School lunches just aren’t what they used to be

To all the parents who have braved the cold, cruel world of making your child’s lunch, I salute you. The truth is, we live in a world where it is no longer tolerable to slap a piece of mystery meat between two slices of white bread, stuff it into a brown paper bag, humiliate your child by putting his name and grade on it and then toss it into the bottom of a backpack where it will grow mutant bacteria and be stepped on by 29 other children before it is finally eaten at recess.
Or worse, the sandwich will be stuffed whole into your child’s mouth and be swallowed without benefit of chewing, just so he or she can get on the good swing before anyone else.
It’s tough to slave over the mayonnaise jar every morning just so your child has a decent lunch to abuse. And it’s just gotten tougher. Yes, folks, lunches are the latest casualty in competitive parenting. But don’t worry. I’m here to guide you through the world of school lunches so your little Susie or tiny Tommy isn’t the only child on the playground embarrassed by their bologna sandwich.
First, understand that there are no more brown bags. I know. I love them too and not just because they are cheap and nobody cries when they are tossed into the trash. I even have a secret stash of them hidden in the back of my pantry behind the spray cheese (shhh, that’s our little secret). However, in today’s world of school lunches, you must give your child a neoprene lunch bag that will keep your child’s lunch cool and hopefully bacteria-free.
I can personally guarantee you that the bag will be accidentally thrown into the trash at least once a week, so be sure to stock up when these are on sale. Because nobody is going through that icky old trash can on the blacktop just to find your child’s $5.99 thermal lunch bag. Not even you. Or your child, who will sob in protest until you finally give in and run to Target to buy a new one.
Secondly, sandwiches are out. Oh sure, there are some moms who still use them. And if you are one of those parents, remember that sandwiches aren’t the aforementioned mystery meat creations of yesteryear. No, they are smoked brown turkey. Or Tuscan ham with rosemary bits. Or some other form of lunchmeat that doesn’t come from a can and isn’t labeled “safe for farm use.” (Hello, devilled ham, I’m talking about you.)
Further, all sandwiches must be cut into shapes and we’re not talking squares or triangles here. No, invest in a good set of cookie cutters so little Susie can have her sliced grilled chicken and Gouda sandwich cut into the shape of a bicycle. Or an Easter egg. And for Pete’s sake, even though it sounds like a teaching moment to cut your child’s sandwich into capital letters, don’t do it. Kids aren’t stupid. They may not be able to spell their own names, but they can spell swear words before they can read.
If you have accepted that sandwiches are old school, come on over to the dark side. I’m talking Bento box here. Yes, the latest school lunch craze has you up at 4:30 every morning to cut baby carrots, slim slices of zucchini bread, juicy peaches and slivers of imported British cheddar and then gently place them into a compartmentalized Bento box. Oh sure it takes hours to prepare all that stuff for five kids, but heck if you planned to sleep your life away, you’d never have become a parent, right?
And sure, once your child figures out that you have been using the cute Bento box to sneak veggies and fruit into their diet, they’ll conveniently throw it into the trash that a classmate last used as a vomit repository. But hey, at least you tried to get them to eat a good lunch.
On the other hand, you can ignore all that, slap together a mystery meat and white bread creation, toss it into a brown paper bag and call it retro lunch. Sounds yummy to me.

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