Eeew, that's disgusting. Elementary school lunchtime social resilience.
August 27, 2013 6:28 PM   Subscribe

How can I help my son to not feel embarrassed socially for having the healthy (and admittedly a little weird) lunches that I give him for school?

My son's lunch on his first day of 3rd grade was: tofu pieces that he'd cut up into parallelograms, and that he'd doused in sriracha (he loves sriracha); some cut up melon that he likes; some white rice that he asked for; and a chocolate cookie that I snuck into the lunchbox. I pack a lot of non-elementary-school-standard stuff. Little cups of red or black beans, vegetables, fruits, hummous wraps, ...

He's pretty okay with eating these things. I'll qualify that a little: He's unhappy if things look soggy. He'd prefer lunchables (which his mom often packs) and he wishes he could get meat sometimes (which his mom also packs. I'm vegetarian and prefer not to; we have separate households.) The biggest thing going on, though, is embarrassment, and that's what this question is about.

He told me he *hid* the lunch under the table, because he didn't want to be picked on. That breaks my heart! (He's told me at other times that everyone has lunchables. He's also told me that lots of kids have just junkfood, and he named four kids including himself who eat healthy lunches, sounding like he did in fact respect them and himself for it.)

My question: Is there anything I can do or say to help him not feel self-conscious at lunch time. Do I have to change the lunches? Can I help him feel good, even if the kids really do sometimes say "eeeeww, that's disgusting".

(One very nice thing: he told me if someone picks on him like that he doesn't say anything back because they'd just do more teasing.)
posted by spbmp to Human Relations (65 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I think you have three options.

You can change the lunches to be more standard (or at least look more standard)

You can tell him to suck it up

You can put a lot more effort and decor into his lunches so they become the coolest lunches in school. Google 'bento lunch'. There are so many inspiring pictures and blogs out there. I'm betting that if his lunch box is filled with flowers and animals, etc., he won't be hiding it for long.
posted by bq at 6:35 PM on August 27, 2013 [12 favorites]

Hmm... that's a hard one. If he's in third grade, what has he done up until now, or has it just become an issue this year? Also, the three other kids who eat "healthy" lunches; what are they eating?

I'd say you could probably come to some compromise between what he's taking now and lunchables.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:35 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

If he's hiding, is there any way you can make him more normal looking lunches? I'd focus on sandwiches, because those look pretty normal. Hummus and sprouts or thinly sliced cucumbers, cream cheese, cheese sandwiches, that sort of thing, all on bread rather than a wrap. There are happy mediums between Totally Weird Hippie Food (from the POV of an 8 year old, not me) and lunchables.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:35 PM on August 27, 2013 [36 favorites]

Best answer: Aww... Hard as it is, I don't think the take-away lesson is that if someone is ostracizing you for your sensible (healthy) choices, you should change and do the same thing they are doing in order to get them to stop making fun of you. Ask him what he would like to eat if he lived on the moon and was just basing the decision on what he enjoyed eating (not what other kids are eating). Maybe that's the best thing to put in his school lunch. If he likes his tofu with sriracha and humus wraps then maybe there's some way to make him proud of his sriracha and humus wraps so he's projecting enough confidence to not be easily be made a target.

Lunchables are tasty but not particularly healthy and pretty wasteful with all the plasticky stuff.
posted by mermily at 6:35 PM on August 27, 2013 [12 favorites]

What are you serving the lunch in? I wonder if a form of bento box lunch with the exact same ingredients would be more appealing (more like treats) and less embarrassing? Or is 3rd grade the start of "Ewww, my parents payed attention to me!!"
posted by muddgirl at 6:35 PM on August 27, 2013

I think third grade is probably old enough to involve your kid in some of the decision-making here. So, trying to have a conversation that goes something like:

Well, what do you think we should do about this? Some options I think might work are A, B, and C, but what do you think? Do you have other ideas?

Some possible options that occur to me are:
1. Packing lunches that are still vegetarian and healthy, but more 'typical lunches' - so, PB&J (or almond butter and J depending on the school) on whole grain, carrot sticks, and a granola bar might be options.
2. Having the kid help pack the meat portion of the lunch so you do not have to deal with it.
3. Homemade 'lunchable' type lunches that he can assemble himself (i.e. crackers, cheese, chickpeas, etc.)
4. Kid decides he's going to deal with the teasing and help him come up with some good responses.
posted by rainbowbrite at 6:37 PM on August 27, 2013 [9 favorites]

Best answer: There is absolutely no reason that a healthy lunch needs to be soggy, involve anything weird, look disgusting, or just not look presentable.

If he's feeling ashamed and embarrassed I don't think it's a good idea to just force him through it.

Have some options for him that would be less freaky to your average 3rd grader than globs of tofu in sriracha (I say this as someone who loves both.) Think WAY MORE about presentation. Give him things to bring that both look and taste GREAT to the average person, that aren't too out there, that he can share.
posted by cairdeas at 6:38 PM on August 27, 2013 [10 favorites]

... Fun shaped lunches?

It may take a little extra time, but it would make it cool! It sounds like the ingredients you are including are some basics for many of these meals (lots of rice backgrounds and fruits.)

Cute Lunch Ideas - Pinterest
You can find tons of ideas like these ones online in various places.
Also muddgirl has a similar idea of dressing it up, with the more used term of bento box, although cute lunch brings up similar results.
posted by Crystalinne at 6:38 PM on August 27, 2013

I was just coming in to suggest your own "lunchables." We do them with cheese cut in fun shapes, hummus, veggies (fun shapes again if you're so inclined), dried or fresh fruit and a few whole wheat crackers. Kiddo gets to mix and match and you get to be sure he's eating decent stuff.
posted by goggie at 6:40 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: He's also told me that lots of kids have just junkfood, and he named four kids including himself who eat healthy lunches, sounding like he did in fact respect them and himself for it.

That is great, but I also don't think it's a good idea for him to think of healthy eating as something noble he does (when it's his only option) that will separate him from other people and make them tease and be disgusted by him.

It's also not good to cultivate looking down on other kids for what they eat. Lots of those kids might have parents without the money, time or know-how to give them anything but Lunchables.

It would be so much better IMO to teach the lesson that people can react in weird ways to the unfamiliar, but there are ways to gently lead them out of their comfort zones. Bringing things he'd be proud to share and they wouldn't be too scared to eat would practically be salivating to eat is a good way to do that.
posted by cairdeas at 6:45 PM on August 27, 2013 [51 favorites]

From my experience working with a particular group of elementary school kids (so YMMV), a cool decorated bento box lunch would without question have the opposite effect of what you're looking for. Ask him if he thinks that will work, but be prepared that the answer may mean no. Looking "normal" is not necessarily looking "great"

Sometimes, these kinds just want to fit in, and sometimes that's ok.

I do want to endorse goggie's make-your-own lunchables idea -- As I kid we used to do them on ritz crackers with cold cut turkey that i would cut into circles with a cookie cutter (plus cheese and other goodness). I have strong feelings against forcing kids into their parents' dietary choices (i.e., vegetarianism) if they don't want to do that, but if that's something you are insistent on over his stated preferences, then you'll have to enlist him for what he likes that looks similar enough without being meat.
posted by brainmouse at 6:47 PM on August 27, 2013 [31 favorites]

Why not just ask him if he'd prefer Lunchables? If he says yes, you can always revisit that decision in a few weeks when he's more comfortable with his classmates. I know you want to give him a healthier lunch, but a few weeks of compromise won't jeopardize his health. Add some fruit or veggies to the Lunchable and it's not a complete wasteland.
posted by 26.2 at 6:48 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I was your kid in third grade. I ate cottage cheese and apple butter instead of Lunchables, tofu instead of Doritos, and peaches instead of pudding cups. I was the only person at the lunch table with dark brown bread that my mother had made by hand instead of Wonder Bread. In second grade, this was not a problem whatsoever. In the beginning of third grade, I was startled to find that people were actually paying attention to my lunch and making fun of me.

I stopped sitting with the people making fun of my lunch if they weren't my friends, and teasingly got people to try my lunch and admit it was wicked delicious if they were my friends. This was partially accomplished by telling them I would trade an entire homemade brownie if they just tried one bite of my cucumber and cream cheese sandwich--and a few weeks later, I noticed one of my friends had her own cucumber sandwich. Having my mother write me happy Post-it notes in indecipherable cursive and paste them to the bottom of my lunch bag (very surreptitiously, so none of my friends could read them, just me) helped a lot with lunch time anxiety as well. Both of these may not be possible for your son, but it worked for me.

It's the start of a new school year. By the middle of third grade, I was packing my own lunch. This happened gradually, starting with my mother giving me choices, as rainbowbrite mentioned above. I generally picked food that was as "normal looking" as possible, and put it in a Thermos or an opaque Tupperware if it wasn't. But I always put something in that was tradeable--an extra brownie, an extra cookie, etc etc.

This passes. By the middle of the year, this may not be an issue. By middle school, it certainly won't.
posted by skyl1n3 at 6:52 PM on August 27, 2013 [27 favorites]

Best answer: I totally agree with cairdeas.

It would be so much better IMO to teach the lesson that people can react in weird ways to the unfamiliar, but there are ways to gently lead them out of their comfort zones. Bringing things he'd be proud to share and they wouldn't be too scared to eat would practically be salivating to eat is a good way to do that.

My mum baked her own bread, cookies and cakes. Our lunchboxes tended to contain things like homemade lentil patties with sprout salad, some homemade bread, fruit salad and homemade muesli slice. I remember registering the difference, and cringing a little, when I first noticed that the other kids had white-bread Vegemite sandwiches (Australia, 1980s), mini packets of crisps and juice boxes.

But you know what? I got over it in, like, 3 seconds. It was a blip on the radar of my childhood that I only remember because this post brought it up. Once we all got a bit older, I noticed that the Italian kids were eating 'chocolate' (Nutella) sandwiches, which we thought was very exotic, and the Vietnamese kids were eating rice-paper noodle wraps, and so on.

And when we got older still, most kids were downright jealous of my lunches, and used to beg to swap their slices of lamington roll (store-bought sponge cakes with fake cream rolled up inside) for my homemade carob-muesli balls.

Work with your kid on this, and be prepared to compromise a bit, but I don't think you should cave and buy Lunchables. Honestly, as an adult I am supremely grateful that my mother stuck to her guns. I am extremely healthy, and have it ingrained in me to make good food choices. This really does help set your kid up for life, IMO.
posted by Salamander at 6:59 PM on August 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

Hey, life-long vegetarian here so I sort of feel his pain -- but mostly I want to echo the idea that he will get over it soon but that the packaging is likely very important.

In my day this was a character lunch box and then (abruptly!) a brown paper sack with plastic baggies in it, but I'm sure that's not still the case. We have these but they're for a homeschooling co-op and, uh, the lunch you describe would not raise an eyebrow there so maybe our 'normal' sort of lunch container there is not what's cool in his third grade. Ask. Purchase.

Also seconding the plain-ness of sandwiches. It was remarkable when I brought in my massive troughs of salad but nobody looks funny at a sandwich. My mother put the tomato slices in a separate baggie so things wouldn't sog; I took this for granted at the time but now, well, wow, well done.

There's lots of healthy food that's more mainstream-y than what you've described and if supermarket sliced brown bread is more acceptable than a wrap for a covering for healthy food, switch -- a lot of "wraps" are just as cruddy as preservative-y factory bread anyway.

Costco is pretty good for single-serving pre-packaged stuff that is not garbage -- we get grapefruit cups, 2yo cheddar slices, single-serving hummus, etc, there, and just being in plastic would make it less lulzy for other kids.

But like Salamander I am pretty grateful I grew up eating well and I think you are especially right to dig in a bit here if half his lunches are often Lunchables anyway.

(I don't think actual Lunchables are a viable option for OP here -- there are nearly no vegetarian ones. Kid would be alternating between stale "nachos" and stale "pizza" if I understand Lunchables correctly. That and they are absolutely terrible "food," nutritionally and taste-wise. Lots of kids are apparently getting crap for lunch nowadays; a grade school teacher I know said most of what comes in is "factory packaged something with an expiry date in 2016." So the norm here may be pretty terrible indeed and worth fighting)
posted by kmennie at 7:21 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lunchables are high in sodium, and basically junk food; good for you for not buying them. I got them once in an while for my son, but hated the nutritional void.

I'd talk to the school about what they do for nutrition education, and mention that making fun of kids' lunches is a gateway to bullying. Mostly because schools often suck about these issues. He can tell other kids My dad takes the time to make me healthy lunches even though he's busy which has the added benefit of being true.

Can he shop with you, and the 2 of you negotiate lunch choices? and can he start making his own lunches? and maybe bring some extra carrot sticks with dip, or other treats, to share. The occasional cool treat, like a matchbox car, superhero figure, or origami fish would also make his unusual lunches more enviable. When he's old enough to appreciate your attention to nutrition, I hope he remembers to thank you.
posted by theora55 at 7:31 PM on August 27, 2013

Can you go middle of the road? A typical school lunch for my kids might include a cream cheese and jam sandwich on whole wheat, sliced cucumbers and baby carrots, yogurt with maple syrup, sliced apples, rice crackers and a no added sugar juice box. It's still pretty healthy but doesn't stand out as much as chunks of tofu. Let your kid help you with shopping to pick out the things he likes.

Your other option is joining the parents' advisory committee. The school our kids go to has a strict policy about what types of foods are allowed in lunches. That includes no sugary drinks, chips, candy, pseudo muffins or sweet granola bars. The policy was developed by parents in conjuction with the school nurse and it makes things much easier. I had to look up lunchables, didn't even know what they were.
posted by Cuke at 7:39 PM on August 27, 2013

Best answer: Never soak anything before lunchtime, or it WILL be soggy! If your son wants tofu and sriracha (I had to Google that as I've never heard of sriracha before!), pack them in separate containers so he can dip his tofu at lunchtime.

But I wonder: how did you decide what to pack him for lunch? You say he loves sriracha and wanted the white rice, but you also mention several times in your post that he told you his friends have lunchables, his Mom packs lunchables, he would prefer lunchables and he wants meat in his lunch, too. It is only the first day and he is already bringing this up--I think he's letting you know what he wants. Why not listen to him?

Put together a more Lunchable-like lunch for your son. Cheese (or you can substitute a healthy peanut butter if you prefer), crackers (or a tortilla or pita) are not unhealthy for a growing kid, and will work if you really, really don't want that meat in his lunch. The melon and cookie can still go in there, too.

I get that you are a vegetarian, by the way, and you will have to decide how to square all that with your vegetarian principles (is your son a vegetarian, too?), but I kinda get the idea from the way you worded your question that you are very Proud of Your Healthy Lunches! And are trying to Make a Statement with them!

This is not a hill I think you want to die on. Your kid is just a third grader in the first week of school--when all the kids are getting to know each other--who doesn't want to be embarrassed at lunchtime. Maybe later in the year he will want and appreciate your more unique lunch packing style. Right now, he is just trying to fit in.

Having volunteered for school cafeteria duty more than once, I can tell you that you would be amazed how many lunches get wasted, traded or thrown away! Better to have a son who is actually eating his somewhat more typical third grade lunch fare than one who is hiding it away or just not eating.

Oh, and how many chocolate cookies do you have? In my experience, sharing dessert goes a long way towards making friends out of the teasers, too!
posted by misha at 7:44 PM on August 27, 2013 [30 favorites]

Good lord. There has to be something in between lunch enables and tofu, right? I mean organic peanut butter on whole wheat with peanut butter and sugar free jam? Carrot sticks? Organic pudding? Yogurt?

There was an Indian kid in my elementary school who bright traditional Indian food who was picked on mercilessly. It's not right but it will happen. I wouldn't want to subject my kid to that. Find something healthy but "normal"
posted by bananafish at 8:04 PM on August 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

N'thing DIY lunchables. My mom refused to let my brother and me have lunchables because they were "too expensive." Whether this was true or just a lie she told us so we would shut up and choose healthier food options, I don't know. But what I ended up doing was making myself lunches that had little buildable pieces like lunchables. Part of the draw of lunchables is that you get to play with your food, and buildable lunches let you do that.

So. Things that might work for your kid (that I had as lunches) are the following (and keep in mind I am very meat-friendly, so take these ideas and adjust them to whatever you guys eat):

-pita bread cut up into triangles with a little bowl of hummus
-tiny circles of pizza crust, a little tupperware of sauce to spread on them, shredded cheese, tiny pepperonis, and mushrooms
-crackers, turkey or ham or sausage, cheese
-small tortillas with a thing of ground beef or shredded chicken, a few packets of sauce left over from taco bell, and some shredded cheese for building tacos
-pasta with a tupperware of sauce to pour over and some parmesan folded up in some tinfoil
-mini bagels, a little tub of cream cheese, turkey, and sliced cucumbers

That's all I can remember off the top of my head, but the key is to have it all in separates so he can join in the building experience with the rest of his little lunchable-packing cohorts. And yes, always include a little cookie or small piece of candy or something.
posted by phunniemee at 8:09 PM on August 27, 2013 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Cuke, interestingly, the school is a charter school with a fairly big health focus and lots of nutrition education. When my son commented on the kids with junk food, he was actually putting it in that context: He said he couldn't believe that with the school is so big on being healthy, the kids were eating like that.

Interesting notion in cairdeas' comment that makes me wonder if I'm fostering classism. The question is about how to minimize the social separation that differences in food might be creating.

Sadly he doesn't like bringing cheese (doesn't like the texture by lunchtime), so the class of lunchable I could imitate in the lunchbox is pretty much off the table.

Touché regarding my own pride about the lunches (their healthiness, economy, lack of waste, and uniqueness, as well as my kid's funky tastes). I'll think about that.

Lots of helpful thoughts, sorry I can't respond to everything...
posted by spbmp at 8:10 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Fake lunchmeat. Tofurkey, Yves ham, whatever works; then he can say he has "ham" or "turkey" if he wants. Of course it's full of salt and whatever, but a third grader can probably tolerate it.

Maybe some cute/cool/nice small containers for the individual food items would be good.

Also, anything he gets to help make will automatically be more attractive to him. The sandwich idea is good, too - it will be less soggy if the bread, fake lunchmeat, tomatoes & lettuce etc. are packed separately, then he can combine them at lunch -- but that might be weird, too.

I've had good luck keeping sandwiches non-soggy by stacking them with tomatoes in the middle; so, from bottom to top: bread; light mayo; fake lunchmeat slices (to completely cover the bottom bread layer); tomato; lettuce (dried, and enough to cover the top bread); maybe a little mustard; bread. Don't slice the sandwich in half, and wrap such that the sandwich stays upright & together. Serve with something juicy (pickle, applesauce) and/or oily (everybody loves potato chips) so that the overall experience isn't too dry.

You could also pack the lunch with carrots/celery and some accompanying dip like dill mayo, peanut butter, chutney, vinaigrette, or whatever sauce he wants - then this could be added to the sandwich during lunch if desired for flavor, but won't have had a chance to soak in.


If you want homemade lunchables, though, that could be good too.

You might want to get a gel ice pack to keep the cheese in nicer condition. It could make a real difference. Also keep the cheese in its own container, possibly with a paper towel for dryness. If you haven't tried Parrano or Robusto, or another firmer cheese, that could help. Also, cutting the cheese into thinner slabs instead of cubes can make it more palatable when it's not completely cold -- really!

You can also make homemade baked tofu slabs that can go into a sandwich. Look for recipes; it can be as easy as put dressing on tofu and bake it (gently) for a while until it's chewy.
posted by amtho at 8:18 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

he doesn't like bringing cheese (doesn't like the texture by lunchtime)

Dude, bento box with mini icepacks or a well-insulated bag for the box. Easy fix. Cooling/insulating will really expand possibilities.
posted by kmennie at 8:20 PM on August 27, 2013 [6 favorites]

For cheese in lunches, you can also try a spreadable cheese like Laughing Cow, if that's not too weird for the kid.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:21 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

For the time being I would pack healthy food that looks as "normal" as possible (sandwiches, etc. as others have mentioned). It's super early in the school year and he may be more comfortable branching out once he feels more established.

Is he new to the school? Does he have established friends in his classroom? Is buying school lunch sometimes an available / acceptable option?

If your school does parent-provided snack, do you think he would be interested in bringing something a little off the wall but totally delicious for snack? That might kind of "break the ice" as it were. That or having enough to share in his lunch, though that's a little more loaded and less adult-supervised, I'd imagine.

Things that are "cool" to elementary kids in my school: anything that's dipped, quesadillas (even cold, which I don't really get but whatever, I'm not 8), fun drinks in pouches (and there are some okish ones that you can buy at Whole Foods, check out the kids version of Honest Tea for example-- might be more sugary than you'd like, but on pouch drink days no dessert?), and recognizable cookies (e.g. Oreos, Newman's Own knock-offs would totally work).

If this turns into a thing, definitely have a chat with his teacher or the person who supervises lunchtime to see if there's a different angle that he's not reporting or reporting for a somewhat skewed kid-perspective.
posted by charmcityblues at 8:26 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Childhood, school, fitting in, finding friends, not feeling weird is hard enough as it is! Please don't add one more thing he has to feel self conscious about. I think you should relent on this one. He'll figure out later that its healthy and cool to eat tofu. Now he needs you to help him reduce un-needed anxiety. Help him feel like he fits in, if that's what he wants.
posted by hollyanderbody at 8:26 PM on August 27, 2013 [7 favorites]

If you think your son will be receptive, you could explain that sometimes kids are mean about things when they're jealous or just don't understand. If he's fine with the food he eats, then who cares what the other kids think? They're not eating his lunch.

At my second elementary school, I was the only kid in my class who brought my lunch every day. It was never anything particularly unusual, but for whatever reason, all the popular kids at school bought hot lunch. None of the kids in my grade 5 class liked me much and they made fun of me for everything, including my "weird" packed lunches. I pretty much ignored it because I was weird and didn't care who noticed, plus I wanted to eat the same thing for lunch every day. The next year, probably because I didn't care at all, they decided I was cool, and all of them revealed that they were actually jealous of my "awesome" lunches because none of them actually liked the cafeteria food, which is why they were mean about it. After that, they'd always ask to try what I'd brought.

Kids are weird and react paradoxically. Maybe your son would feel better if he knew that they're probably not actually rejecting him. If they say anything about his food, could he respond that it's actually pretty good and offer them a small taste? I bet he could find at least one cafeteria sidekick who was brave enough to try, and after that the other kids might be less likely to ostracize him.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 8:32 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was your kid. My lunches usually consisted of a rice cake, cucumber slices (or a cuke and cream cheese sandwich), and some nori. It was packed in a brown bag. I would hide the bag and discreetly pull out a small bit of something to nibble on so no one would see. Meanwhile, everyone else had fruit roll ups, ham sandwiches and juice boxes. This is still a painful memory for me.

First off, please make sure your child is getting filled up enough (I was always hungry - obviously because rice cakes and cucumbers just aren't that filling).

Now that I have children (three!) I see the importance of a healthy meal. However, I try for "normal" AND healthy. The two can co-exist!

My kids' typical lunch meal is: a turkey and cheese roll (my kids don't like sandwiches) - basically a slice of turkey and a slice of cheese rolled together, a fruit/fruit slices (apples, peaches, plums), some veggies (cuke slices, carrots, green pepper) - and periodically I will include a small container of ranch for them to dip their veggies in, a granola bar, and a small bottle of water.

I feel these meals are pretty dang healthy and filling but still on the "normal" side of things - no nori here.

Another idea to consider - instead of including so many different/unique items, perhaps only include one (like the tofu and sriracha) and the rest can be the "normal" ordinary stuff.
posted by Sassyfras at 8:34 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: 3rd grade is about the age at which I wish I was taught the phrase: "Fuck all y'all, I don't have time for your chickenshit bullshit."

Mini-spbmp is okay with eating the food you make for him, you say. That's what food is for: eating. There is therefore not a problem with the food. Pour the dude a shot of sriracha and have the discussion about conformity and peer pressure and making one's own decisions and trusting one's own judgement and sticking up for oneself in the face of disapproval and not having time for the haters. Then ask him what he wants for lunch. If he wants Lunchables, pour him another shot of the 'racha, tell him all about Kraft, and then buy him some Lunchables for a while (unless you really won't, in which case see next parenthetical).

If he wants meat, tell him tough titty; the person supplying the food doesn't do meat purchases and he can buy his own damn meat (at this point you may want to pour him another shot of the 'racha and talk about how we all make our own ethical computations, predicated on different information and values, and we have to balance these, and sometimes have to work within the framework imposed by the decisions of those with more power, and that this is shitty, and he's welcome to subvert the imposed vegetarianism by any means within the bounds imposed by food safety, though this parenthetical aside is getting to be a bit much for third grade).

Hell, pour him another shot of sriracha and talk about whatever the circumstances are that result in some people packing 'racha-fu and others packing Lunchables. Talk about how eating healthily is an issue of skills and resources that are scattered heterogeneously among his classmates' parents, and how this is largely the result of some pretty Disney-villain shit. Then, yeah, give him a flask of the 'racha to share with his friends after lunch over by the swingset. (By "flask of the 'racha" here I really mean something totally delicious made with your bare hands, and maybe his.)

Then continue being the epic lunch-ninja that you are.

(I was raised on (incredibly malodorous, in the estimation of my classmates) canned mackerel that my mother stuck in my backpack. I mourned my stench and lack of Dunkaroos and the attendant ostracism, but learned to rise above my classmate's bullshit and enshrine myself in even more convoluted and ridiculous bullshit of my own creation. And now I -- no joke -- eat a spoonful of hot sauce in the morning while I wait for coffee water to boil.)
posted by kengraham at 8:41 PM on August 27, 2013 [24 favorites]

Response by poster:
And now I -- no joke -- eat a spoonful of hot sauce in the morning while I wait for coffee water to boil.)
posted by spbmp at 8:52 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Third grade is old enough for him to help with packing his own lunch. Why not pack lunch together instead of trying to figure out on your own what he would like?

It might help him fit in a bit more if he had a container with multiple compartments like lunchables -- nothing fancy like a bento box, the sort of thing sold with the plastic food storage containers at the grocery store.

Sriracha -- maybe he would like to bring enough to share, and dare other kids to try it?
posted by yohko at 9:12 PM on August 27, 2013

My kid's school requires lunches to be vegetarian so I feel you on the challenge of finding tasty, kid-approved protein. I usually wind up packing her a sandwich (with the best taste:health ratio I can find, for me that's Milton's whole wheat) of a 1 egg omelet. Lately, instead of making the sandwich with the egg, I cut the bread into strips, soak them in the egg which I've beaten with a little milk and vanilla, and cook (very slowly in just a bit of coconut oil) and make her "french toast strips" with the same nutrition as the sandwich but somehow more of a treat for her.

But yeah, DIY lunchables would probably work too. Maybe bring your kid to the store with you and have him pick out stuff that looks good to him - you can also let him see and compare prices and nutrition labels on the Lunchables, so he can see the reasoning behind the choices.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:12 PM on August 27, 2013

Best answer: You seem to very very proud of the lunches that you're packing, and the values that you're teaching your child. For that I applaud you. I also see that you're favouring answers that support you in continuing to pack said lunches, and encourage your son to rise above all the teasing. That's also admirable.

Yet, one thing that I would like to point out, and this is not meant to change your mind since I sense that you have already made your decision, but it would be worthwhile to consider the trade off that you may be making:

You are trying to teach your child the value of healthy eating and environmental consciousness, at the expense of him being teased/bullied and ostracised.

Now, he may very well turn out like kengraham above, and grow into the toughest damn vegetarian this world have ever known. He may learn to live by his convictions and never cave to peer pressure. However, he may also end up having to deal with embarrassment, shame, and isolation that stunts his self esteem and socialization in very serious and painful ways that could negatively affect him for well into his adulthood. I'm not trying to present a false dichotomy here, obviously there are many levels in between the extremes, but you need to be aware that your child lives in a very different social sphere than you, one that's irrational and merciless and doesn't give a damn about health or the environment, even if you do.

So, here is what I would recommend: pack the lunches that you and he agree upon, but also keep a close eye on the social impact that it's having on his life. If it gets too isolating or too painful, be prepared to make sacrifices.

Bonus tips: It's good to keep in mind that a little leeway won't derail the overall lesson. Letting a child have a single short skirt here and there won't suddenly turn her/him into a hypersexualized wild child partaking in wanton harlotry. In the same light, letting your child have a Luchables or a little meat, say, once a week, won't destroy your overall message of health. Don't make junk food into the Luscious Forbidden Fruit; that will just end painfully for everyone involved.
posted by Shouraku at 9:31 PM on August 27, 2013 [27 favorites]

Yes. I'm vegetarian, too, and have always been a non-conformist (and, when I was a kid, proudly so), but:

Children have different personalities, different strengths, than their parents. Personality differences which are biologically based, which cannot be molded or toughened. Some traits can be molded, but some traits just make it more painful when we try to change people.
posted by amtho at 9:39 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

Fake meat has just as much sodium and junk as do Lunchables. Make a list of mains, sides and desserts and let him select different combos to bring. Lunchables once a week aren't going to stunt his growth. There's always coupons online or In the Sunday paper if money is a worry. If he wants meat, give him meat--he's eating it, not you. Lunch isn't supposed to be torture.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:33 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

The book "Vegan Lunch Box" has great ideas for lunches that were tested by the author's own kid who is about the same age as yours. She has suggestions for both what to say when people make fun of the lunch (much of which is echoed in this thread) and how to make vegan/healthy/unusual lunches look more "normal."

Don't do what my parents did, which was make me start eating cafeteria lunch (unless your cafeteria is awesome.)
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:01 AM on August 28, 2013

I grew up in a hippie commune in rural Italy and always had weird food (and clothes, and ideas, etc). I turned out fine, in the sense that I basically despise human beings by default now. Not sure if I'd recommend it in general though.
posted by dhoe at 12:29 AM on August 28, 2013 [6 favorites]

These are pricey, but something along the lines of these Planetbox lunch boxes would look so cool I can't imagine anyone making fun of a nice lunch delivered this way, especially if you and your son try some bento presentation ideas... there are tons of recipes and tutorials and you can just pick and choose to do a few things to make his healthy lunch also look like the best thing ever.
posted by taz at 1:57 AM on August 28, 2013

I'm surprised this hasn't been addressed more loudly: Kids can be SUCH assholes in elementary school, and you don't need to have a dog in this fight.

Listen, I know it sucks and it's not fair and it's a learning opportunity, so bear with me here.

Kids can be gigantic, rigid and nasty monsters about the stupidest things. Social resilience is absolutely important, but there's no need to set your kid up to be targeted as different, because like I said, kids are just really mean little freaks sometimes.

Yes, it is entirely possible that your son could have a valuable lifelong learning experience here about sticking to his guns and even possibly a chance to enlighten those other little snot nosed brats.

But it's more likely that a kid with atypical lunches will get singled out and mocked.

So you have two choices. The first is to not do that to your kid. You want your kid to use whatever most kids use to put their lunches in (weird tupperware, fussy little containers or bento boxes or goofy lunchboxes may be cause for further mockery), and pack a relatively typical lunch.

Enlist your kid to help with what he wants...brown bag, PB&J, carrots and dip, apple slices, whatever.

Your other option is to let your kid pack whatever he wants and learn to say to other kids, "Yeah, it's hot sauce (or whatever) and it's AWESOME and it burns your mouth off. I can't believe you never had it!!!"

This approach may not be as successful because again...little kids aren't always that nice. If he packs a Lunchables-type thing, it will not be a learning lesson in giving in to the status quo and falling into a lifetime of conformity. It'll just make lunch easier. Not everything has to be a line in the sand of individuality.
posted by kinetic at 3:03 AM on August 28, 2013 [9 favorites]

As kinetic points out, kids are jerks. The thing is, if you cave and pack your kid Lunchables, his classmates will find something else to tease him about. Since he already seems to appreciate healthy eating, he's probably better prepared to assert his autonomy and embrace being Weird Lunch Kid.
posted by coppermoss at 3:09 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am very confused about the claim that packing healthy food and not packing Lunchables is classist, as I was a poor kid and my parents absolutely could not afford Lunchables. I got free and then discount lunches when my parents made a little more money, and when I got lunch from home it was PB&J and baby carrots. What are Lunchables, like $4 a pop? Geez. I don't even spend $20/week on lunches now, as an adult. If the "classism" is between upper-middle-class and middle-class or something, I would not exactly worry about it.

Kids really are just jerks. I was always embarrassed by these kinds of things in school. But you're packing him food he likes, and it seems like he chooses many of the items he takes to school. You're not going to pack him Lunchables (and please don't, they're expensive and bad), and he likes the food you're packing, so I think it would be best to chat with him a bit about different options (food that looks more conventional? keep packing things he likes, but not more embarrassing things? something new you hadn't thought of? &c.) But like, it's okay to have an influence on your kid, especially since you're already listening to his lunch suggestions.

Re: classism, the kids I knew who were working class didn't really get to choose what they ate for lunch. To me at that age, it was the "rich" (i.e. middle class) kids who had Lunchables or who later on bought cheese fries and pizza for lunch every day. So, your son gets to choose, and he's eating much better than the ~cool kids~, kudos.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:23 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There are some great suggestions here, but if I could plead for one small cause... please don't say "your lunches are better then their lunches because they're eating junk food." Superiority isn't going to do anyone any good in the long run. I'm not saying you're doing or suggesting this, but I see a lot of food superiority in the lunchroom at work and while the intentions seem to be "this is better, this is healthier," the biggest thing that comes across is not health but smugness.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 4:25 AM on August 28, 2013 [7 favorites]

I'm with whomever suggested there's scope between Lunchables and packing food his classmates will perceive seriously weird. You can make a statement by continuing to pack this food and suggesting your son attempt to educate his classmates, however, it's possible his desire for your approval may make him a little reticent to inform you of any further embarrassment (or ridicule). He's just a baby; being perceived, "normal" is very important to kids, and he has plenty of learn and refine the skills necessary to confidently assert his individuality.
posted by Nibiru at 4:32 AM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

So definitions of normal, weird and cool vary from school to school but at my school, any weird lunch problems could have been solved with a generous handful of candy (let your son choose the brand) and constant reminders of the fact that lunchables only come with one piece of candy. Weirdly, candy > baked goods for elementary school kids desserts.
Name brand juice pouches would also help. There's probably one or two brands that the cool kids all have.
Finally, ensure that your kid can manage all of the containers you give him without trouble. Third graders don't necessarily have adult-level manual dexterity and spilling a tupperware of tofu and sriacha would be just about the most embarassing thing ever. Also don't send him with things you would be sad enough about losing that he would need to fish it out of the trashcan if he threw it away by accident or another kid threw it away on purpose. When in doubt, stick to plastic bags.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 4:54 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What about healthy soup in a a thermos, with crackers, fruit and a cookie?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:55 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

The first two weeks of school are best played as a conformist. After two weeks, when everyone knows each other a bit better, one can start flying one's freak flag with a little more confidence.

Your son rightly senses this.

These are swarms of kids trying to figure out what it means to be third graders and trying to make sure they themselves are not THAT KID. They feel a great sense of relief if they can single him out and make him THAT KID instead.

Don't sit your son down over a shot of sriracha, and tell him not to be a conformist. YOU conform a bajillion ways everyday (for example, making sure he's to school on time--completely arbitrary start time created by someone else.) He will plainly see the hypocrisy.

Don't make your son an icon. Give him some time to settle in. And for heaven's sake don't do it "on principle" -- don't completely disregard his experience on principle.

He's telling you something really important.

Meet somewhere in the middle.

(My veggie stepdaughter got away with hummus in her lunch because one of her classmates was poor, couldn't afford lunch, and was always batting clean up. He really liked the hummus, but he only tried it because he was hungry. She's not keen on hummus in her lunch anymore, because she's older and it gives her bad breath for the afternoon. And her friends will tell her that.)
posted by vitabellosi at 5:19 AM on August 28, 2013 [10 favorites]

I was born in 1973, and when I was in elementary school in Poughkeepsie (pre-Lunchables, obviously) I was definitely the only kid who ate whole-wheat bread sandwiches with unsweetened PB&J or actual pieces of home-roasted chicken and and didn't drink sugary drinks and whose sides did not involve MSG.

Did I get made fun of? Hell yes. I complained to my parents all the time. But their opinion was that I was learning to eat healthfully, and that, as stated by a few above, if I wasn't made fun of for my lunch, it might be something else.

Most importantly, they gave me an important life lesson, which was to learn to ignore criticism about personal decisions such as diet, and continue to feel good about myself regardless.

Fundamentally, the kids in 3rd grade + feel weird and are starting to experiment with making fun of other kids. Don't train your kid to "give in." I totally agree that serving containers etc. can be modified, but the idea of complying with the standards set by lunchables + candy just doesn't make sense for trying to help your son.
posted by miss tea at 6:05 AM on August 28, 2013

Response by poster: stoneandstar, the classist worry isn't the tofu vs. lunchables, it's more the junk food. I agree lunchables are on the "have" side of things. And my lack of stomach for them is mainly governed by the marketing and packaging, not the health. Wuggie Norple's immediately following comment is on that point, too.

On another note, one thing I think I need to explore is ideas of things that come in a (opaque!) thermos. Kiddo has even mentioned this idea.
posted by spbmp at 6:36 AM on August 28, 2013

One thing I notice that no one has brought up, but that really stood out for me, is that there are two different households here, which both packed (or still pack) very different lunches. What is your custody situation here? How often is your son with you/having you pack his lunch, versus staying with his mom/having his mom pack his lunch?

You state that "he'd prefer lunchables...and he wishes he could get meat sometimes..which his mom also packs." I wonder how much of your digging in so hard on this is your differences of opinion with your ex-partner? Your statements about how much better it is to have a healthy lunch seem to imply some pretty strong judgment of his Mom - who may be making the choices she makes, at least about Lunchables, to minimize his teasing.

Is your vegetarianism an absolute, as in, you do not allow meat in your house? If you are not frequently the lunch provider, would it be possible for you to provide him with money for school lunch on the days you have him? (Especially as you note it's a charter school that focuses on eating healthy.)
posted by corb at 6:37 AM on August 28, 2013 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Hey, corb, what comment of mine said I thought his mom packed unhealthy? I honestly don't feel that way over the long haul (he and I get take-out chinese a lot, for instance, and without checking the label, I bet sriracha is easily as salty as a lunchable!), and more importantly, I try to be pretty conscientious about not giving him the impression I disapprove of things his mom does for him (as opposed to just that we each do things our own way.) Even if I didn't say it outright, it would help to see where I let some of that attitude slip out.
posted by spbmp at 6:47 AM on August 28, 2013

I was a kid with a weird lunch too. But after a while it was just a thing. I had the vinyl Barbie lunch box and it stank with the smell of leftover chicken. I also got an apple and some carrot sticks.

In the sixties, junk food wasn't seen as a negative by anyone. Space Food Sticks! Tang! Twinkies! It was seen as status to send your kid to school with this stuff. My parents, they were the crunchy granola hippies. We were about brown bread, blocks of cheddar cheese and that stinky chicken.

You know what, after a bit it was no biggie. I had no basis for feeling better about my lunch because at that point in history there wasn't a negative bias against processed foods (except in the hippie-dippy community.) I didn't even like my lunch that much. But, it was lunch, and I ate it.

Did I covet the garbage? Oh! Indeed yes! But after a while the other kids just realized that my cool Barbie lunch box contained an incredibly unappealing lunch and we all moved on with our lives.

So, do what you can to make the lunch yummy and the teasing and stuff will taper off shortly.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:59 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

While I didn't particularly sense judgment about the mom situation, I did get the sense that you're setting up a dichotomy here for the kid where, on the days when he stays with Mom, he's allowed to eat what he prefers (lunchables and meat) and avoids social stigma, whereas on the days he spends with you he's forced to hide and feel different while also eating food he feels noble about but doesn't really want. In a shared custody situation, I'd probably want to avoid that.

But at the same time, he's communicating this all to you--that's great. The best thing you can do is get him involved in meal planning and show that you're responsive to his concerns. Many eight-year-old boys would just trade lunches, continue hiding, and never clue their parents in at all. Show that you're willing to compromise and be flexible as he develops his own preferences and beliefs about what's best and you'll be in good shape for navigating middle school and adolescence in an open and respectful way.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:30 AM on August 28, 2013 [6 favorites]

Hey, corb, what comment of mine said I thought his mom packed unhealthy?

It's implicit in your refusal to pack the same things she will even though your son would prefer them.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 7:40 AM on August 28, 2013 [15 favorites]

This whole discussion has made me feel 8 again, which makes me REALLY glad to be turning 31 next month!

Growing up, I was allowed a mixture of "cool" and decidedly not cool lunches. I always had to have 100% fruit juice while all the other kids got Hi-C or Kool-Aid or other hyphenated beverages. I still got a juice box, but I REALLY wanted the Slimer-themed Ecto-Coolers and not grody Minute Maid orange juice. All the other kids had ziploc bags, I always had the fold-top kind. When the other kids had little brown bags, I carried my lunch in plastic grocery bags. I tried, but as a kid you're just not in charge of any of that stuff and have to suffer the consequences of your parents decisions/income/etc. Obviously none of that matters now, but I can ABSOLUTELY remember sitting there fiddling with my Kroger bag full of real juice and feeling lame. As I went through school obviously the trends changed—eventually in high school EVERYONE had a plastic bag and real juice became coveted over garbagey drinks and exotic foods became interesting instead of mock-able. The kids who used to make fun of my family for shopping at the Farmer's Market now understand how great of a store it really is. Which is to say that even jerky 8-year-olds can grow up into decent human beings because most kids are kind of jerky. I think it's great to teach your kid to have pride in the things he enjoys, but he's also just a kid and wanting to fit in is a valid concern that will last him just as long as good eating habits. I mean even as an old lady, I still get nervous on the first day of a new job, you know? Everyone wants to feel like they belong, even if they don't know WHY.

I think letting him choose his lunches for a little while will be great, and in reality will make your life easier since it will be one less thing to worry about. I also want you to think about what will happen if your kid decides to not be vegetarian. For now, I get that he is small and you're the boss of him. But soon he'll be big and will form his own opinions on ALL sort of things, not just food. You should be ready to be supportive if he decides burgers are his number one favorite food.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 7:56 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Stick to your guns and the healthy lunches, however you make that happen! Lunchables are crap. This is one area of parenting where it's important for the PARENT to be making the decisions with a view to the long game, instead of letting the kid decide.
posted by yarly at 8:14 AM on August 28, 2013

Something that might satisfy your desire for healthier meals and his desire for little packages of things to open and play with are gopicnic lunchboxes. Same idea as lunchables, but with much better ingredients.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:07 AM on August 28, 2013

How would you feel if someone sent you to a job at PETA with nothing but ham and there was nothing you could do about it and when you tried to speak up to the person who packed your lunch you were told that ham was delicious and nutritious and everyone else was missing out? You'd keep hiding the ham, right? Would the nutrition value seem pertinent to you?

But you don't even seem motivated by nutrition. You mentioned in one of your follow-up comments that you just don't like the look of Lunchables (your "lack of stomach for them is mainly governed by the marketing and packaging, not the health"). I'd suggest that you're sending your son to school with stuff that looks cool to you, and you're trying to argue to him that the stuff that you think is cool really is cool (unlike the stuff that he gets from his mother). You seem sort of proud of packing "non-elementary-school-standard stuff."
posted by 4bulafia at 10:14 AM on August 28, 2013 [7 favorites]

He's just a little guy, wanting to fit in -- there are very few socialization arenas at that age more powerful than the lunchrooom. Find the middle ground, keep it casual, no big proclamations or announcements, and graciously unplug your own agenda.
posted by thinkpiece at 10:17 AM on August 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

(My mother did this to me all the time, and I actually liked the food, but it's like wearing a Britney Spears t-shirt at a heavy metal concert. Maybe he likes to listen to Britney Spears every once in a while in private, but there's a time and a place. You can send your son to school in a Britney Spears t-shirt if you want, and you can tell him that she's actually a better musician than Judas Priest, but that's not the sort of thing he can say to his peers.)
posted by 4bulafia at 10:33 AM on August 28, 2013

I see nothing odd about the lunch choices you've made, and I can't discern a weird agenda in anything you've written. This situation is what the phrase "If they jumped off the roof would you want to do that too?" was made for.

Tofu, outlandish? Can't you buy it in the supermarket now, same as sriracha?

When I were a young mum we had to walk uphill in the snow both ways to the Speciality Delicatesen two towns away to get ordinary olive oil and garlic. These days, I thought such battles as yours were long over.

Metafilter's been oddly jumpy these past couple of days.
posted by glasseyes at 12:56 PM on August 28, 2013

hi, I was a third grader who ate weird food. At the risk of projecting my own experience here, I will tell you what I've come to realize about that period in my life:

I was one of those so-called "gifted" kids in school who thrived on being "different", which translated into "difficult". I got bullied a lot, and the weird food lunchroom issues came up frequently with me. I was a cosmopolitan urban preppy kid who (through a divorce) got dumped unceremoniously into a poor rural public school from first grade onward. It sucked, but in hindsight, I can see where I was the author of most of the suckiness through my complete lack of desire to even try to make friends. I thought the whole experience was beneath me, to be frank. So I deliberately brought weird food (and wore weird clothes and pretentiously read Tolstoy in 6th grade social studies, etc, etc, etc...) in an effort to stand out, to separate myself from the illiterate pig farmers I'd been inflicted upon.

Turns out I got bullied and got into trouble and made no friends at all until much much later in like, late high school because I was an insufferable, antisocial, arrogant, condescending little asshole.

This is not to say that this is the dynamic that is going on between your kid and his cohort, and in fact, it sounds like he is at least making an effort to decode the social rules (this is a good thing! we need to learn these skills in order to succeed! I wish I'd learned them prior to my mid thirties!). But I do think it's important that these sorts of social dynamics are considered in the rest of the equation.

I also think it sounds like you've got an easy kid to communicate with, and he's trying to help you help him. There are a lot of parameters to balance here. You've got your time, his preferences, and the whole raising-a-kid-as-a-vegetarian-parent theme going on (at the risk of opening a huge can of worms here, my husband's dad did exactly this, and unfortunately, as it turns out my husband is dairy/soy/gluten intolerant such that vegetarianism is NOT a healthy lifestyle choice for him at all, so maybe consider also that healthy == vegetarian may not necessarily be true for everyone.)

I think you've got some great suggestions above with soups in opaque thermoses, and cookies to share. You can also see if things like sandwiches cut into shapes (cookie cutters are good for this) and the age old peanut-butter-and-celery or peanut-butter-and-carrot sticks snack options are better choices for him. If you physically can't handle having meat in the house, then that's different, but if he asks, I think you should try to accommodate him at least some of the time. Parenting involves compromise yes, but since you've framed it as him coming at this from a pretty mature angle, maybe you should consider meeting him partly halfway on this. Doesn't have to be Lunchables, which are pretty much crap, but if you're ok with going to the deli and getting him a quarter pound of good quality sliced turkey to make sandwiches, etc... with, then that's another possibility.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:36 PM on August 28, 2013

Response by poster: I hope a few of you are still reading, because today's interaction is so choice and amusing in context of our discussion (and thank you all!)

As dinner was wrapping up, I asked him what he wanted for lunch. I said he could have anything from the dinner or---and then he cut me off before i started to rattle off options like PB&J. He chose (and scooped for himself into my usual little cups for lunches):
  • Saag mustard greens and spinach (from a can, Jyoti brand). I'm not kidding. This was what he packed the most of!
  • Some simple daal that I'd made.
  • And some super-oily-salty fried very thin potato slices that he'd made himself (I'd sliced them to make a gratin and had leftovers and invited him to make a recipe and add things to the pan as he wished. The recipe was very simple: lots of olive oil and salt. And with lots of time to get brown (my contribution) they came out totally awesome.)
Anyway, I guess where I stand is: I'll keep my eye out for more worry, though right now I'm thinking it may have passed quickly. And I'm feeling some boosted confidence that he feels good talking to me (from some comments and also boosted by another conversation about something private today.) I'll continue to draw his input. I may try to avoid doing too many too strange things in one week. I'll try some un-soggifying tips such as baking the sriracha onto the tofu or keeping them separate, and I'll try some harder cheese sometime as well as experimenting with a thermos if I can think of things to put in. I'll watch out for if my "different" starts to project like "better than", whether with respect to his mom or other families. And I'll watch out for if I start to project too much daddy-proud through the kiddo. (I think I'll excuse myself for bragging funny and proud right here above though.)
posted by spbmp at 6:38 PM on August 28, 2013 [6 favorites]

I wonder if any sort of cumbersome packaging (that he has to pack back up and bring home) might be part of the issue. Maybe use foil and plastic bags instead of reusable containers, to keep him from sticking out from the others in yet another way.
posted by jschu at 8:55 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Slow day for internet outrages -- this is now being dissected on
posted by kmennie at 2:33 PM on September 13, 2013

posted by ocherdraco at 9:07 AM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

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