Saturday, August 7, 2010

lunch box battles (and a glimpse of my childhood)

It's August, which means it's back to school shopping time. So last weekend with everyone fed and napped, and presumably happy, we headed out as a family to buy school supplies for Emma and Nathan. We were not int the store for very long when I realized taking the whole family on this shopping trip was a horrible idea. First Megan played the in the cart, out of the cart game, then Jackson started crying to get out since Megan was, which Sean finally gave in to. Then Brooklyn started crying, so Sean ended up holding her. I was busy with Emma and Nathan and my lists I had made; one for each kid. Things were ok on my end briefly, until I started picking up the items on Emma's list that were not on Nathan's.
N: "mom, who's that for?"
Me: "Emma."
N: "no fair!"
Me: "I'm sorry Nathan, but I don't make the lists, and this is what Emma needs for school."
N: "hrumph" and then the pouting face.
We repeated this exchange a few more times until I discovered the store was out of the rest of the supplies we needed. At that point I suggested we go to the next aisle and look for new lunchboxes. The kids need new ones since their old ones had survived 2+ years and were pretty gross from being thrown on the ground at recess. So we pushed the car, and herded the kids over, and that's when the REAL fun began.
Sean and I both agreed on one type of lunchbox that wasn't really cool, but one that would hold their food, keep it cold, and fit nicely in their backpacks. I asked the kids to pick out which color they wanted, and Nathan promptly picked up a blue one, tossed it in the cart, and hopped on the side of the cart ready to go. Emma had other ideas.
While Sean and I had been discussing lunchboxes and corralling kids, Emma had been doing her own shopping, and had found the perfect lunchbox. Unfortunately for all of us, it was not the same one mom and dad had selected. Emma's choice was an adorable purse-like ladybug lunchbox, that she could carry "just like this" she demonstrated throwing it up onto her shoulder. I took a deep breath knowing I was in for a battle over this, and tried to explain that even though I agreed the ladybug one was really cool, we did not need to spend that much on a lunchbox, when the other one was 1/4 the price and would do the job just fine. Instantly met with more resistance than I was prepared to defeat that day, I handed things over to Sean, and took Brooklyn from him, who was really starting to fuss.
As Sean tried reasoning with Emma, first with humor, and when that failed, with the same logic I tried, I began to feel sad. Not because we were that crazy family in Target with crabby kids and one throwing a fit over something she couldn't have, but because I wanted Emma to have that ladybug lunchbox too. The tears started welling up in my eyes, so I took the cart, and all the other kids to start to make my way to the checkout, and I left Sean to deal with Emma.
I know you're all thinking "ok crazy post-partum hormonal lady, get a grip, it's just a lunchbox," but to me, it's much more than that.
When I was a kid, I was teased about all sorts of things. I'm sure everyone got teased in school, but the way it made me feel has really stuck with me. My dad passed away right after I switched to public school, and right when puberty started to hit.  As if switching schools, and dealing with all the pre-pubescent crap wasn't enough, my dad died and I was left with my mom as my only parent.  It's not that my mom is a bad person, she and I have always butted heads about everything for as long as I can remember.  My dad made a nice referee for us, but without him, the only rule-maker in the house, was the one I never got along with, and she was insanely old-fashioned.  Her old-fashioned rules made things very hard for me to fit in at school. No, I didn't have to wear long dresses, and turtlenecks all the time or anything like that, but I definitely had more restrictions than other kids.  And let's be honest in middle school and beyond, the last thing you want to be is different.  It's much easier if you fit in with everyone else.  In addition to being left with my mom's rules, we were also left with less money.  We were not poor by any stretch of the imagination, but we also couldn't afford for me to have all the best of everything, and all the stuff everyone else had.  Now that I'm an adult, I get it, and I know lots of people were like me and didn't have everything all the other kids had, but when I was a kid, I felt like I was the only one missing out, and I hated feeling like I was less than everyone else because of that.
So now that I have kids, I'm having a panic attack that they are going to experience what I went through.  Realistically, even if we had all the money in the world and could afford to buy everything for our kids, we probably wouldn't.  But the reality of our life, and our family of 5 kids, is that we will all have to sacrifice some things we really, really want.  We will always provide our kids with the things they need, but they won't always get the coolest, most expensive item to fill that need.  I'm sad that they may someday have that feeling that they are less than everyone else because they don't have the newest, greatest things all the time.
It's been almost a week, and Emma still isn't happy about her plain pink lunchbox, and to be honest, neither am I.

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