When I was an eager mom of 4 and my first sweet little girl was starting kindergarten, I pulled out the adorable fabric lunch box and packed up her favorite sandwich and fruit with a yogurt and her Hello Kitty water bottle. Before the lunchbox was ready to zip, I found a post-it note and wrote a short little message (she was 5…reading was still new!) probably something like “Sophia, I love you! Mom”. I may have just drawn a heart in place of “love”. Day two I probably wrote the same thing. I remember seeing her sight words list and incorporating those into my lunch notes as her reading ability grew. I had spent every waking moment with her up until these kindergarten days, and I missed her like crazy. It felt good to know that she had a note from her mama to read mid-day.
And then a busy morning happened, and I didn’t put a note in her lunchbox. I didn’t give it a second thought. She came home from school and immediately said “Mom! You forgot my lunch note!!” It was that moment when I knew I had committed myself to this new tradition. (A note to new parents: be careful! You never know what you are committing yourself to for the long haul!)
For this next part of the story to work, I’m going to need all of the moms who empty lunch boxes on a regular (weekly, biweekly, monthly) basis and wash the lunchbox itself to cover their eyes. Are they gone?
A few months into the school year Sophia spilled some yogurt in her lunch box so I emptied it out to wash it, and realized there was a little velcro pouch on the front…where she had kept ALL of her lunch notes. I asked her if I needed to keep them for her and she said “Some days I really miss you when I’m at school, so I like having all the notes you wrote me so I can read them.” I hugged her through my tears as I bagged up her notes for safe keeping. (I certaintly don’t remember everything from her kindergarten year, but that stuck with me.)
Darn! The lunch box washers missed that whole part that reflected much more kindly on me than the “months into the school year I washed the lunch box” bit. I can do lots of things, but remembering to wash lunch boxes is not one of my superpowers. Anyway…
When Lucas started school the next year I wrote him a lunch note everyday, and like his sister he kept them all. I have since learned, from Dr. Gary Chapman and his book The 5 Love Languages of Children that Lucas is a “words of affirmation” kind of a guy. I try really hard to remember to fill his lunch notes with such words to build him up in the middle of the day. I know his lunch notes are even more important to him.
I now have 4 kids in school. Four inspiring lunch notes is a lot to ask of a person every morning. Some days I dig deep and the kids each get a personalized note to inspire them or praise them for something specific they have done. Some days the notes let them know about something big coming up in our schedule that night, or a reminder about a sports practice or game. Some days the morning comes at me fast and the notes say something like “Lily, It’s Friday. -Mom” Cause, life.
Sometimes lunch notes are written on brightly colored post-its, some days it is a cut up piece of construction paper, every once in awhile the notes are written on the top of a mandarin oranges container or something similarly dual-purpose. But I rarely miss a day…because if I do…I will certainly hear about it.
Not everyone has to send lunch notes, we are all gifted in showing love different ways. Luckily for Lucas, words happen to be my love language, too. When I was a little girl and I did something that got me into trouble, I often wrote lengthy apology notes to my mom. (She used to keep them in her sock drawer, but she told me recently that they got upgraded to a fire-safe box…I guess my words have gotten more valuable as we’ve aged.) I loved writing and speaking at my dad’s Hall of Fame dinner and took great care as I wrote the words for my eulogy of my grandma this past spring. I know just how much words can matter. So I will keep right on writing those lunch notes.