School Days, Special Days
by Linda Gilden
I sat in the car and watched my little first-grader run up the steps. Her backpack swayed from side to side, too light to stay down. How heavy could a new pencil and small pad of lined paper be?
She had gotten out of the car almost before the wheels stopped turning, shouted a quick “Bye, Mom!” over her shoulder, and never looked back.
I, on the other hand, sat in the car with my mouth half open, a big tear threatening to escape one eye as I watched this monumental event in her life. I was only slightly aware that the carpool line now had a big gap where the car in front of me had long ago reached the corner traffic light. The driver behind me was tapping his fingers on the steering wheel wondering if I was ever going to move. And I was not going anywhere until I saw my daughter safely through the door of the school.
Will the teacher take good care of her? Will she be sensitive to her needs? Will there be nice children in her class? Can she quickly make new friends? What about the school work – will it be too hard for her? Or too easy?
These concerns are probably normal for a mother sending her child off to school for the first time. But our family schedule had changed and we needed to make adjustments. I quickly discovered some things that made the morning routine go more smoothly.
- Lay all clothes out at night before going to bed.
- Gather books and homework and return to backpack.
- Make sure any special projects, show and tell, book reports, etc. are by the door.
- Sign papers and read any parent correspondence in the evening.
- Pray in the car on the way to school. Don’t wait until he or she has a hand on the door to jump out and join friends.
And, of course,
- Pack lunch.
The lunchbox can be a source of physical food as well as encouragement.
When selecting food for your child’s lunch, pick foods he or she enjoys. Nutrition can’t benefit the body unless it is eaten! Here are a few suggestions for healthy lunchbox fare.
- Pita pocket filled with child’s favorite chopped veggies. Add grated cheese and mix with low-fat salad dressing (Ranch dressing works well). If your child has a late lunch, put filling and dressing in small sealed containers so the child can fill the pocket at lunch. Or substitute tuna for the veggies. To round out lunch, send favorite nuts and a small container of unsweetened applesauce.
- Thinly sliced turkey wrapped around apple slices. Add celery and carrot sticks and a small container of peanut butter for dipping.
- Peanut butter on banana bread or whole-grain bagel (mini-size) served with cucumber slices and a box of raisins. Make sure you use just the amount of peanut butter your child likes.
- Cold leftover pizza with carrot sticks and grapes.
- Thermos of your child’s favorite soup, a muffin, and a box of raisins.
Don’t forget special days to make the lunchbox memorable. On birthdays, add a cupcake and candle (no matches, of course!). At Christmas include a sprig of holly or a piece of tinsel. For Valentine’s Day, hearts are in order. They can be drawn with a toothpick dipped in red food coloring directly on the sandwich bread. Or put a red heart sticker on the banana!
The lunchbox can also serve as a mailbox where you can leave notes of encouragement for your child.
For the first day of school, your note might read something like this: This is a very special day! You are going to love school. Learn a lot and make lots of new friends. I am proud of my first grader. I love you very much! (Note: If your first grader is not yet reading, use a very simple drawn note such as an eye, heart, u!)
For other days, just a short declaration of how special your child is or a reminder that you will be thinking about him or her during the day is sufficient. My daughter always said, “It didn’t really matter what you said. Just having the note made me feel special and reminded me that you loved me!”
It’s never fun for summer to come to an end but it happens every year! Use your children’s lunchboxes to make school days special and remind them that even though you are not together during the day, you are still their head cheerleader.
Linda Gilden is a speaker, writer, editor, and writing coach and the author of the Love Notes series including Love Notes in Lunchboxes. She has packed over two thousand lunches for her children and there was a note in every single one of them! Linda lives in SC with her family.