For years I made my kids' lunches. Usually I'd put together their sandwiches the night before school, then assemble the rest of it-- some fruit, milk, maybe something else-- that morning. (Sometimes they'd choose their sides.) Truth be told, I liked doing it: I wasn't crazy about the time it took, especially in the morning when there never seems to be enough time, but it's one of those things you do as a parent that's grounding and not at all about you.
This year, with them going into fifth and second grades, I decided, enough. They can make their own sandwiches. Last year I backed away from making breakfast every morning, with results to warm the hearts of believers in the deep influence of moral hazards on human behavior. Gone were the cravings for eggs, bacon and toast (made by me); in was a preference for cold cereal, toast, or at most instant oatmeal.
So this week, as they've returned to Peninsula for a couple weeks of child care, they're making their own lunches. Some of the results are hilarious. My son turns out to make sandwiches that I can only describe as Dagwood Goes Cubist: absurd amounts of cheese cut into oblongs that immediately start to roll out of the sandwich, with layers of salami to hold the cheese in place until he can get the bread on. My daughter likewise seems to view peanut butter the way a bricklayer sees mortar, as the thing that can bind together elements that don't want to get along-- and in a pinch, cover over mistakes.
It's also led to some renegotiating of what they can pack, and what they have to eat. For whatever reason my daughter doesn't like carrying drinks to school, so she's agreed to consume the USDA recommended quota of milk at breakfast and dinner; both kids are getting an education in what counts as "healthy" food (i.e., the things you have to have to balance out the piece of chocolate you always want to sneak in); and if current trends continue, neither child will eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich again as long as they live.
The other interesting thing is that so far they're squabbling less in the mornings. When they're sitting on the couch watching TV, they can have pointless and unresolvable fights over anything: whether the remote is more on her side of the couch than his, whether this episode of Kim Possible is one they've seen ten times before or only nine, who slept more soundly the night before. If I keep them busy, particularly with things they have to eat, they focus on that.
Maybe when the novelty of making their lunches wears off we'll have to start them on something else, like making their own clothes.