Ari chats about the changing nature of kids’ school lunches.

My son’s lunchbox suffices I suppose, but I did go through a stage of thinking I could give it more verve, so I joined a School Lunchbox Facebook Group.

My kid trots into school with the same lunch every day. A vegemite and cheese sandwich, some fruit, a little tub of tinned beans and maybe some yoghurt if I’m feeling all party-like. I can whip that lunchbox up in about forty seconds flat with my eyes closed, which is a bonus in the under-caffeinated chaos that is the Morning School Run.

My son’s lunchbox suffices I suppose, but I did go through a stage of thinking I could give it more verve, so I joined a School Lunchbox Facebook Group. Yes, that is correct. I joined a group that exists solely to talk about the contents of our children’s lunchboxes, and post boastful photos of said lunches in a never-ending scroll. I don’t like to dwell too much on the implications of this.

Facebook is the devil in one thousand guises of course. The School Lunchbox Group is one of those guises, an illusion of wholesome innocence but actually one of the Nine Circles of Hell. It is – it has to be said – a challenging world for a Vegemite Sandwich Mother to navigate. There is one reason for this.

Themed lunches.

Yes, the School Lunchbox Group is chock full of enterprising mothers who – NO JOKE – create incredibly complicated themed-lunches-with-a-point for their offspring every day. That is a hella lot of themes to come up with, and it’s not even anyone’s birthday. In my opinion, birthdays are the only time we should be talking themes because of the level of head-breaking detail needed, and the inevitable requirement to go shopping in Kmart’s Party section.

So, say your kid likes Koalas, you might do a Koala theme. This means that in your kid’s lunchbox you might have a shaved ham, Gruyere cheese and mustard sandwich cut out in the shape of a Koala, sitting in a tree made of a celery stick and some spinach leaves. Just for fun, you might wack a couple of cherry tomatoes in that tree even though Koalas don’t technically eat them.

Then you might have some banana and flaxseed muffins made in the shape of baby Koalas, who have a fruit salad to nibble on full of grapes and blueberries. And finally, some jello cups that look like Blinky Bill with sultana eyes and a mandarin mouth.

If you really know your stuff, you will include Koala printed napkins, and maybe a cute little handwritten story about a Koala that you whipped up in between flipping breakfast pancakes. If you can’t come at a story, you can write an Encouraging Note for your child and tuck it under the sandwich. There is a lot of Note Action going on in the School Lunchbox Group.

After you do all this, you take ten thousand photos of your Koala-themed lunchbox, choose the best three and post them in the School Lunchbox Group with a natty header like WE’RE ALL GOING KOALAS HERE!.

Then everyone else will comment – usually positively – but some uber-competitive Lunchboxers will respond with photos of their own creations, and a few passive aggressive statements like, GREAT CELERY STICK TREE TRUNK (CHILEAN CELERY? ON SPECIAL FROM COLES?). I DID SOMETHING SIMILAR LAST YEAR WITH SOME ORGANIC STRING BEANS FROM OUR VERY OWN VEGETABLE PATCH, GROWN WITH LOVE AND ZERO PESTICIDES. BIG HIT HERE, AND WE APPRECIATE HOW THERE’S NO SUPERMARKET COLD STORAGE INVOLVED! WE’RE WORKING ON KEEPING THOSE VITAMINS IN, THOSE PESTICIDES OUT, THOSE FOOD MILES DOWN AND SAVING OUR PLANET. J.

So, yeah. There’s that. I told you Facebook was the devil.

Devilish behaviours aside, that is a whole lot of Koala to organise before the school run and I am not even talking about writing a Koala story to go with the posh sandwich, or the Encouraging Note. Heck, I’m just talking about the cheap, Coles-cold-storage, Chilean-celery-stick tree, which is probably two years old, soaked in pesticides and vitamin-less. Plus I thought this kind of thing was against the rules because, well, pressure!

And finally – genuine question – who has time to do this sort of thing? Really? Who has time? I do not understand the tick tock factor. I suspect I may never understand it, and that is a critical difference between a Vegemite Sandwich Mother and a Themed Lunchbox Mother. What we do with our ticks and our tocks.

Plus, I am not sure what my son would do with an Encouraging Note in his lunchbox. He’d probably try and eat my words and find them indigestible.

Author

Ari has had work published in Australia, England, Japan and Singapore. She has a delightful toddler, Gabriel, who was born with coffee in his veins. She is currently completing her first novel as part of a PhD project.

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