Friday, February 15, 2008

The Great Lunchbox Challenge

"I believe that you should commit yourself to achieving the goal, before this week is out, of taking a lunchbox to school and returning it safely to the home."


"Because you have already failed to do that with two lunchboxes and it is the first week of school! They don't grow on trees you know."

"A paper bag does."
That pretty much sums up the first week of school for our 7 year old son. Something happened with respect to the lunchbox monitoring regime between Grade 1 and Grade 2. Suffice it to say, he took a lunchbox to school and then returned without it. We would then send him back the next day with another lunchbox and with a mission to find the first one. He would return with neither. It was like those 5 little ducks going out one day and not coming back.

By the time, we were down two lunchboxes, I knew we were going to need more than just promises. Some incentives were in order. But how to get the unfocused, focused?
"So what are we going to do with you? How can I get you to remember your lunchbox?"

"Well, I just keep forgetting that it is there and I guess I don't put it into my bag."

"So you would need it to be easier to see and not forget?"


"So how about this?"
I then produced a 'Disney Princesses' lunchbox -- in pink and ready to go.
"Do you think you would miss this?"
I then informed him that this would be the lunchbox he would be taking to school if he lost the third regular, lunchbox. However, even that lunchbox would be adorned with some pink star stickers arranged in the form of an 'F' for 'Find other lunchboxes." Hopefully, with a bit of effort, we would not have to roll out Ariel, Cinderella and Snow White.

I was very proud of this ironic punishment but I must admit, we thought it somewhat cruel to impose on a 7 year old during his first week in a new class. So I really hoped it wouldn't come to that.

And I would like to tell you that it didn't come to that but it did. The next day he found himself going to school with a new Disney princesses lunchbox and in search of its three missing cousins. And I would like to tell you that that did the trick. It didn't. He found two of the missing lunchboxes and they got as far as his locker but only the Disney Princesses one returned. (I suspect it never actually left his bag; although his lunch did. Either that or it really was a 'distinctiveness' issue all along).

In the end, his mother went to his locker and retrieved the two lunchboxes (a third seemingly lost forever). Indeed, what is more, they were both full; they never even made it to lunch before getting lost! No wonder he ate so well at dinner-time that week.

But, in the end, the lunchbox crisis did end and for the second week of school, a single lunchbox (not the Princess one), returned to and from school safely. Somehow the system worked. And our Princesses can stay in the cupboard dangling like an icicle over his head.