Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Does Bento Spell Success at Lunch?

While I find breakfast to be stressful, my wife more often stresses out about our son’s lunch habits. You see, he frequently does not eat his lunch when he is at school.

My wife has tried to pack a variety of different things for Kai’s lunch – sandwiches, hot dogs, chicken, among other things – but Kai still too often comes home with a mostly uneaten lunch in his backpack. At school, we are not there to force encourage him to eat. And, as we know from breakfast, if we do not “encourage” him, he often will not eat.

So, lately my wife has been preparing the one thing we know that he will eat at school – Italian sausage in tomato sauce.

Now, we realize that having Italian sausage every day isn’t exactly the best thing for him. And so, my wife keeps coming up with new ways to try to get Kai to eat different things for lunch. Her latest attempt was to make his lunch fun by preparing it bento style.

Bento is a single-portion, packed meal that is common in Japanese cuisine. As I understand it, Japanese mothers frequently send their kids off to school with exquisitely beautiful bento lunches. These days, you can find many websites and blogs devoted to bento that give really creative ideas.

My wife put a lot of thought into making a special bento lunch just for Kai. Knowing his fascination with critters, she cut up pieces of weiners to look like miniature octopus. In addition to that, however, the best part was making the word “EAT” out of seaweed and putting it over white rice. Kai eats seaweed and rice at home at dinnertime. And, he loves letters. Surely, he would like this combination and laugh at finding a message from Mom spelled out in his lunch.

When he got home, we eagerly opened his backpack and checked to see if he had eaten all of his lunch. We opened it up and… our hearts sank. He did not eat even one bite.

We then checked out his point sheet that the school sends home every day. He had gotten a zero for lunch. Zero! How do you get a zero for lunch? We asked him what happened at lunchtime. Kai doesn’t answer questions very well, but he said something about how his lunch was “stupid.” He didn’t really explain it in much more detail, but my wife is pretty certain that when he opened up his lunchbox, he did not like what he saw and had a meltdown.

Not wanting him to have further incidents at lunchtime, she is again sending him to school with Italian sausage every day.

It is discouraging to pour your heart into a new idea, only to have it be resoundingly rejected by your son. Knowing my wife, she’s not going to give up, though. You see, she’s as stubborn about lunch as I am about breakfast.

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