It’s mid-January and I’m counting down the days. In just a few weeks our little darlings slide their squishy feet into shiny new shoes, drag discarded back packs from the shelves and neatly write their names on perfect new lunchboxes.
These are to be the receptacles of the unsullied sandwiches, carefully chosen snacks and lovingly cut fruit for the year ahead. Gleaming new lunchboxes that haven’t been dropped. Or hidden under a car seat crevice with a fermenting apple.
Lids are not yet lost. Lunchboxes are fresh with promise. They sit empty, awash with dreams of what is to come. At the beginning of every school year I always start the kids with a new lunchbox. I call it the “hope box”. Basically I hope I can muster the inspiration to create healthy and delicious lunches for another year. Generally all hope is dashed by March.
I have five children aged eight to 22. I worked out recently that by the time Ivy finishes school I will have been making lunches for 30 years. A little bit of cerebral fluid trickled out my ear when I realised that. That's three decades of the alarm going off half an hour earlier than everyone else, so that I can stand bleary-eyed in the kitchen trying to invent something out of nothing.
The mother guilt hits in. I really should have gone shopping yesterday. Should have bought fresh fruit. I should have baked. I hate to admit it but 6am is not when I feel at my culinary peak. I cook best with a glass of wine in my hand, but that’s not how I want to be making school lunches! "Oh, that's strange, Mummy packed me blue vein cheese, kalamata olives and a champers!"
It’s become harder. Lunch making wasn’t something you did an adult education course in. Children of the past were used to lacklustre lunches. They didn’t need mum to go that extra mile, but now, it’s game on. Lunches have changed.