Breakfast. Second Breakfast. Elevenses. Lunch. Snack. Dinner.
The dance is real, people. Well, I wouldn’t call it a dance per se…more like a fumble with two left feet while standing on a yoga ball and juggling marshmallows…that are on fire.
(After 6 kids I finally broke down and served them Ramen. Hobbes loved it.)
Meal planning and follow-through for a large family present a unique set of challenges. Lunch at school is particularly tricky. (Since an adolescent experience of wading through the lunchroom’s garbage can full of pounds of refused turkey, gravy and fake mashed potatoes in search of a misplaced retainer AND because I will never be able to unsee what I saw that day, I committed to providing home lunches for our kids.)
A sandwich or a wrap, a vegetable, a fruit, a snack and a treat. Easy peasy. Right? I figured there would be an occasional trade along the way but I’m starting to think I underestimated the power of lunchroom bartering.
Recently, Ruby changed the game entirely. She has merchandised the nutritious offerings I have prepared for her. Suddenly, lunchtime has become a stock exchange. And our little ‘Finder of Things’ would rather gather trinkets to cherish than to eat.
The first time this occurred, she brought home a lovely little jewelry box she filled with treasures by the time she got home. Upon further inquiry, I discovered she got this by trading for the baggie of herby popcorn I packed earlier that day…which was from the bottom of the popcorn bag, full of kernel shells and half broken pieces.
I was a bit horrified and lectured her on the importance of making a fair trade. She shrugged her shoulders and responded, “But she REALLLLY wanted that bag of popcorn.”
I let it slide.
During the drive home the next day, she proudly produced a one dollar bill.
“What’s that for?” I asked.
“A rock.” she replied.
“But…” I began to protest.
“No mom.” She explained. “Don’t worry. It was purple and shiny…not like the brown ones that are everywhere.”
There was something impressive about her haggling skills so I let her buy a pack of gum with that dollar and reminded her to be fair.
Then, it all took a grievous turn.
First, I discovered a bag of moldy sliced vegetables I made for her weeks before crammed into the deepest crevices under her bed.
BUSTED. She lost her lunch treats for a couple of days over that one.
After being freed of such brutal punishment, I added a cookie and chips to her lunch.
Later that day, I picked up a brokenhearted Ruby. She traded a single BBQ potato chip for a pencil holder but the negotiations broke down when the other party decided it wasn’t a fair deal, took the pencil back…and unceremoniously ate the potato chip right in front of her.
The play-by-play was pretty graphic.
Always one to bounce back, yesterday she turned her lemon bar into a plush emoji. And the Wolf of the Cafeteria Wall Street was back.
Until today. Today she suffered the greatest loss yet. Furnished with a PB&J on 10 grain, sliced peppers, apple wedges and 4 Peppermint Joe Joe’s, as lunchtime rolled around she was looking to unload some serious stock. What she wasn’t expecting was betrayal. Utter and complete treachery.
Her usual broker pulled a bait and switch. After securing a trade for nail polish, Ruby lost her Joe Joe’s when the transaction soured during recess. The cookies, long since digested, were no longer desirable to the previous owner. With the threat of classroom drama looming over Ruby, she had no choice. She had to surrender the nail polish and lost 100% of her assets in the open market exchange.
Disenchanted by the outcome, on the way home from school she declared her determination never to trade with this particular friend again. “Mom, from now on I’m going to eat my whole, entire lunch. No more trading.” she promised.
“Oh. And can I have some Joe Joe’s for snack?”
Here’s where I pontificate. There are burning questions. Should I even be letting her trade her lunch in the first place? Especially for non-food items? What happens if she trades her fruit snacks for a puppy? Then what? What must this other unknown child’s parents think of us?
And so, tonight as I prepare for another day and another lunch I find myself wondering whether or not Ruby will really get out of the game. The thrill of success can be quite enticing and if the deal is just too good to pass up…
To the parents whose child just traded away his or her little brother, I promise we’re reasonable people and will absolutely renegotiate the terms.