By KATE HUNTER
This year, my friend Sophia stopped packing lunches for her eight-year-old son Matthew.
‘What?’ I asked, ‘Does he do them himself?’
‘No,’ Sophia replied.
‘Does he have tuckshop?’
‘No, he just doesn’t eat at school. He’s too interested in playing. I got sick of chucking out sandwiches and fruit and crackers and yogurt, so I just send him off with water.’
‘Really?’ I was impressed. It’s what so many parents I know dream of doing but wouldn’t dare.
Sophia mistook my astonishment for admonishment: ‘He’s fine. Look at him.’ Matthew was in our pool that day – a handsome boy with a mop of goldy blond hair and a killer freestyle.
‘He eats a big breakfast – porridge, an egg, banana,’ explained Sophia. ‘Then he inhales afternoon tea and always eats a proper dinner. Now we don’t fight over uneaten lunches. We’re all happier.’
Good on Soph, I thought and resolved to call a similar truce in the new school year. I’ve tried everything to get my elder daughter to eat lunch – I’ve made every bloody couscous wrap, vege muffin, pasta salad, turkey pinwheel in the Women’s Weekly back-to-school lift-out but they all came home.
I even resorted to making my daughter feel guilty – telling her to sit and stare at her uneaten chicken sandwich, reflecting on the love and time I’d put into it along with the HOME-MADE mayonnaise.
So… Food is one fight I will not have in 2013. My kids will not starve and I will retain my mental health, which in probability terms, may not have otherwise been the case.
And there are other battles I’ve wasted time on. Time I won’t get back. They include:
1. Inappropriate clothes that don’t go together. If my kids don’t care they look like visually impaired Hawaiian pole dancers, why should I? Sure, their grandparents might not appreciate the look when they take them to church, but the church needs numbers, surely. There’s no commandment about wearing floral shorts with a boob tube and poncho is there?
2. Tomato sauce on peas. Erk. I wouldn’t want to eat it, but I don’t have to. Unless the additives in the sauce somehow cancels out the vitamin A in the peas, I’m all right, if not happy for others to season as they please.
3. Crappy Disney sitcoms. Annoying, and I would prefer them to be watched when I am a long way from the TV; but no one gets shot, has sex or does Tequila slammers in iCarly (not that I’ve seen anyway). I grew up on The Brady Bunch, over and over and over again. Drove mum nuts, but I’m okay, even if I referred to my Australian school as ‘junior high’.
4. Hairstyles. I used to dream of the day my girls could do their own hair. Now they can, and often my youngest will have up to 11 pigtails sprouting from her little head. She looks like a leaky bucket. I have told her such styles could be considered ‘extreme’ and therefore would contravene school rules, but she tells me Miss Finnigan never says anything. I figure if Miss Finnigan can turn a blind eye, so can I.
5. Cartoony kids’ books. I’m lucky, my kids are voracious readers but given the choice, they will go for Wimpy Kid over Storm Boy or Little Women. Odd, huh? Wimpy Kid is still a story though, and has positive be-a-decent-person messages amidst all the snot, rogue hair and moronic name-calling. I’m just glad they’re reading.
6. Ordering in restaurants. I’ve always had this thing, that when my husband and I eat out it’s deeply uncool to both order exactly the same meal. Even if we both want the linguini, I make Jim have the risotto so the waitstaff don’t think we’re unimaginative. He gets pissed off and ends up eating half my meal which I find annoying. I’ve realised – embarrassingly recently – that the waitstaff couldn’t give a flying f*ck. Liguini for two, please.
7. Online barnies. Hasn’t happened often but I’ve learned that engaging with a name-calling git online is a hiding to nowhere. It’s an endless battle for the last word and a complete waste of time.
8. Earrings. My elder daughter is 9. For some reason I have always thought 13 was the earring age. I was determined to hold out until then. Now, I’m thinking, ’10 is fine. What’s the difference? Is it really worth digging my heels in? I’m thinking not. It’s not like she wants a Lord Of The Rings panorama tattooed across her shoulders. I’ve told her that can wait until 15. And I’m sticking to that.
What are the battles you’ve let slide? What are you sticking to your guns over?