“So how was your lunch today?” my father asked me. “You like your sandwich?”
It was 1976. I was 9 years old and weekdays I attended grade 4 at Broadbeach Primary. I also just happened, at this moment, to be watching The Goodies on the telly so I wasn’t really in the mood for talking lunchboxes.
“It was great,” I grinned at him before turning back to the screen.
But this conversation was far from over.
“So you really like fish paste, eh?”
I shrugged, not even bothering to turn this time. “Yep. It’s the best.”
The oddest thing about this conversation wasn’t the fish paste, it was that it was happening at all. To the best of my knowledge my father had never taken an interest in my lunch before. That should have given me a hint something unpleasant was about to happen.
“Come with me!” Dad suddenly boomed, and I nearly produced a paste of my own.
Even having been intimately involved in the above conversation I nonetheless had no idea what I was trouble for.
With my mum in tow, we left the fun times of The Goodies behind as Dad marched me into my bedroom and demanded I get my school port.
“Tip. Everything. Out,” Dad enunciated at me.
The fact that I tipped the contents of my bag onto my bed instead of into a bin, or at least onto the floor, was proof I still had no idea what this was about. I should have. My school books had been giving off a horrid smell for weeks. Amidst the dog eared note books, blunt pencils and breadcrumbs which tumbled out of my bag came a dump-worthy collection of green oranges, brown soggy banana mush and prescription level penicillin and fish paste sandwiches.
Finally, young genius that I was, I worked out what this was all about and why I was surrounded by so many frowny faces. The lunches my mother was so lovingly putting together for me each morning weren’t being eaten. Or even handled. My bag had become the Bermuda Triangle of sandwiches.
But this is a bit of an age old problem, isn’t it? Certainly I’ve had similar issues with all my kids at around that age: lunch break is too short to waste on things like fish paste sandwiches when there’s balls to chase.
Which is why, if your kids aren’t eating the lunches you’re slapping together every morning, I suggest you try letting the kids make their own. Last year we started occasionally letting the kids make their own sandwiches and they’ve really enjoyed the challenge and been much keener to give up a minute or two of their break to chomp on their own creations.
Set out the bread, butter and a selection of spreads and toppings onto the kitchen bench and let them get into it. By only placing on the table what you’re happy for them to use you can control the end result to some extent, but don’t by surprised if they put things together in a way the great chefs of Europe haven’t even considered.
We’ve had some odd concoctions, sure – like Miss4’s ‘jam, ham and sour cream’ or Miss6’s ‘devon, cheese and grape’ – but the kids are getting their fibre and vitamins and feeding their minds so they can be energized for an afternoon of spit balling and note passing in class, and that’s the main thing.
Maybe my parents should have tried this. Instead, my father’s solution to this problem took a different tact, plus confirmed this ‘getting kids to eat their lunch’ went back further than even my generation.
“At least have the good sense to throw them in the bin,” he whispered to me after Mum had left the room. “Like I did when I was your age.”
Check out Tip Top’s Lunchbox Battle for top tips or add yours in the comments below. How do you ensure your little munchkins to eat their school lunch?
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