My blonde-headed Scarlett O’Hara threw herself into a pillow and begged, “Please don’t make me!”
Her younger sister sat with legs crossed on the opposing couch. Her arms were folded in annoyance.
“Oh, Ava. If I can do it, you can do it, and I’m only 7 years old.”
Ava smothered her face in the pillow again. “Please! No!”
For 15 minutes, she fought me like a wet cat. All because I told her that she would be eating “hot lunch” at school this year.
Oh my heavens. How ridiculous. What a silly child.
Note: There. I’ve said it for you so you won’t post this type of feedback on Facebook. You know the drill: I can criticize my kids, but you can’t!
“Ava, I know for a fact that you threw away 75% of the food I packed for 180 days,” I began. ”And that means you weren’t getting enough to eat, which explains some low test scores that were recorded in the afternoon test periods.”
“I ate!” she protested.
“About four bites of cheese and a handful of Goldfish,” I argued. ”That’s not nearly enough. Those Lunchables are full of salt and empty calories, and they’re $3.99 a box, which means we spent over $100 on your ham stackers each month, not counting something to drink and a few extras like grapes or fruit strips.”
Ava looked up. ”Please don’t make me go through the line! I don’t like school food!”
Let’s see…she doesn’t like chicken? Pizza? Hamburgers? Spaghetti? Hot dogs? Salad? Apples? Peaches? ROLLS?
Who doesn’t love school cafeteria rolls? I’d stab a man in the hand with a spork for an extra roll!
“Yes, you do,” I argued. ”It’ll be rare that you won’t eat what’s on the menu, and I’ll pack something on those days. But you can go through the line like your friends and accept a free meal that’s 10 times better than anything I could make. And you’ll like it.“
A couple of years ago, the quality of school lunches was under intense (local) media scrutiny. I admit that a few items were hard to decipher…sweet and sour pork was the hardest to swallow…but overall, a school pepperoni roll was hard to beat.
Her hair fell in front of her face as she moaned. ”Mooooom. Please…I’ll eat what you fix. I promise…”
Maryn wasn’t putting up with it. ”You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit!” she scolded.
This is from a child who can’t drink milk or eat anything orange. Her face is on a poster stuck to the cafeteria office door like she’s wanted by the FBI.
WARNING: LACTOSE INTOLERANT. PROJECTILE VOMITING.
Mike, who lived for school lunches when he was a boy, doesn’t understand his finicky daughter’s hatred of hot lunch. ”Peanut butter sandwiches and chicken noodle soup!” he recalled. ”Man, that was a gooood day in the ol’ caf.”
Those days are over, I told him. “That kind of fare could kill someone today.”
I preferred breakfast at Horace Mann Junior High School. I still crave the buttery melting of a Dunkin’ Stick. Super Donut Day — warmed in a plastic wrapper — was a reason to get out of bed a half-hour early. If only we had been allowed coffee in ninth grade.
Ava fought on. ”But you bought me a monogrammed lunch bag!”
You’ll still use it, I insisted. There’s a morning or an afternoon break time, and I’ll provide something to serve the purpose.
“That’s it. You’re eating what everyone else eats. If you’re hungry enough, you’ll bite,” I told her.
She lay motionless for a while, devastated by the new house rule.
“That reminds me,” I said rummaging through the pantry. ”We need to think about dinner. What’s it going to be?”
Maryn shrugged her shoulders. The kid would eat hay and may start any day now.
“Anything you want. Just name it.”
Ava sat up. ”Can you make scrambled eggs, bacon and biscuits?”
“You’re in luck,” I said. “I have all of those things. Oh, and so does the school. The cooks serve the same meal twice a month.”