No such thing as a free lunch



There are several posts circulating about “things you should stop doing for your kid/teenager.” The one point that gets pulled out and that I have come in conflict with personally is this idea that a parent should not bail out the child by bringing them their lunch or whatever other necessity they forgot at home, in the car, etc.

I understand the thinking behind this. I want my kids to be independent, and I try my best to prepare them for the hopeful fact that some day they will leave the house for good and live on their own. Cuddling them to my breast for all eternity does not sound like my cup of tea. They are sweaty and full of elbows.

My dreams are of my own independent life, days stretching out in front of me, filled or not-filled with doing whateverthefuck I want. So I do not engage in behaviors meant to infantilize or indulge or spoil them. Also, I would very much like a life-long relationship with my children and their revenge spawn; subsequent to this goal, I truly do work to inspire them to not be assholes. Mostly I do this by trying to no be an asshole myself.

I believe not taking them a forgotten lunch or homework assignment or their sports uniform when I’m capable of doing so, makes me an asshole.

Maybe the author of this post has a kid that forgets their lunch every day. and on the way out the door gives the lunch and then mom the eye, middle finger held high and says, “Betch, I know you’re bringing that by later.” This kid needs taught a lesson. I don’t even think not bringing the lunch will do the trick. This child will just fat shame some other child out of their Cheetos and feel no consequence.

For me and maybe some of you. my kids don’t forget things daily or even weekly. It’s unusual. But I’m sure for a teacher or administrator, the constant disruption, even if every kid forgot something once a year, hell it’s a giant nuisance. I sympathize. But hey, this is a human school. No one is infallible. Acting like adult perfection is what we model for our kids is laughable.

The problem with advice, like the kind offered in these articles on how to not raise jerks and policies that prohibit parents from bringing by lunches and homework, is that the advice and policy is one size fits all. It doesn’t leave any room for life as we know it marred by our very own human foibles.

Look, maybe mom needs to run the lunch in because things are hard at home or she’s depressed or the kid and she had a horrible morning and she just wants one more chance to redeem herself and show her kid she cares. Maybe she misses her child during the day, maybe she got some bad news, maybe she suffers from anxiety and she needs to see her baby if only for a second. Touch his head. Remember he’s there. Remind him she’s there. In situations like this a tiny check-in and the knowing your child has what he needs for the day, can be everything. And I think it deserves to be accommodated.

Let’s just admit it, let’s out the elephant in the room…maybe the running back of the lunch is more for mom and dad than for the kid. AND THAT’S OKAY. Cause this is how the morning can feel to a parent.


In situations like this, when there seems to be some kind of moral construct at play, I try to put myself in the other person’s shoes. I mean doesn’t everyone forget something sometimes? How would I feel if I needed my fiancee or a friend or my own parent to run me something at the office and they said to me, “I don’t think so honey. Maybe you won’t forget next time, huh?”

That feels great. Thanks.

And these are school-locked little munchkins! When I forget something I needed for gardening, or my water bottle, or my lunch even, I have the grand advantage of being an adult. I have a car! I have money! I’m not literally locked inside a school. I have the power to fix the situation. I can drive back home or better yet, drive to a store and just buy a new one. My kid doesn’t have the freedom to fix his mistakes. He needs my help to do it. And that’s what I’m here for.

I’ve often asked my cats, “why do our children need hardening up?” Life provides this anyway. There are many many many many many many many many many many many situations we as parents can’t fix. I like to embrace the fixable ones. Life provides us all with more than enough battles to toughen us up. Life show us on the daily that our entitled asses don’t matter and that we are very very small indeed. Listen, sometimes I can’t bring them their lunch, homework, uniform, makeup, shoes (???), jacket, phone and they have to make do. I believe this is what is meant by “Shit Happens.” And it does happen.

Believe you me, I’m not a perfect parent. There have been ups and downs all over the grey scale. My life challenges their life. I have divorced their dad, changed careers and moved us in with my fiancee and his daughter. I have yelled at them and called them names. I slammed a door so hard once it broke the plaster. I have scared them and me with the depth of my emotions. They are not immune to the reality of the world.

On the other hand, I devoted myself to their upbringing. That was my choice. I breastfed them for 3 years each. I created a community of support and became a fixture at their school so I could figure out a life that would allow me to be in their young lives step by step. I have rarely missed a dance, school, sporting or music event. Not every parent is able to do this, but it was within reach for me. I did it because I could. And that’s my parenting philosophy. If I can, I will.

On a larger scale, I have gone without many things so my children could have many things. And my parents did the same for me. We want our children to have advantages. Every parent wants that. But then that same desire becomes dirty when we call it is by its modern synonyms: privilege, entitlement, indulgence…elitism even. It’s all the same desire in different dresses.

Many people sacrificed so I could have more than they did with the unspoken assumption that I would pass it along. They didn’t do it so I would resent my freedoms and comforts. In this mute agreement, my parents did without so I would do the same for their grandchildren. And further back, my grandparents sacrificed so their children, my parents, could have more than they did. As did aunts and uncles and great aunts and uncles. Family friends. Churches. Communities. Countries. Cultures. LEGIONS of people have endured hardship so my kids could go to a wonderful charter school in a safe neighborhood where their mom who lives close by and chose a flexible career could bring them their lunch that ONE TIME they forgot it. Not so I would cross my arms, sniff the air and tell them their indulged asses should “grow a pair.”

Do you really really think this lunch filled with love and some processed chips will make them entitled and lazy? Do you think it is parenting that has created these privileged millennials your resent? Or do you think it could be a world that has turned its back on their future? The world that handed every single one of them an iPhones free of charge/no holds barred. Whether it be that or the lack of jobs, the high interest rate of student loans, the cost of housing, cuts made to the arts, synthetic foods, the warming of the earth, the deforestation of the amazon…How does this brown bag make it all worse?

I think, for my kids and for my two cents, knowing their mom is around, has their back and can be there when they need it makes them expansive and kind and generous. I want my daughter to have her volleyball uniform because I’m proud of her efforts and I want her to continue. I don’t see how the sting of having to sit out the game in her school clothes buys anyone anything. The humiliation, the hunger, the shame of having forgotten something and having to go without is not a guaranteed ticket to empathy and courage. We can’t predict how children will react to their circumstances. Mom brings forgotten lunch to school = entitled generation of assholes IS NOT math…or science. It’s a theory. And it’s one sided.

My kids have actually never flat out asked me to bring them something forgotten. Usually I find it at home. And to abate the grinding pull of parental empathy-guilt inside me I will sometimes go way out of my way to get my kids what they need…and to appease that yearning in myself. I’m doing this for me and for my kids. For me, the two are in many ways the same. And encouraging a mother to fight against her innate sense of connection to her child is just dumb. We need more connection, not less.

Dear well-meaning, teenage-neighborhood watch person: do not project your fears for the future on my kid’s lunch bag.

I got up early and packed it and I’ll be damned if he’s going without it.




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