Every week we take a peek inside the lunches of the luckiest kids in Brooklyn. Read on, suppress your jealousy, and get a little brown bag inspiration.
Sometimes I feel like an idiot posting school lunches with smoked salmon and chive flowers—I can see how I might look out-of-touch, unrealistic, or (ouch!) living in a Brooklyn bubble. There is likely some truth to this, too. But I thought I'd take a moment to explain why I put forth these lunches. I don't write these posts to show you that I'm a better parent. I'm not. Nor do I shuffle around in my pjs at 7 a.m., taking photos in a windowsill, just to show off all the "crazy" things our kids will eat. Ask my kids what their favorite food is, and they will say "pasta," just like most kids would. There are plenty of days when my kids are getting rolled up slices of ham and cheese, crackers, and an apple—I figure you don't need me to show you how to assemble this time-tested kids offering. I don't have any special technique for rolling ham, promise!
But I, like you, have a desire to get my kids to love eating, to value the huge variety of food the world offers us, to keep their minds and palates stimulated and curious, and to help them eat healthily. I also have a personal philosophy that teaching kids to explore new-to-them flavors keeps them open-minded to the world—to different ideas, different opinions, and different cultures. I also believe that we, as parents, are responsible for educating and socializing our kids at the table. Just as we insist that our children do their homework, we need to insist that they eat new foods—even if they don't always like them. Life is enriched by compromise, sharing, and challenges—and all of these can be taught at the table. I would even argue that these lessons are more important than math homework, as they affect every aspect of your life.
You may wonder how we get our kids to eat kale and clams, and here is the answer: we make them (we're warm but firm), and we don't offer choices. Psychologists will tell you that kids respond to consistency and confidence. While I can't say I'm great at this when it comes to bedtime, I never waver at the table. People don't want to hear this because we live in the Age of Coddling but I strongly believe that kids need and actually crave guidance and direction, especially when they're young. And since I also believe that we should eat the same meals as our kids—showing unity and companionship—I don't want to eat boring food, so they're not getting boring food.
There is another reason I take this approach: I want our kids to see the table as a welcoming place. Whether or not they will eat their dinner has never been a conversation topic at meals, so we're able to talk about other things, like the song they just learned or the details of a soccer game. And when I do offer options—I'm not an ogre; I do value self-expression—it's received as a joyful treat. For instance, we do make-your-own fish tacos; or they'll get to decide on the components of a salad; or I'll give them a choice between rhubarb crumble or cookies for dessert. By leading them from the early days, our lives at the table have been easy—a place with rules, respect, and calm.
Feeding your children in this way is not easy to pull off every day. So here, in this weekly post, I display the best idea I have that week—I do it for you, of course, but I also do it for myself, to push myself. Parenting can sometimes feel solitary—you are alone making decisions and all of your actions have profound effects on your children. It's difficult to constantly motivate yourself to get better in all areas of parenting. I've found that writing this simple column has held me accountable for the effort I put into my kids' lunches and has inspired me to do more. You've unknowingly supported me along the way by reading. And I thought it was time to thank you.
The lunch: baked and smoked salmon spread with chive flowers, pickled mustard seeds, dill, and sturdy lettuce on dark rye bread; strawberries; and drbabs' Magical Marvelous Memorable Cookies (I used light brown sugar, which is why they look different from our recipe photo).
What's in your lunch today? See some of the twins' past lunches.