This is your future self writing to remind you to take a deep breath. You’re home from dropping the kids at school and dwelling on the fact that you yelled at them to get in the car. Now you’re staring down the aftermath of the morning: a dirty egg pan that may never recover, evidence of a last-minute lunch packing frenzy, and undoubtedly, wet towels on unmade beds upstairs. But you got the job done. The kids arrived in their classrooms with full bellies, only a tiny bit late, and nobody forgot their lunchbox.
Speaking of lunch, when you stand where I am now, with all three kids out of high school, you’ll have packed somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 school lunches. Five thousand! Imagine how many slices of the whole-grain bread the kids complained about. How many lost containers. And how many times you’ll have asked them to clean their lunchboxes when they got home.
Here’s what may surprise you about all of this: You’re going to miss it. You won’t want to turn back the clock, but you will yearn to pack a lunch in the midst of morning chaos. Here’s why I know.
Recently, our nephew came to stay for a few days. He’s 15 now and like most teenage boys, he wanted little to do with his auntie. Meanwhile, the nurturer in me who misses the daily demands of parenting descended like a mother bear reunited with a lost cub. Determined to keep him nourished, I was at attention in the mornings, armed with a plate of fried eggs and a green smoothie. As he headed out the door each day to skateboard with a buddy, I found myself on the top step with a fistful of granola bars shouting, “You might be hungry later!” And the morning he left, I wrapped peanut butter sandwiches in wax paper for his drive home with the sort of urgency better reserved for medical emergencies.
“You’re going to miss it. You won’t want to turn back the clock, but you will yearn to pack a lunch in the midst of morning chaos.”
As you know, that hastily wrapped sandwich may be all you can manage some days. You stash a PB&J in a paper sack, toss in a few baby carrots, and add whatever fruit or salty snack you can rustle up. Sometimes you’ll have more bandwidth, though, and can manage more thoughtfully made meals. Those are the lunches you’ll miss making the most.
Here’s what else you’ll miss. Those lunchbox notes. The riddles or math problems you scribble on a notecard and tuck somewhere the kids can’t miss. Or more often, the simple “I Love You” penned on a scrap of paper, because that truly is all you have time for.
Which brings me to this: all you have time for is more than enough. Packing lunches and parenting is hard. You don’t have to make a perfect lunch or be a perfect mother. The kids are going to grow up and be good citizens, even if you don’t get all the right nutrients into their lunches and you do yell at them to get in the car. You’re doing a good job.