The Lesson of the Twice Forgotten Lunch

There is a horrible feeling, a cringe-inducing regret a mother can get when she knows she has let her child down. For example, on the way to school she may have told him she would bring his forgotten lunch, but then she promptly forgot. She went about some morning errands, a meeting, the gym, the supermarket, and then she came home at noon to find the packed lunch sitting expectantly on the kitchen counter.

A shock of recognition and remembrance of that morning conversation: “Don’t worry; I’ll bring it in.” A vision of her child sitting forlorn and empty handed among chattering friends as they obliviously scarf down go-gurts. And a mad dash to carry that lunch to him (her baby!) before lunch period is over. 

Of course, this mother knows the school staff would not let her child go hungry. She knows that a forgotten lunch is a small inconvenience, an opportunity for her son to recognize his own resilience. She knows not to sweat the small stuff, the blessing of the skinned knee, and blah, blah, blah. Yet, she cannot help but feel aghast, a bit sad that she has let her child down, even in this small way.  Because, well, she’s his mother and she can’t help but want to fix everything for him, to make things perfect for a child she loves so much. 

But why? Why the guilt, when her rational mind knows better? Perhaps guilt is just a condition of motherhood. Or, maybe it’s because her baby is actually 10 and not very needy. Most of the time, he’s excellent company, and she knows this probably won’t last. Only 10 and already, there are fewer things he needs from her. No more teeth to brush, no more hair to comb, fewer puzzles to help him solve. He continues to grow and thrive, forgotten lunch or not, perfect mother or not.  

These changes are, of course, cause for celebration – not just for his growing self-sufficiency, but also for his mother’s new-found freedom. Yes, this modern mother may look forward to watching her son grow up, but she may also feel a twinge of wistfulness for the much younger child he once was. Her regret over the twice forgotten lunch might not really be guilt at all, but a swirl of nostalgia and surprise that these first 10 years slipped by so fast.  

4 comments:

Kate said...

that so perfectly captures the bittersweet nature of motherhood! thank you! from a mother who has forgotten to pick up her child from school.

kayce hughes said...

I have been there, probable more than once.

IL-VA-MA-TORONTO said...

Have you seen my pictoral post on Facebook about the day I sent my young cherub to lunch with a lunchbox packed with empty containers? We owned 2 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle lunch boxes. One was sent to school with a packed lunch, then brought "home" but left in the car. The next morning I packed his lunch in the other TMNT lunch box, but when we got to school, he grabbed the wrong one. He had a lovely, empty, litterless lunch. The teachers loved it!

Elizabeth Hammond Pyle said...

That's a new one! The double lunchbox fake out, but maybe now he remembers to double check his lunch before school?

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