My Young Child is Stealing Food
Stealing food from children. Really? That is how Mrs. M wrote it in her message. We are starting week two of medication or in other words, it is day eight. I know in my heart that I am uncomfortable with my child needing medication. But as I put it to her brothers, it’s like needing glasses. All that squinting, missing homework assignments written on the whiteboard, not seeing the lacrosse ball– my kid needed corrective lenses for better focus. Did this completely change his life? Yes and no. The non-stimulant ADHD medication will hopefully change her life and ours for the better. After I had returned to our therapist for a consultation, after having a medication evaluation and after a few days of starting the medication, I got a long email from her kindergarten teacher. As soon as I opened it, I braced myself. Four paragraphs. What now? Well, turns out that for the past 6 or so weeks food has gone missing from her students’ lunch boxes. And surprisingly while we were on a family trip for three days, nothing happened. Yet when we returned, the missing of items resumed. Mystery solved? Yes. Problem corrected? No.
I am no longer dropping my child off at school with a kiss goodbye in the hallway. Oh, no! that would be so typical of kindergarten life. Instead I sit in the classroom during roll call, sharing, and discussing the schedule for the day before Mrs. M dismisses the children one by one to empty their backpacks. I stand guard as one by one he or she plops the lunchbox into the laundry basket with the sign in sharpie “LUNCH BOXES.” I smile and nod, making pleasantries over the design or theme of the box. “Ahhh, minions!” “Oh, yes you have the Thomas box.” “Neat, that silver container almost looks like something Pa from Little House would use!” He nods and responds that his dadda is reading the fourth book to him, Plum Creek. After this task is completed, I place the basket on a high window sill seemingly out of reach for a certain six year old. I give my youngster a squeeze and note I will be back at lunch time.
At noon sharp I am back at the classroom. Mrs. M thanks me with a loud exhale reporting she is so grateful I am once again helping out. My daughter sneaks food during the morning and again during the lunchtime clean-up. What can I say? Of course I will try to help out. The first day I came in, classmate Gabriella burst into tears stating, “What happened to my peanut butter crackers?!” Seeing her face, hearing her distress, feeling her pangs of hunger made me so mad at my kid! What a selfish, selfless, eating disordered brat! Her large tummy bulging out of her tee, her mouth turned downward, her eyes avoiding anyone’s glance. We all know it was you!
I heave the basket down from its safe place and hand out each lunch container. I even add, “This is JUST for YOU!” with a friendly smile. My daughter glares at me. Well, excuse me! is that a look that says you are annoyed I have sideswiped your cunning tricks? or are you having jealousy that I can enjoy your classmates? Either way, I am hiding my annoyance that I cannot take that yoga power class at the gym. Or write. Or clean the tub. I am here at the school again doing my least favorite parent volunteer activity: cafeteria duty.
I cannot stand the smell of school lunchrooms. They all reek of sour milk. I would rather clean our toilets, the litter boxes of our two cats when one is having digestive issues, scrape dog poo off my clogs, and inhale my son’s sneakers. I cannot stand being around a mass group of kids eating.
I’ve enclosed in her lunch a little note with stickers telling my child: “I am thinking of you today!” or something of that sort. I hope to instill loving feelings. Hugs and love are better, you don’t need Cheetos, fruit cups, and granola bars! I am fighting nausea as the boys around me make the most disgusting stew of uneaten food on their tray. They laugh hysterically. “No, that is not ok! this needs to go.” Listen to me taking charge. I gingerly carry the lunch tray over to an empty table. After 15 minutes the Assistant Principal calls out it is time. She then dismisses each table to outside recess. I help my daughter tidy up all her containers, toss the wrappers and peels, and return her lunch bag to the class basket. She looks around, she is scanning the area. Nope, I cut her off. “Remember this is when you get into trouble! You are done eating and you have had enough to eat. Go outside! Are you gonna tackle the monkey bars?” She looks at me, eyes glazed over, then she focuses and says, “Uh, yeah.” Transitions are hard, so directing her is crucial. These in-between times are a whirlwind for her– what to do, what to do? When in doubt and feeling uncertain, she turns to food to soothe. Her go-to is a go to the lunch boxes basket. Typically, she waits for others to go outside, then forages. But I am there to break that routine. I hold onto her shoulders and repeat:
Go outside, breathe in the cool air, go to the monkey bars.
Another kiss goodbye and I push her out the door to the playground.
Finally! Freedom till 2:45P. Whooooppeeeee!