I Tried Making Adorable School Lunches For My Kids and I'll Never Do It Again

It's really my friend's fault that I tried to make adorable lunches for my kids and failed. She'd just finished telling me all about the bento box she packed for her daughter to take off to school each day. Inside were cucumbers cut into cute shapes like stars and moons, little crustless sandwiches, homemade cookies, and colorful, healthy fruits and snacks like edamame and berries she lovingly arranged into her daughter's initials. "Well, I clearly need to step up my lunch game," I thought as I drove home from her house that afternoon. I'd been packing the same old lunches for my kids since the first day of school: yogurt, fruit snacks, pretzels or Cheetos, and a buttered bagel. I sucked. Obviously.

I couldn't wait for my girls to get home and report back about lunchtime, but one look into their bentos told me all I needed to know. No one ate anything I'd packed.

That evening, I ordered pastel-hued bento boxes for each of my three kids online. We waited excitedly for the boxes to arrive, but no one more so than me. I knew that the new lunch containers would inspire me to create meals my children would remember well into their adult lives. They'd tell their own kids how their mom made the best, most fun and special lunches, lunches that became so legendary that the entire lunchroom would crowd around their table to see what I'd prepared that day.

The first evening I set out to create my soon-to-be legendary lunches, I quickly ran into my first snafu. I'd estimated the size of my crustless sandwiches incorrectly and ended up having to cram them into the partitioned compartments in the bento boxes. "No worries," I said to myself. They might not look pretty, but they would taste delicious. My troubles didn't end there, however. I soon found that many of the snacks I'd planned to accompany the sandwiches were challenging fits as well. At least the faces I'd created with carrot shavings for hair, halved-grapes for eyes, and an apple slice for the mouth didn't seem to be shifting around too much when I sneaked a peek inside the box later that night.

The next day, I couldn't wait for my girls to get home and report back about lunchtime. Turns out I didn't need them to say a word. One look into their bentos told me all I needed to know . . . because no one ate anything I'd packed. The healthy faces I'd made? Yeah, they looked like piles straight out of a compost bin. The sandwiches had merely been nibbled on. The only thing that passed muster? The pretzel sticks I'd painstakingly broken into short enough pieces to fit into one of the dumb compartments.

"What was so wrong with yogurt, bagels, and fruit snacks?" I found myself wondering. At least my kids ate when I packed those faithful school lunch staples. And PS: throwing dependable items I knew they'd enjoy into bags each night took about 13 seconds. Preparing those damn bento boxes was a project. Who has that kind of time?

I abandoned my adorable lunch quest the very next day without a single ounce of regret. Making colorful, creative, fun, original lunches just isn't my thing. I admire the moms who do it day in and day out, but I've learned I can't compete with them.

I guess my kids won't end up regaling their own children with tales of their mom's famous lunches. But at least the bento boxes weren't a total waste of money; my girls now have perfect organizers for their Shopkins.