Ham sandwich – it’s easier to indict than make edible to my son

By Jane Flanagan

As a mom do you ever just feel plain ridiculous? I do. Take the other day. I was standing in the kitchen around 4 p.m., shuffling pots to make macaroni and cheese for my son. The late afternoon meal was on top of the egg and cheese omelet and bowl of oatmeal I made him for breakfast, the pasta, applesauce, banana, water and juice I packed in his lunch, and the full chicken dinner I was then sticking in the oven.

What’s with the Betty Crocker overdrive?

My 7-year-old son refuses to eat his lunch at school. This is nothing new. He’s been not eating lunch at school for years now. But he just started first grade and things are getting serious. He’s got real work to accomplish and I worry over his ability to concentrate. So once again I’ve embarked on a quest for the “right” lunch.

Earlier this summer, I thought my worries were over. Circumstances forced us into a picnic of deli-made ham and cheese sandwiches. Sitting in the sand munching on a hot, summer afternoon, he startled me by saying, “I love this.”

“Love???” I said. “But I thought you didn’t like sandwiches?”

“I like this kind,” he said, munching.

I immediately fast forwarded to the year ahead. “My school lunch worries are over. I’ll just make him ham and cheese sandwiches!”

Maybe, just perhaps, someday, I will begin to grasp that raising a child is never that simple.

For among the many items coming home uneaten these past few weeks? A ham and cheese sandwich.

And I had such high hopes, too. The night I was making that ham and cheese sandwich I was feeling good. After stumbling around for a week trying to get my back-to-school act together, I finally had, at that moment in my refrigerator: mayonnaise, hamburger buns, and ham and cheese slices. “I’m such a good Mom,” I thought. “No hurdle is too big for me to ensure that my son has good nutrition at school!”

Yet the next evening there I stood pulling out a crumpled tin-foiled sandwich from his bag. I examined the squished remnants. “Where could I have gone wrong?” Then I observed the bun. “Ah ah. I made it with a hamburger bun, that’s it.”

So I bought some bread. And the next night again I laid out my ingredients substituting the whole wheat bread. I sent him off to school with high hopes. No luck. That night I opened up the backpack, pulled out the lunch bag only to find another crumpled tinfoil package.

“I didn’t like it,” he said.

I thought back to the moment of zen on the beach. “What was so special about that sandwich?” I wondered. Then I remembered. “It was on a hard roll!”

So I set off in search of The Roll. First to the deli near me, but it didn’t have any. Over at our neighborhood supermarket they were so hard they were rocks. So at 10:45 that night I found myself sitting at the computer on the FreshDirect Web site. But after ten minutes I concluded that FreshDirect doesn’t carry them. Or maybe they do, somewhere on that site, but by 10:57 p.m. with the orange letters flashing “2 minutes to deadline” I flagged under the pressure and logged off.

Speaking of FreshDirect, the one thing Rusty has liked this year is something called a pizza roll. It’s one of their newly debuted “kids’ lunches.” On the Web it looked appealing and I ordered it, thinking, “this could be it.” And unbelievably it was. That evening he came home with the astonishing news, “I liked it!”

But there was a hitch. On the Web site it looked like a normal-sized sandwich roll. But when it arrived in my kitchen I discovered that it was the length of about half a string cheese, and not much wider. Since I’d ordered two pizza roll lunches, I doubled up. But then I calculated the cost. Each kid tray cost $4.99. That lunch cost me $10 not counting the juice and apple.

So now I’m sending him off in the morning with whatever the hell I can find in the refrigerator. I know he won’t eat it anyway. That’s okay. It may take me a while, but even being a ridiculous mom, I eventually recognize defeat when I see it.

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