I'm the mom who neglects to send her children to school with snow boots after a blizzard. I almost always drop the ball on Spirit Days, food pantry deadlines and letter of the week show-and-tell. But I never forget to pack vegetables in my 5-year-old daughter's lunchbox.
Those halved cherry tomatoes always come home untouched. Same with the carrot sticks and snap peas.
"Why do you do this to yourself?" my husband always asks.
He doesn't understand that they are show vegetables. I am showing the teachers that despite all my shortcomings, I am a responsible parent. Look how much care I took with those pepper strips! And did you see I also gave her hummus? So high in protein!
Kate Frank, a mom in Toronto, does the same thing. Her sons are 6 and 10.
“I don’t know why I bother. Apple slices, strawberries, grapes, cucumbers — everything is thrown out every day,” Frank told TODAY Parents. “We sometimes put their rejects back in the fridge and I end up taking the soggy grapes and brown apple slices to work.”
Gaspare Randazzo, a stand-up comedian and high school teacher in New York, can also relate.
“I’ve gone shopping at 2 o'clock in the morning to get fruits and veggies to stick in a lunch box knowing that my kids will eat one bite and toss them all to avoid the teachers thinking that they aren’t eating the whole food pyramid," the father of two confessed.
Keri Brown, who works as a kindergarten and first grade teacher in Alabama, laughed when she was asked about show vegetables.
“I’d say 99% of the healthy snacks end up right in the trash, with celery and broccoli being the first to go,” Brown told TODAY. “Raw vegetables are just a straight up no. But parents keep sending them.”
When I explained to Brown that I fear judgment from teachers, she promised that I’m all good as long as I don’t pack soda or candy bars.
“Don’t stress yourself out,” Brown said. “Mothers already put too much pressure on themselves.”
Parenting and youth development expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa echoed the sentiment.
“The pressure on parents is tremendous — especially parents of preschoolers,” Gilboa told TODAY. “Their teachers give us a daily report. They document everything — and we feel like, ‘I know they’re watching every single bite my child puts in their mouth.' Of course, we're stressed."
Gilboa said some moms and dads might also be hoping that if they provide vegetables, the teacher will provide their magic.
“They might be thinking, if teacher can get my kid to share, to take a nap and to pee in the bathroom, maybe they can get them to eat vegetables,” Gilboa explained. "Maybe then know something I don't know and my kid will come home and say, 'Mommy! I love cucumbers.'"
Gilboa then shared her personal secret.
“You need to stop being afraid of your child starving to death,” she said. “If your child does not have a documented failure to thrive, then it’s OK to give them a 1-ounce serving of hotdogs and a quarter cup of macaroni and cheese and also a full serving of carrots and a full serving of fruit.”
If your little one is that hungry, then they’re going to dig into that container of sautéed green beans, according to Gilboa. She’s seen it with her own four children.
“That’s the solution,” Gilboa said. "It works.”