My poor, dear wife.
This morning, like so many others that have come before, she faced a dread responsibility. A wearying, nigh insurmountable task.
I could see it plainly in her posture as she mentally prepared herself, gathering her inner strength. She slowly closed her eyes, said a silent prayer, took a deep breath, and began:
“Michael, what would you like for lunch at Ms S’s today?” It came out in near monotone. At once she braced for his reply.
“Well,” he began, tilting his head back to ponder the ceiling while he stroked his beardless chin, “something… like… Cheez-its… and… something else… that I like…”
My wife emitted an audible groan and her already slumped shoulders shrunk down even more. I could see the life energy drain from her as our son dragged his menu selection on ad infinitum.
Michael’s enjoying his new school, and aside from one particularly horrific episode, has exhibited exemplary behavior. He’s eager to go in the morning, has learned some new skills in reading and writing, brings home artwork nearly every day, and enjoys the songs he learns there. His manners at home have even improved to a degree, and his maturity level has increased as well, which is a wonderful thing to see.
But lunch time continues to present a problem.
They’re peanut-free over at Ms S’s, thus eliminating peanut butter as an option. For most American kids, PB&J is a boilerplate staple, and it would constitute half if not three-fourths of Michael’s yearly lunch entrées were it allowed. And then there’s the other widely-hailed favorite, cheese. But Michael hates cheese. The exclusion of those two leaves us in a barren wasteland of a sparse few known-acceptable items.
He tried almond butter, and he nearly retched.
He tried their hot lunch a few times, but it’s most often a cheese-fest so that’s out as well.
We’ve given him dinosaur-shaped ham sandwiches, but they’ve come back uneaten: whole and nearly as fossilized as their reptilian cousins.
His favorite food is Campbell’s Chunky Sirloin burger soup. Unfortunately this is also his oldest sister’s favorite food, so despite our nuclear-fallout-shelter-sized stock of this product, we cannot sustain our reserves. He also likes chicken and stars, but it’s not as substantial; there isn’t nearly enough protein in that to keep an active little guy like Michael warmed and filled for the remainder of the day.
Which brings us to Michael’s Mommy’s plight.
She has to ask him what he’s willing to eat.
He is unable to simply state what he wants in 25 words or less. Instead, he must take us on a literary journey, a culinary quest in which we must unravel the deeper meaning behind his unending comestible ruminations.
When the question of what to have for lunch is asked, rather than just saying something like “I want a turkey sandwich,” he instead begins to spin a yarn in much the same way the Ancient Mariner recounted his Rime.
“I would like…. something yummy… that isn’t cheese… and has… blue…. aaaaaaaaand… not peaches…” I usually pass out around part seven or so.
His mother pleads with him, faintly: “Please, Michael. Please. I’m begging you. Just tell me what you want.”
“Uh…. maybeeeeeee… a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
“You can’t have peanut butter at Ms S’s, Michael.”
“Oh… okay… then uh……. maybeeeeeeee a …. like……. something that’s yummy….” I hear my wife gasp her last and succumb, while Michael continues to verbally peruse his imaginary grocery store, chin firmly ensconced in his fist.
On those days when Michael’s mommy works, it’s my job to pack his lunch. I’m not nearly as accommodating as my wife; whatever I pack for Michael’s lunch, that’s what he eats. I skip the questioning and just put in what I think sounds good. I figure, if he’s hungry enough, he’ll eat it, whatever it is.
Next year he’s packing his own lunch. If that means he has Lucky Charms for his main course every day, I guess I’ll have to learn to live with it.