The day after… a reflection on the rejected bento

16 Nov

When I went to pick my daughter up at daycare last night, my provider looked at me and said, “I wanted to let you know, her teacher told us she flung her lunch box at lunch and said, ‘I don’t like this!'”  I looked at my daughter, who looked a bit sheepish, and refused to look at me.  I was disappointed to hear, but I realized, I’m dealing with my almost-4-year-old whose idea of a yummy lunch may not include turkey, flax, multi grain rice OR mushrooms in any order.

I then was revisited by a very bittersweet memory of my own – from my own childhood in Mrs. Edwards’ class.  I have a vague memory of discarding my own lunch for some unknown reason – it was sautéed cellophane noodles with julienned vegetables, meat, and probably another labor-intense masterpiece that my mother had created.  My mother found out about this – whether by my confession, or from a phone call from the school, and I have this vivid recollection of my mother’s saddened face.  You may ask why the school would even bother telling the parents – I had the privilege of attending a very progressive school where we were taught about hunger, starvation, multiculturalism and tolerance from a very young age.

Suddenly, I came face to face with my own memory, living a ghost-like existence in the back of my mind. 

I turned to my daughter as walked towards the car, and told her:

“Mama would love to spend all her time with you and your sister, and not have to rush you in the morning to get dressed, eat and out of the house – but Mama and Papa work so very hard so you and your sister don’t ever have to worry about being hungry, or having a warm, comfortable house to come home to.  If you don’t want to eat your lunch, that is fine, but don’t forget that there are many people who are hungry, and would surely appreciate your very lunch.”

Deep, you might say.  Too intense for a preschooler, you might add.  Let kids be kids, said my daycare provider. 

I partially agree.  Yet, I still believe, our children are given too many choices, too many material things too quickly, where they do not learn the time and effort that goes into our daily lives.  A child’s every demand should not be met instantly, and I have issue where instant gratification seems to be the magic pill for every child’s ailments. 

I envy those who have any opportunity to spend every day with their children, and I hope I will have an opportunity one day to be more involved with my childrens’ day-to-day activities.  Yet, I know at this time I must work full-time – so my meals, including my daughter’s lunches are just a small expression of the love I have for them.  I know these little boxes fill the small hiccups of wistfulness and working mother’s guilt I have when I stop into their rooms at night, their small bodies curled up under blankets, and I caress a cheek, and smooth a piece of hair with my fingers.  I love to hear them breathe in the dark – quiet breaths accompanied by the constant purring of one of our cats, Max, in my older daughter’s room.

Perhaps, one day, my own daughters will understand what making these lunch boxes means to me.

Today’s lunch was a bit more colorful – perhaps the food choices were too drab yesterday!

Pan-fried noodles with sautéed organic and julienned carrots, Napa cabbage, onion and celery, seasoned with a little salt, white pepper, dash of rice vinegar, and topped with slices of narutomaki or fish cakes.  I thought the little spirals of pink might brighten up her day.

Sautéed sweet sausage, with sautéed organic Napa cabbage and peppers

Savory organic omelette with blanched spinach and flax seeds

Sliced organic cucumbers

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