Is That Sandwich Smiling at Me?

Why I pack simple school lunches for my kids

Stop it, please, just stop it with the creative lunches already.

Every time I turn around, someone else is waxing eloquently about the beautiful, complex lunches that you can make to ensure your children get their recommended daily allowance of whimsy. Pinwheel sandwiches. Flower-shaped sandwiches. Sandwiches with cartoon faces made out of olives and raisins, with sprouts for hair.

The ideas are endless. They’re everywhere. They’re cute and interesting and look lovely in photographs. They’re almost guaranteed to win you a Mother of the Year award. They’ll make your child break out into song at the lunch table.

These same people assure me that children get bored with sandwiches. I’m told it’s awful to open up that Pottery Barn Kids lunchbox and find a plain old boring turkey sandwich and a banana. The horror! Where’s the fun in that? Where is the excitement? No, no, it’s better that I tap into my inner artist and make something that will be the envy of all my son’s classmates, who will be left in a terrible funk with their PB&Js and pretzels.

But I’m telling you this: plain old boring turkey sandwiches were fine when I was a kid in 1981, and they’re fine for my son nearly 30 years later.

Raise your hand if you’re up at dawn, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with nothing else on earth to do but concoct an elaborate little lunch sculpture for your offspring. Anyone? Hello?

That’s what I thought. You’re up at dawn because the baby was crying and wouldn’t go back to sleep, or the four-year-old burst into your room screaming that his nose is bleeding, and his sheets are all bloody, or the six-year-old had a bad dream and can she pleeeease get in bed with you and Daddy? And once you’re up, you might as well throw another load of laundry in, or no one is going to have clean socks to wear the rest of the week. (And you just can’t wear sandals in December. Well… at least not without a little tiny bit of guilt.) And — oh God, is there something wrong with the toilet? Why is it making that horrible squealing sound? And aren’t you supposed to send something with one of the kids to school today? What on earth was it? Here, kid, have a turkey sandwich.

Or maybe you’re one of those athletic types who gets up in the dark to squeeze in a run before the kids get up. In that case, your biggest priority is probably rushing around, dripping sweat, trying to get into the shower without a bunch of small people all waking up and popping in on you, so you can run over your thoughts for that presentation you have to give at work in a few hours. An audience-free shower. Ah. Bliss.

Either way, are you really standing at your kitchen counter at 6:30 a.m. wielding a dinosaur-shaped cookie cutter?

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Written by Jennifer Larson. 

Jennifer Larson is a freelance journalist and the mother of two young boys. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Visit her at