I couldn’t resist clicking on the Washington Post’s very click-baity headline, Why I still pack my 18-year-old’s lunches, by Aviva Goldfarb. The article is about exactly this: even though Goldfarb’s son is now 18 years old, she still packs his lunches. It’s cloaked in concern for child nutrition, which is a legitimate issue, but comes off as defensive, smug, and privileged. Rather than allowing her child to be self-sufficient, she says she can’t help herself because she wants to nurture.
Goldfarb tries to convince us that her kids know what’s healthy and how to eat. It’s not about micromanaging them or not trusting them to make good choices.
Our teens are able in the kitchen. They could certainly make themselves a sandwich or fresh guacamole and throw in some fruit, chips, and yogurt, as we do. They or we could even pack their lunches the night before and they could grab and go in the morning. Some parents feel that we should give kids responsibilities as soon as they are able in order to teach them life skills, and I do understand that perspective and practice it in many cases.
Awesome! If your kids are as competent and knowledgeable as you say, then they can pack their own lunches with approved food!
When the kids started high school, I learned that many kids went off campus and bought lunch at nearby restaurants. When we experimented with that approach, we found that the kids didn’t get enough fruits or vegetables in their meals (okay, pretty much none if I don’t count pizza sauce as a vegetable) and the cost was about double that of packing lunches. So we kept packing.
If they don’t know how to eat healthy at restaurants now, then Goldfarb’s kids aren’t as knowledgeable as she thought or taught them to be. I don’t know which. Eating healthy is possible even at McDonalds or Fuddruckers. (Five Guys has me stumped though.) Get grilled chicken; leave off all the sauces; get fruit as a side minus any dips; leave the bun off if possible or get it in a wrap; and drink water. Also how the hell did she know what her kids were eating during every school day?
Goldfarb goes on to list ten healthy lunch ideas for children except they include ingredients only certain economic classes can afford: tofurkey, fresh vegetables, fresh mozzarella, salmon, tofu, homemade trail mix, homemade guacamole, and edamame. This is registers pretty high on the GOOPY tone deafness scale. Food deserts are a major problem in this country, which hits the poor especially hard. It’s bad enough trying to make ends meet, but it’s even worse when the only affordable food available comes in boxes or envelopes and a two liter of soda is cheaper than bottled water. Unless Goldfarb plans to support her kids well into their 20s (and who knows...she just might), then they’ll be so ill-equipped to figure out how to buy groceries on a starting salary.
But here’s why we keep packing. Every day, for the brief window of life that our children are ours to care for, we get to express our love for them in the form of a turkey (or Tofurkey) sandwich with a little chubby apple, a cheese stick, and a bit of dessert (hey, a square of dark chocolate never hurt anyone!). We don’t write love notes or pack poems or riddles in their lunches, and I’ve never cut their sandwiches into rocket shapes. But I DO know that our kids feel lucky to open up and dive into our missive of love in the midst of their demanding days at school. And for me, I feel lucky to be preparing that edible missive as long as I can.
No, that’s not why Goldfarb keeps packing. There are a zillion other ways to show parental love when children are at various stages of life and none of them involve doing something for them so infantile and that they could and should do themselves. Not only that but, as the eating out example proved, doing it for them teaches them absolutely nothing about healthy eating. Goldfarb doesn’t want to stop because (just a hunch) she doesn’t trust her children to make the identical choices she would make. Even though she openly admits it’s a pain in the ass and a huge inconvenience for her and her husband, she still packs her kids’ lunch. That’s more about control issues than anything else.
I’m also chuckling at the idea of a teenager eating any form of tofu because his mom insists on it. The only people I know who enjoy tofu are those who buy it willingly.
I know, I know. If she wants to pack her kid his lunch until the day he enters a nursing home, who cares? Except...no. Goldfarb gave us the opportunity to comment and critique what goes on in her home when she took to the pages of the Washington Post to tell us how she won’t help usher her young adult son into adulthood.