Monday, June 18, 2012

Eat, Pray: heart-shaped sandwiches and love

Anytime my daughter carries a packed lunch, you can be sure of two things. It will contain a sandwich made with whole grain bread and said sandwich will be shaped like a heart...or a flower...or a fish. I can't stand the thought of sending her off with a square or circular sandwich or even a square slice of cheese. Sometimes I build an entire theme, like a fish shaped sandwich swimming in a blueberry sea. I've even done 2am searches on Pinterest for the coolest bento boxes for kids; while my Southern upbringing and Future Homemakers of America days fully prepared me for pound cakes and dumplings, those Mickey Mouse bentos look like they would require at least a year of culinary training. Since I have trouble finding time to paint my toenails, the year of culinary training is definitely out.

I know it is just lunch, but I come from a long line of people who express love through food. My own working mother would get up in the morning and pack me a lunch of turkey and mustard on saltine crackers. I didn't eat bread, and after finding a big hunk of a buttery cheese substance in my spaghetti I had sworn off the tray lunch in the cafeteria. I took my lunches for granted then; you tend to take a lot of things for granted when you are raises by Super Mom. Now I look back and can feel the love my own mother had for me and I think of it every time I am wasting bread edges and cutting out that sandwich with a cookie cutter.

It sounds sweet, right? Does my child really care? Probably not. So why do I care so much? Since I became a working mom, I have become obsessed with doing all I can to make every day special and to ensure that, while someone else is actually sitting next to her during lunch, there is some sign of "Mama" at the lunch table. It has become my coping mechanism. The daycare deposit pales in comparison to the start up costs I brought on myself. She needed a mat? I wanted to make sure she had a coordinating pillow, blanket and nap mat cover with her name embroidered somewhere on it. She had to have her name on her water bottle. Sure, a Sharpie makes sense, but instead I was drawn to these personalized bands that wrap around the bottle. I stressed about every last detail before her first day and I don't really think she cares. I do.

I don't have time for therapy, but after hours spent on the road for my job I have finally determined the reason for my obsession with heart-shaped sandwiches and personalized nap mat covers. It is the same reason I come home tired from work but drags self to the park or to blow bubbles in the back yard, the reason I want every second I am with Lily to be quality. It's the same reason I forget the quiet moments are important, too. I absolutely hate missing that time during the day and I grasping at ways to make the most of the time I do have. It's how I cope.

In the end, does it make me a better mom? No. Could I put away the heart cookie cutter tomorrow without Lily even taking notice? Probably. Will I do that? No way. I need it, and I hope one day she looks at that sandwich and realizes that I made it just for her, just the way she likes it, with sun butter, jelly and a mother's love. Like the turkey and mustard crackers.

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