Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Challenge

I've run across this challenge twice now. It tries my patience, tests my mettle, and strains my confidence. I am always at a loss as to how to deal with it when it rears its ugly head.

It is the challenge of getting your child to eat school hot lunches.

"Why don't you just make them a lunch?" I hear you saying.

Do we really want to make a lunch five days a week, 32 weeks out of the year? I'd really rather not.

On the other hand, my husband is appalled when our children admit to throwing away most of their perfectly good hot lunch at school. "It's a waste of money," he says.

Foods that we thought our child once liked are suddenly horrible nasty things. With our son, he just refused to eat them. He didn't cry, or whine, he would just come home hungry and eat a huge snack. He did eat fewer foods in kindergarten than he does now in 3rd grade. It's hard for me to remember him in kindergarten, but I think he's eating a much larger variety of foods now.

As for our dear daughter, who started all day kindergarten, the hot lunch has become a HUGE issue. And I mean HUGE. We started off by assuming she'd like stuff she ate at home. One of these was taco meat. We assumed the meat for nachos, tacos, and walking tacos would be acceptable to her. She also likes corn chips, so we thought we'd be safe. No such luck. In addition, she doesn't like gravy. She can ask for no gravy, but apparently was not fast enough or loud enough to have the lunch ladies hear her. This progressed into a small crying fit after school one day. She started out by saying she missed me while she was at school and started to cry. I was taken aback, because I've been at work even when she was a baby. Her daddy has been at home for her. I couldn't imagine how being at school would make her miss me. But that's what she stated.

It turned out the hot lunch process was fast and intimidating to her. And if she didn't get her hot lunch sorted out how she wanted it, she would get upset and cry. One side of me felt sorry for her in this new situation. She would beg for her "own lunch" and broke down crying in my arms. The other part of me worried that if we catered to her "own lunch" whim, she would never learn the hot lunch process and get confidence in herself. Then was when I saw visions of packing lunches every stinking day and that frightened me.

I backed off a bit. Instead of saying that she would "try" a new food, I will put down that she is taking cold lunch. But, if it's a food that she really likes at home, I was not going to give in. Today was one of those days. It was French Toast Sticks with syrup. She loves breakfast for dinner and waffles and pancakes and syrup! How could we go wrong? But, it took a lot of prep time. Last night we went over the menu, twice, and described in exact detail what she could expect. Then, this morning, she started crying about missing me because she had to eat hot lunch, and I got her calm and had to build up her excitement and interest in lunch again.

Today, we have reached a milestone. She didn't miss Mom at all. The sticks were good, and the tri-tater was good, she left the ham on her plate (she loves ham, so I don't know what gives), she skipped the juice, and had the doughnut. Ok, not the best nutrition, but she felt a little better about the process.

Tomorrow is cheese pizza. Wish me luck.


Wild Child said...

An UPDATE: This morning, though it is CHEESE PIZZA on the menu and I've given her permission to throw away what she doesn't like, she apparently cried about her hot lunch again.

Multiple Sarcasms said...

That is so hard to deal with. I really feel for you guys.

Jump Hi said...

Seems to me that you are making great progress. I can't get either of my two kids to even leave the thing they "can't like" on their plates. It has to go RIGHT NOW - even if that means on the white carpet. Clearly you are a super-genius. Establish a goal, give the kids the tools to accomplish the goal, and stay consistent.... seems like you have it down to me. I'd hang in there - I threw out my packed from home lunch for 3 years and stole change from my Dad's penny jar to get the hot lunch when I was a kid.

Wild Child said...

Thank you for your vote of confidence. In real life, when my daughter is crying horrible tears because, God forbid, the sauce for the spaghetti tomorrow might have MEAT in it, it is very hard to stick to the guns. I have to keep reminding myself that if I give in here, there will be no turning back. But seriously, she is waking up with bad dreams about lunch. I hope this ends sooner rather than later.