is considered self-employed, which means we have to pay the whole part of social security. But, he had the option during his first year of ministry to opt out of SS for “moral objections.” I pounced on that like a duck on a june bug, but he never could agree with me that we had a true “moral objection.” Darn integrity! Now, several years later, I think he regrets it when he thinks of all the money we have thrown away, that we don’t think we’ll ever see again. If only the government would allow us to have a revival of sorts where we realize all the moral objections we do indeed have. Alas.

  14. Errgh. I am not looking forward to this part. It kills me to know there’s food being wasted, and I know Michael will do the same thing when he gets to public school.

    Too bad there isn’t some highly concentrated food nourishment in non-perishable form that appeals to kids this age. Does Pillsbury still make those Space Food sticks?

  15. I am right there with you on the not eating lunches issue. My oldest is in 7th grade and I’m pretty sure she eats most of it although I know there is a fair amount of trading with friends going on. My two younger children are boys in 5th and 1st grade and I know not a lot gets eaten. Part of the problem is that the school combines lunch and recess time so as soon as you are “done” with your lunch you can go out and play. If you were a kid, what would you choose?
    Every day I send my 1st grader to school with 1/2 peanut butter sandwich and every day he comes back home with it untouched or only half eaten. Today I sent him with a 1/4 pb sandwich, a small bag of fruit snacks and a juice pouch. I volunteered at the school today and check on him at lunch. He ate all of his sandwich, all of his fruit snacks and was working on the juice. Maybe sending smaller portion sizes made the difference? I must say, he is usually starving after school so I get the fruits and veggies down him then!

  16. Could you talk to his teacher and exlain the whole “he doesn’t eat yet somehow his body manages to find energy from the air” thing? Being a teacher myself, I’m sure she’s accepting of strange eating habits. If the kids aren’t hungry, don’t make them eat, right?

  17. After seeing some realistic examples of edibles made out of fimo clay, I was tempted to make some baby carrots and celery to put in my younger daughter’s lunch every day. I thought I could just throw those little fakes in every day and deceive all those moms who made well balanced lunches for their kids. My daughter would never know the difference, because she NEVER ate one piece of fruit or vegetable at lunchtime in elementary school. It never entered her mind that she could just toss the bag out.

  18. Oh, I feel your pain! My son was like that the first two years of his academic life. Now that he’s in second grade, he has hit a major growth spurt and actually eats food!

    However, I have given up on packing him a lunch that would generate respect among the other moms. Why? The only people who look in his lunch are 8 years old!

    I don’t even feel bad when I pack him a “sandwich” that consists of a bun. That’s right. No insides, just a bun. He won’t eat the inside anyway, so why bother?

    I rarely pack him fruit or veggies because they always come back home untouched. I have to focus on trying to get him to eat those at home.

    I wonder what would happen if you packed him only one food. Maybe he would feel so deprived that he would eat it!!

  19. Oh thank you, thank you, thank you AM!!! Seriously. Reading your post and all the familiar comments, I am so relieved. My 20 month old eats, but he is so friggin’ picky. I throw out so much food because he just stares at it and shakes his head. What is tossed off the high chair one day is devoured the next. I never understand why. I am at a total loss and just imagine my child being anorexic before he hits his adolescence. Having struggled with my own share of eating disorders, this is a HUGE fear of mine. *sigh*

    Now I have the answer: I gave birth to an air fern.

    Thank you so much. You have no idea!!!

  20. Unless you have food police at the school, then seriously don’t bother packing a “decent” lunch. As another commenter said, the only people who see are his peers.
    I was advised (by her gym coach no less!) to leave it in the lunch box till it was eaten, that she would eventually work it out.
    So I did that, and still do it. The other rule is no afterschool snacks until the lunchbox is empty.
    NZ schools have a “what came in the lunchbox goes home in the lunchbox” policy – rubbish et al. And trading between kids is strictly verboten. Why? Food allergies, so the care givers know what was eaten; and so they don’t have to have rubbish bins to empty. I kid you not.

  21. I have a five year old air fern and a three year old Hoover at my dinner table. We aren’t at the stage of lunch packing yet for either of them, but I don’t look forward to it. The only thing green “Fern” eats is mint chip ice cream but if you ask her sister if she wants to “eat trees” she’ll gobble up more broccoli than any 3 year old should! It’s amazing how different they can be!

    And I’m with ya on the whole mystery of the input and the output…the air fern child is a freak of nature!

  22. I feel your pain, even though my 6 year old son is homeschooled. We go out to eat and he either eats free rolls or hushpupppies or an occasional french fry. Tonight, for instance for supper, he is eating a 100 calorie Cheez-It bag and a cup of yogurt. He has always been healthy and looks like I feed him Miracle-Grow, so I figure he is getting enough of everything that he needs. I enjoyed the post!

  23. FYI: There is no state law that they can’t take their food back home. Mine frequently finish their lunches as snacks in the car. We are DOWN with the state board lunch laws in Cy-Fair!

  24. You are so funny! This was a great post! I have 1 that won’t eat, and 1 that won’t stop eating. It balances out on the grocery bill I guess.

  25. I’ve only got one more year of making school lunches….a job I will not miss. I have no idea what food has been thrown out, and I”m really glad. Maybe you should just get a container of packing peanuts and pack a few of those each day!!! 🙂


  26. The only thing my son eats consistently in his lunch is character-labeled yogurt which may not even be real food. I will pack leftovers of food he ate the night before, but he will not touch them for lunch. So funny!

  27. My son eats like you wouldn’t believe. More than the parents, it sometimes seems. But he’s gained all of two pounds in the past two years, just keeps getting taller, and as of this spring still fits into his size two (2!!!) shorts.

    School lunch is tough, though. He says he doesn’t have time to eat — probably because he’s too busy chatting.

  28. Try sending some cookies or a granola bar. They will get scarfed up. After a few days add a little something more nutricious. It would be better for him to eat something than nothing at all.

  29. LOL – we don’t have that problem at all 😉 I didn’t read all the comments, so maybe it’s been said before….does Sonic do delivery?!

  30. “My child is an air fern disguised as a boy.”- O.K., that made me laugh out loud!

    Good for you for having a “He’ll eat when he’s ready” attitude. It’s hard to let your kids be because to us parents, if our kid is eating then we’ve done an important part of our job. But after all my years working in child care….they’ll eat when they’re ready.

  31. How funny. I love all the comments about giving birth to air ferns. rofl. All 4 of mine 6 to 21 months put away the food like no tomorrow. I’m still waiting for the shoe to drop. But no, our grocery bill goes up and up and up. Kids are so funny.

  32. Well, I’m glad I’m not the only Mom to an air fern. Actually, I’ve had 3 of them, so I’m wondering if they just don’t like my cooking! But they’re all pretty healthy looking, so I try not to lose sleep over it. They did switch around the play time and the eating time at our school and I think that helped a lot. Eat first, then play doesn’t give them a lot of incentive to chow down. But if they play first, it gives them more of a chance to get hungry.

  33. I’ve grinned all the way through this post and the lively comments. I was Mrs. All-Natural and packed funky stuff from the food co-op that my kids wouldn’t eat. I learned later that they would trade their oddities to kids who were curious. That would only work once though. LOL.

  34. Unlike your son, my boy is a big eater. The child can pack it away. Strangely, he is skin and bones. I wish I had his metabolism.

    Our problem is that he spends his entire lunch talking instead of eating. Oh, well.

  35. My child will eat anything that is not nailed down. He would like Sean’s uneaten lunches. Who cares if they are moldy and stale by the time they gets here? He’ll still eat them. I only wish I was kidding.
    I must say, this post gave me the giggles. Happy lunching!!!

  36. Just a word or two of caution:

    I have a 22 year old daughter who didn’t eat much as a child or as a teenager. (She ate well as a baby). I always served her three meals a day and health snacks. (No junk food in the house, that she knew of.) Anyway she mostly ate bread and picked at her other food. I always insisted that she eat breakfast, but other than that, didn’t get into food battles with her.
    One of her older brothers has many learning problems, ADHD, and a seizure disorder, as well as a lot of other health issues and he received the bulk of our focus for years, so we weren’t totally aware of what she was actually eating or not eating.
    As an athlete she demanded a lot from her body – ballet, basic gymnastics, competitive soccer, some track, and did show a few signs of difficulty after running a 6 min. mile, after an exhausting soccer game, etc.
    In middle school, at a soccer tournament she started leaking myoglobin and muscle enzymes through her blood and her urine. She also developed many muscle & joint issues,came down with Mono, among other ailments and still to this day she is fighting an ongoing infections in college and still has problems with her spleen enlarging and trying to fight off infections.
    A nutrition class in college, where she had to track what she was eating and input the info into a computer program revealed that she wasn’t getting much of anything, including most amino acids, etc. She was growing and developing normally and was by no means anorexic, or anything close. Her doctor was shocked when he saw the computer printout even though I had been telling him for years that she didn’t eat very well. He had no idea that it was as bad as it was.
    Ever since that discovery 3 years ago she eats healthier than most people, and definitely healthier that most college students. She is still paying for years of improper eating.
    If I knew then what I know now I would have insisted on a healthy replacement meals each day such as Pedialyte, or protein bars and cooked some vegetables into some of her favorite foods.
    This isn’t meant to alarm anyone, just to let you know what might happen if they demand more from their bodies than they are putting into it in the long run.

  37. Glad to see all the other moms of “air ferns” out there! Oddly, mine USED to eat anything and everything when she was 2 (spinach, broccoli, Thai food!), but won’t eat anything now, even stuff she claims she likes.

    And all the advice in the world about letting her shop, pick recipes, cook, etc. doesn’t work. She has fun doing it, then wants a slice of buttered bread or something similarly non-nutritious.

    I don’t push because I’m hoping she takes after my sister, who did eventually get a more adventurous (if still small quantity) appetite. Now SHE’S over 40 and still skinny, a position to be envious of!

  38. Exactly the same scenario here. I once carved the number 5 out of a bajillion slices of pepperoni in an attempt to sway him.
    Then of course, there was the rice pudding incident in which the teacher begged me not to send that crap again. Seems my son had a little hissy fit.

  39. AM, that made me smile.
    Gus is 14 and still “an air fern disguised as a boy.” Weird thing is, the things he used to eat, he no longer “likes”, and the things he “likes” now, he would never have passed his lips before.
    Sometimes I think my “air fern” is just full of fertilizer!
    Fun Post – hang in there!

  40. Maddening, isn’t it?
    For my ones that are at school all day, I buy the school lunches. Sometimes I think it’s subconsciously, so that I don’t have to visually see the wasted food that would otherwise come home with them.

  41. I thought I was all alone in the world with this. My 3 yr old just stopped eating when he was 18 months old. STOPPED.
    no candy, cookies. If it weren’t for instant breakfast to mix in his milk, he would surely die. I look on at resturants in envy when I see a child eat or ask for food. How this boy survives is beyond me. He’s going to invent the next Hollywood diet, I just know it.

  42. My 8 year old boy eats like a horse. He plays soccer 3 times a week, and I guess he’s going through a growth spurt, so I’m loving this stage in life in which he’ll actually eat what I cook. His sister though, resembles a fairy in every single way: thin and ethereal … sometimes I feel she will break! And to think that when she was 17 lbs as a 4 month-old baby the doctor actually called obese! She NEVER eats the lunch I pack, so now, since there’s 3 weeks left of school, I give them money for school lunch. She won’t eat it anyway, but I don’t see it. She says she doesn’t like the presentation of hot lunch at school. Go figure!

  43. I feel your pain. My little Porter is the same way. Only they rush them so much at lunch, he is stressed out that he won’t be able to finish. So he eats one thing every day. And maybe his juice box. So I do like you, I pack a great, nutritious lunch every day. As I unpacked Porter’s lunch box and put his yogurt back in the fridge one day, I explained to my husband, “yeah, this same yogurt goes to school every day for a week and then I throw it out.” That way nobody can accuse me of not doing my job!

  44. Pack him tiny, tiny portions- like 2 cheese cubes and 3 grapes- and call it lunch. I think sometimes my own kids get overwhelmed with the amount of food and don’t want to even bother. Plus if I give them tiny portions, at least I am not wasting so much food if they decide not to eat it!

  45. Oh – I see my future, right there.

    My son is of the same cloth. Eating is something he reserves for the times when there is nothing better to do.

    Or for cookies.

    He will stop for cookies.

  46. I’m so glad to hear that I’m not alone! I have a 12 yr old air fern who thinks eating is a chore akin to changing the cat box. (honestly!)

    When he was just three and we’d say it was time to eat, he’d reply with “But I ate YESTERDAY!” (He must have been switched at birth – that can’t be any relation of mine!)

    Even when he won’t *eat*, he will usually *drink* at regular intervals. The way I’m able to sleep at night is by making sure that what ever he drinks has nutritious calories: Milk, juice, smoothies made with fruit and yogurt, etc.

    I also highly recommend “Ensure Plus” nutritional beverage – it’s full of protein, vitamins, and minerals, and each little bottle packs a 350 calorie punch. I do my best to sneak in two of those a day. They aren’t cheap, but you can save a little by getting the generic brand at Walmart. (Be sure it says “PLUS” – because the regular has at least 100 calories less)

    Everyone swears that once this air fern hits puberty, his appetite will be insatiable – so in the meantime I try to be patient.

  47. My oldest daughter ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches EVERY DAY for about 6 years! Very little peanut butter and the grape jelly just ‘swiped’ across the bread. That’s what she would eat. That’s what I sent. She was a good veggie eater, though, still is.

  48. I am not alone! My older son is just like this, even down to the input/output. I have worried over this since he was 18 months old, when he just stopped eating. He forgets to eat. WHO FORGETS A MEAL? Anyway, that has been an unexpected bonus (for us) with homeschooling. My son can eat all day, every day, and I have complete control over the options. He has gained 15 pounds in a year! This is exciting for us because he is now 10 and weighs a whopping 60 pounds!

  49. My 14-year old “air fern” daughter pretty much lives on milk. She is a very picky eater.
    She prefers to “graze” all day long rather than eating big meals. But that can’t be done while at school.

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