“You need new lunch money? Again? That’s just not possible. I sent a thirty dollar check to school only three weeks ago and you hardly had school lunch since.”
My seven year old son just nods, the paper slip requesting fresh funds clutched in his outstretched hand.
“Listen, I’ll call the lunch lady tomorrow and I’ll talk to her,” I say, refusing to take the slip from him, “There must be a mistake. Some other child probably uses your pin number to buy food. But no worries. I’ll set it straight.”
“Oh,” Thibaut says, blushing, “are you really going to call her?” He suddenly looks somewhat alarmed.
“Of course,” I say resolutely, “I’m not going to sponsor lunch for the whole school. This has got to stop.” I turn to face the stove, marking the end of this conversation.
Thibaut doesn’t move however. I feel his eyes burning into my back while I stir vegetables in the wok.
“What is it?” I ask without turning around.
“Well, mama,” my son whispers, “it might be the cinnamon buns.”
What? I turn to face him.
“What might be the cinnamon buns?” I ask.
“Well, the lunch money,” Thibaut explains, staring at his shoes. “Maybe my money’s gone because of the cinnamon buns.”
“What do you mean? I’ve never seen cinnamon buns on the monthly menu.” And, between you and me, I am grateful for that. Pancakes, French toast, pizza, hotdogs and chicken tenders relaying each other on a ‘healthy’ school menu sounds bad enough to me. No need to add cinnamon buns to the mix, is there? Empty calorie bombs like that would probably be about the worst thing a school cafeteria could offer to young children. Surely the county’s menu planners are smarter than that.
“No mama,” Thibaut breaks my line of thought, “they’re not on the menu. They are just there, at the cafeteria. And I sometimes buy them.”
They are just there? On offer at the school cafeteria? And my son ‘sometimes’ buys them? That explains why all those healthy lunches I lovingly prepare each morning come back home, seemingly untouched. Turns out that “I was not that hungry” or “I didn’t have enough time to finish my lunch” really means “I stuffed my face with a cinnamon bun that looked a thousand times more appealing than my cheese sandwich and carrots. After ingesting that sugar bomb, my appetite was gone.”
“How often is sometimes?” I wonder, “every day?”
“No no! Not every day, mama!” my son exclaims, adding, “Only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.”
“So what about Tuesdays and Thursdays? Are you sure you don’t buy cinnamon buns those days too?” He must do so. Tuesday and Thursday lunch boxes are hardly more emptied than the other days’.
“No, honestly!” Thibaut replies, “I don’t! They don’t even sell cinnamon buns those days.”
“Then why don’t you ever finish your home-packed lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays?” I wonder.
“Well,” Thibaut’s gaze drifts back to his shoes, “that might be because of the Doritos.”
Doritos? Okay, I guess school cafeteria offerings can be worse than just cinnamon buns!
Helene Toye is the author of ‘Go West, A Belgian Attempts American Motherhood’, available on Amazon : http://amzn.com/1493592548
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