Ann Cannon: Does love mean never having to eat school lunch?

By Ann Cannon

Tribune Columnist

Published: March 19, 2014 09:13AM
Updated: April 15, 2014 09:12AM
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Ann Cannon

The next time I see my mom, we’re going to have a conversation that goes something like this.

ME: Why didn’t you love me when I was a little girl?

MY MOM: Wait. What? Who said I didn’t love you?

ME: Paul Ryan. You know. Congressman from Wisconsin. Mitt Romney’s running mate. According to a recent column by Gail Collins, Ryan implied in his CPAC speech that mothers who make their kids eat school lunches don’t really care about them. He said that school lunch programs offer people a “full stomach and an empty soul.”

MY MOM: But I thought you liked school lunch when you were a kid.

ME: I did. Especially the cinnamon rolls. The lunch ladies at Edgemont Elementary School made cinnamon rolls as big as your head. They were like elephant cinnamon rolls. So yeah. I liked school lunch a lot. But that was only because I didn’t realize you didn’t love me back then. Mothers who love their children don’t let them eat cafeteria elephant cinnamon rolls. Obv.

OK. My mother and I probably won’t be having that conversation any time soon — mostly because she’d tell me to stop being a dope and also because I don’t want my own kids to have the same conversation with me.

And why is that? Because even though it was considered cool at my kids’ school to have a “cold lunch” (lunch made at home) as opposed to a “hot lunch” (lunch made at school), my boys had more than their fair share of the latter.

Did they eat school lunch because they wanted to? Sometimes.

Did they eat school lunch because there were occasions when it was convenient for me, their mother? Sometimes.

Was I grateful for the school lunch program when I was a young mother with five busy boys? Duh.

Did I feel like the “cold lunches” I made at home were more nutritious than the “hot lunches” at my kids’ school? Um. I’m pretty sure the lunch ladies didn’t feed my kids Cheetos.

Did the lunch ladies at their elementary school also make elephant cinnamon rolls? I asked my kids and they don’t remember.

Did the lunch ladies at their elementary school, on the other hand, make burritos as big as your head? Yes. They were like elephant burritos. And they were my oldest son’s favorite.

Did my kids eat school lunch because I didn’t love them? No no no no no no no no. And also hell no. So, stop it, OK? Just stop with the judging.

Look, there are a lot of ways to show kids that you care. Reading to them. Going to the park. Volunteering at their school. Disciplining them when necessary. Attending their recitals and sporting events, even if you wish soccer had never been invented. And, yes, packing them a lunch is certainly one of the ways to show you care. I have friends who made their children beautiful, individualized lunches every day of their lives, and for all of them it felt like a conscious act of love. I made plenty of lunches myself.

But to politicize something like this, as Rep. Ryan did to score cheap points with his base, feels especially mean-spirited. It does a disservice to a lot of moms.

And to their children, as well.