It’s not the food. It’s the love.

Creative Commons image courtesy of another lunch.com on Flickr

Creative Commons image courtesy of anotherlunch.com on Flickr

So, you know how I’ve said before that making lunches is my Enemy #1? I have hated it almost every day for three years. Well, guess what? I don’t hate it anymore. Not even a little. Crazy, right?

I told you about some of the practical things that made lunch-making easier for me: the Bento box and the blog. I’ve realized lately, though, that it’s something else, too. I realized that it really matters to my girl, and that makes it worth it.

Since I’ve been putting in a little extra effort for her lunch, and I’ve felt inspired with fun lunchtime ideas, I often ask Avery when she comes home from school how she liked her lunch. It’s just one of my routine, “How was your day at school?” type of questions. I ask her what she liked, what she didn’t. If I put a fun little surprise in there, like a ham and cheese kabob instead of a sandwich or a little chocolate treat, I ask her what she thought about it. The other day, I asked her what she thought of her lunch. I am not making this up when I tell you what she said. It really happened. Promise.

As we are driving home from school I asked, “Did you like your lunch today?”

She nodded her head and said, “Mmmm hmmm. I did.”

“What did you like about it?” I asked. I thought she might mention the vanilla wafers with Nutella dip or something along those lines (because those are super yummy, if I may say so myself).

“I liked it because it makes me know that you love me,” she said.

It felt like love was just stabbing me straight through the heart and spilling out all over the place. That kid. She knows just how to get me.

“Does it make you feel like Mommy is taking care of you, even when you’re at school and I’m not with you?”

“Yep,” she said.

“Good. That’s what it’s supposed to do. I’m glad it reminds you how much Mommy loves you.”

As I remembered this conversation later on, it made sense to me why lunch-making isn’t such a chore anymore. When I send her off into the care of others, it’s my way of making her feel loved and cared for even when I’m not with her. It’s a little reminder in the middle of the day to make her feel comforted that she has a safety net in me to come home to.

I also realized how much this goes against all of the academic and scientific parenting knowledge I’ve acquired over the years. For those of you that don’t know, my day job consists of writing about children’s health. I consider my role at our hospital to be chief translator; I read all of the medical studies and cutting edge scientific information and translate it into everyday language that parents can use to raise healthier families.

What professionals say about food is this: it’s not a reward, it’s not for comfort, it’s for nourishment only. If you want to raise kids who will go on to be adults who understand how to balance their food intake with their physical output, you have to follow certain rules. I, for one, take these rules seriously because my family of origin is one that struggles with obesity, and I don’t want to pass these problems down to my children. I want them to have a healthy relationship with food. But, there’s just something missing in all of these rules touted by professionals.

I watched the movie, “The Hundred Foot Journey” recently, and I think this movie touched on what’s missing. “Food is memories,” was one of the lines that stuck out to me. Somehow, when someone prepares a meal for us, it speaks to more than our stomachs. I don’t care what anyone says, it is more than simply nutrition. It communicates something to us. When someone incorporates the things they know about us- what we like, what we don’t like- into a meal, it makes us feel known and cared for. When they work hard to give us something yummy because they long to see a smile on our faces, we feel worthy and loved.

I’m so happy that my girl has received the message I’ve been trying to send as I pack her lunch every day. You are loved. You are special. Your needs are important to me. It’s not the food that is significant; it’s the love with which is made that makes a lasting impression.

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