New research from IGA found that apparently almost two thirds of parents feel pressure from other adults when preparing lunches, over a quarter say they feel there is competition amongst other parents about lunch box contents, and more than a third say their children have been….
Um.. sorry, what? A quarter of parents feel there is competition amongst other parents when it comes to making lunches? And two thirds feel pressure from other adults? What schools are their children going to? Culinary school? Are they in training for Junior Masterchef?
I cannot imagine worrying about what other parents think of my kids' lunch boxes. For one thing, how would other parents even know what's in them? The only way they could find out is if other children noticed my kids' lunches and ran home to describe the contents to their parents.
"Oh my god," they might say. "Do you know Kerri's daughter has had the exact same lunch for two years in a row?"
"Goodness," the mother would reply. "What a disgrace! I'm going to notify the P&C right now!"
Except that that would never happen. Because kids don't care what is in each other's lunch boxes, unless it's some kind of exciting forbidden treat. In fact, in all of my 15 years of parenting I can recall exactly two instances in which my kids told me what their friends had for lunch. My daughter once told me that Darcy had Noodles-In-A-Cup and she wanted them too. My son once tried his mate Liam's Nutri-Grain bar. Neither child ever raved to me about their friends' spectacularly healthful lunch box, nor the marvellous presentation of the contents.
They were jealous of the junk food. Of course.
Still, it is possible that I mix in the wrong circles. Perhaps there are, indeed, Competitive Lunch Box circles, groups of parents and children who spend hours analysing and grading each other's food choices.
But let me tell you – if these circles do exist, my advice to you is not to seek 'creative solutions' to lunch box angst. My solution is to get the hell out and find new circles. Kids do not care what is in their lunch boxes, as long as it's filling and they like it. They don't need endless variety or exciting presentation. Sure, there are parents (like this mum here) who go all out to create Lunch Box Art, and I'm sure their kids get a kick out of it for a while. But no kid has ever suffered emotional scarring from boring lunch boxes. And the most exciting lunch box art becomes ordinary if it is offered every single day.
If you feel pressure from other parents to create fabulous lunch boxes, the answer is not to try harder. The answer is to resist the pressure. Resist the desire to compete with other parents – about lunch boxes, about clothes, about cars, about your kids' grades/sleeping habits/behaviour/sporting prowess/talent. There will always be parents greater and lesser than you. There will always be kids better and worse than yours.
And in case you are still conflicted, here is a comprehensive list of what kids need in their lunch boxes:
1. Enough food to satisfy their hunger whilst they are at school, mostly healthy, with the occasional treat.
End of story.