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I was making lunch for my younger son this morning when I was overcome by how many times I have done this over the course of the past eight years. My gosh, I've packed a lot of lunches! Probably close to 1600.

Yes, I'm one of those moms who packs a lunch for their kids almost every morning except for those wonderful days that I see something on the school lunch menu that my kid might actually eat (yea for pizza and hamburger days!) It has become part of my morning routine that falls somewhere between yanking my older son from bed and brushing my teeth. I guess it's just something that I do, but for some reason, after all these years, I still dread doing it.

When my oldest son started kindergarten, he didn't want to try hot lunch. Believe me, I pleaded and begged and tried to sell the wonders of the various things that would be served, but he dug in his heels and said, "no." The first couple weeks of school I made a full sandwich, threw in some crackers, maybe a cheese stick, some fruit, and (embarrassing to say) about three other items. I didn't want him to starve! I wanted him to have a selection.  What on earth was I thinking?

Every day he'd come home with his lunch box, and I'd dump it. Hmm, half a sandwich, every cracker crumbled into bits, a (maybe) half eaten banana -- but usually so bruised that the only thing it was good for was banana bread, and other not touched or opened and sampled things. Don't ask me, I have no idea why he didn't dump his uneaten food in the cafeteria trash--but I was glad he didn't so that I could see what was being consumed.

I asked him what was up with his lunch, and he told me that they had very little time to eat and between getting his milk, talking to his friends, and struggling with opening things, he simply didn't have time. This was not good. I felt a little like someone had punched me in the stomach.

We talked about what he would have time to eat, and we settled on only having four items in his lunch with minimal proportions. I could handle that.

The following week I went to school to have lunch with him. It was fun. The excitement in a school cafeteria had long since escaped my memory. It was noisy, kids were everywhere talking and being silly. And practically no one was eating. Honestly, the trays of food that were three quarters full were being dumped like a bad boyfriend. How do these kids function if they don’t eat very much? Obviously, for the most part they do function, but I was dumbfounded.

Knowing what I saw that day, I have continued to pack lunches, hoping that my kids are eating enough because they like what shows up in their lunch box. Today it was a half of a ham sandwich with provolone cheese (no butter or mayo), two cookies (aw, come on, who doesn't love cookies!), about 12 petite carrots and low fat ranch dressing to dip them in, and about 10 pretzels. My son will get a milk at school. And if things go as planned, at the end of the day there might be a few pretzels and carrots left, and that's okay.  

Mollie Protzman

Mollie Protzman


Mollie is an Omaha native and a mom of two boys ages 13 and 8. She's been married for 20 years and spent most of those first 10 years living in various cities around the country. Before kids, she was in marketing communications and public relations and then stayed home with her boys for 11 years while doing freelance writing on the side. The day after her youngest one went to kindergarten, she just about went berserk with the quiet in the house and nothing constructiv ...

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