I'll Pack Whatever I Want in my Kids' Lunches, Thanks

Confession: packing kids' lunches isn't my bag (ha – see what I did there?). I've heard tales of parents who send their children to school with enviable, Instagram-worthy spreads, and a quick Pinterest search for "school lunch ideas" confirms their existence. They pin creative, beautiful, munchable masterpieces: from cutout sandwiches to fruit "sushi" to artfully appointed, perfectly portioned bento boxes. The meals are always healthy, always fresh, always prepared with care. And they're awesome, a lunchtime treat for the lucky recipients.

Unfortunately for my kids, I file those types of lunches under "ain't nobody got time for that." I always tuck a note into their lunchboxes, but that's about as creative as it gets. Typically they'll get a PB&J sandwich, maybe a bag of chips (mini rice cakes, if I'm feeling a particularly high level of Mom guilt that day), a string cheese or a tube of yogurt, and a piece of fruit. It's not exactly the nutritional gold standard to which all lunches should be held, but it isn't terrible. Or so I thought.

See, until recently, I believed that the only judgment my kids' lunches were facing was theirs (or my own, when my plain Jane offerings pale in comparison to the fancy Pinterest stuff). But then I started to see news story after news story about parents being reprimanded for the contents of their kids' lunchboxes. In school cafeterias throughout the world, lunchroom monitors are peering over their proverbial glasses to see what kids are eating and then clutching their proverbial pearls. There are notes coming home, sanctimoniously informing moms and dads that their child's midday meal is not up to nutritional snuff, and they need to step their lunch game up . . . or else.

So now, not only do I feel obligated to live up to those cutesy, fun-to-eat Pinterest spreads, but I've also got to worry whether that chocolate-dipped granola bar I packed my kid is going to be deemed unworthy by the Lords of the Lunchroom? Ugh. I don't recall the contents of my lunches as a child, except that they probably involved some bologna and fluorescent-orange cheese and a Capri Sun – not especially wholesome, but it was food, and I probably dumped half of it out anyway. Whether I ate it or not, I certainly don't remember anyone being particularly concerned about what it was. Sure, this was a hundred years ago in the '80s and '90s, but the kinds of things I brought to school then are the kinds of things my kids bring to school now. Only then, nobody gave a crap.

Lest we forget, these are the same schools that serve kids things like burgers and tater tots and chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese, which aren't any better nutrition-wise than those lunch meat sandwiches on white bread. Until they're serving food befitting a health spa, I'm pretty sure they don't have any business judging parents' choices. And no matter what we pack, we all have the same goal: for our kids to eat it. After all, what good is an organic cheese and alfalfa-sprout sandwich on whole grain bread if it goes directly into the trash?

If I send my kid to school with, say, Pixy Stix and a Mountain Dew, by all means, be concerned. But until then, I fully intend to keep packing the same type of standard, nonfancy, mediocre lunches that have sustained schoolchildren for decades.

Maybe I'll buy the 25-percent-less-sugar granola bars next time, but that's about it.