Today was a lesson in the art of compromise. I made a really nice lunch for M1 today, and before I could tell her what I packed she asked for hot lunch. Sigh! Once I told her, she wanted to know what the school menu for lunch was today so she could decide. Okay, fair. Chili and Cinnamon Rolls...decision made.
A part of me cringes at the though of this, but I know that I must learn the art of compromise. I do very well with her lunches the majority of the time. I make healthy lunches based on her tastes and my ideals. So one hot lunch meal over 6 weeks is not going to wreck her health.
Hot lunch is a lunchtime compromise. I, of course, am not a huge fan of school lunches. They are not really that healthy, and the taste and quality are poor. I try to plan M1's hot lunch splurges, and come eat lunch with her on these days. It makes me feel better to see what she picks and how much of it she eats. I'll be honest, she is typically very good at her choices, big salads...vinegar dressings...eats a couple of bites of the main hot lunch. She has her favorites though, and one of them is Chili and Cinnamon Roll day. (I was really hoping today would be Pork Burrito day or something she doesn't like). So, compromise.
I would say on average M1 eats hot lunch once a month at most. And that is okay. I don't make a big deal out of it. Why? I want to avoid the "forbidden fruit" scenario.
What is the Forbidden Fruit Scenario? This is what I call it when you forbid your kids for doing or having something (or yourself) and it makes it more excited and more sought after. There is an ere of excitement and longing for something, not because they/you really want it, but because it is forbidden. I find this happens quite frequently with families who are health conscious. The children tend to want foods that are not as healthy as they get older because they were never allowed to have them when they were younger. It has become much more exciting than it should be (especially when they see their friends and other people with them and similar). I have a good friend whose parents were extremely health conscious and never allowed candy EVER! My friend would sneak around with candy, and would binge on candy every time she got the chance, in hiding. Her parents did not know, and it became the "forbidden fruit scenario." She couldn't have it at home, so she would buy it and eat it to extreme when given the opportunity.
My theory: Allowing the requested hot lunch or sweet treat on occasion (as long as it is regulated and not in excess), breaks the cycle. By letting M1 have the hot lunch she likes on occasion, she is less likely to ask for it more frequently, and is more likely to eat the foods that I pack for her. We compromise together. I try to talk to my kids a lot, and explain in a not so bossy and demanding way (but I can be pretty bossy and demanding, so it's another parenting lesson), why I don't like that they do certain things. I also explain to them that I respect their wants. We usually discuss and come up with a plan that works for us both. She can eat hot lunches from time to time, but she also needs to eat what I pack for her other times. I won't deprive her of sweet treats from time to time if she makes good choices the rest of the time. Etc...
When we have sweets or things that my children see other children eat and request them in their lunches, I try and make purchases with better quality ingredients or make them at home with my kids. Cookies for example: Oreo's. M1 loves Oreo Cookies (who doesn't really). I will occasionally buy them during the summer as a camping treat...but not the real Oreo's. I usually buy something like Newman's brand or some other brand I find with better ingredients. She doesn't know the difference. She associates the looks of the Oreo's with the looks of the Newman's and in her mind it is the same thing her friends had. She knows that we don't just buy these and we don't just have them around all the time. They are a treat and we only have them at special times, like camp trips. It's never really a fight. I also try to educate my kiddos on the ingredients. We read and compare labels together now, which is fun for me in a nerdy way. I explain the ingredients in each and explain the effects of the bad ones and often will ask her which one she would pick knowing what she knows now. This way she is learning and is not just being told they are bad.
Education and understanding do play a big part. When my kids feel tired after a hot lunch or lots of unhealthy foods, I make the correlation for them and talk to them about how they feel because they decided to have the not so good choices. Or upset stomachs after Halloween. I believe helping your child make the connections is just as important as telling them prior.
This is what works for us. You have to find what works for your family. Not every family is the same, not every parent-child relationship is the same. There will be fights in the beginning of any change in routine with children, but you have to think of the end game, and the goal of the change.