For some time now the news has been full of things about healthy eating in general and specifically school dinners. I’ve viewed this whole discussion with a certain level of interest, but it’s been something well…over there. You know, the place where things go when they are nothing to do with you, and are not sufficiently important to you right now to warrant your limited time or attention.
In the last 5 months however things have significantly changed. Ellie is, as previous readers of my blog will know, now in school and she has school dinners. My interest in the whole school lunch debate has therefore somewhat peaked. In addition, Ellie has very clearly decided she doesn’t like vegetables, any apparently except cucumber! So I’ve found myself regularly putting on my private investigator mummy hat to find out more about what Ellie’s eaten each day at school, how much she’s eaten and so on. Today however, I was finally going to get an insight as I went back to school and I joined Ellie for her Easter school dinner.
Within a couple of minutes of arriving I saw Ellie’s class walking over and child by child ran to greet their family member. Ellie waved frantically from a distance and then grabbed my hand when she was close, shouting ‘come on then’ and literally dragging me into the dinner hall. Ellie next showed me where to hang my coat and then where to queue for our food. She was clearly enjoying showing me the ropes and I have to admit a sense of pride watching my little girl who was uber confident and chatty with her friends.
My plate was gradually filled with my chosen lamb, roast potato, mashed potato, sprouts, sweet corn and carrots. Once I’d squeezed myself and my plate onto the teeny table and chair, I saw there were jugs of water and plates of fresh bread laid out as well. The meal itself was quite honestly lovely – both in the fact that I shared it with Ellie and in that the food tasted just great. In all too quick a time lunch was over and, with a kiss and wave, I was watching Ellie run off into the playground to play with her friends.
What I did note though was that Ellie’s keenness to show me the ropes didn’t extend to what she ate. Ellie only got meat, mash and sweet corn for her plate and then announced she’d finished with 99% of her sweet corn still on her plate. It was neither the time nor the place so i let it go and instead congratulated myself on my patience and relaxed attitude. Bravo to me for holding back on the nagging.
What I’ve learned from today is that I’m in no doubt that the school lunch was actually pretty damn good. I’m also acutely aware that Ellie isn’t a great lover of vegetables and whilst I don’t need to panic, I probably should do something to encourage her since she doesn’t seem to eat them anywhere anymore.
It is a happy coincidence then that this morning I just happened to be listening to the radio. I heard Henry Dimblebyon Woman’s Hour on radio 4 talking about getting children to cook healthy and the competition called ‘Cook 5’. It’s designed to encourage children across the UK to learn to cook 5 savoury dishes before the age of 16. There are some lovely prizes to be won by individual children and a prize for the school that encourages the most children to cook 5 dishes.
Now I think Ellie is, at almost 5, a little younger than the target audience for the competition, but today’s events in their entirety have got me thinking. First, we do cook at home together but it’s almost always cakes and sweet stuff and I always do the majority of the key bits. Second, Ellie is actually growing up fast and showed me her confidence and competence in many ways today at school. Third, whilst she may be a bit young for the competition there is no reason why we can’t join in (in our own way) and so I’ve hatched a plan.
I’m going to make some of the Cook 5 savoury recipes with Ellie and I’m going to try to get Ellie to do more of the work than I do. It won’t happen on a working day as there simply isn’t time, but the next free weekend we have we’re going to start. I will of course let you know how we get on and in the meantime, do let me know about your cooking and healthy eating successes. I’d also totally recommend that you have a look at the Cook 5 website and go on…why not have a go?
As always please do get in touch either via the comments below, or @sharonmsmyth I really do love to hear from you.
As any previous readers of this blog will know the last 6 months have been a pretty busy time for Ellie and I. Right now, for the first time in quite some time, I’m not planning, doing or recovering from a huge life change. I know that sounds a little melodramatic (and I’m never melodramatic…well not too often) but in the last 6 months: Ellie started school, we moved in with my boyfriend and his son in a totally new area, Ellie changed school, I published my book and finally, a few weeks ago we moved house again into our new family home. You get the point?
Well finally, after all of that, (my fingers are firmly crossed as I say this,) it looks like life might just be settling down and we are settling in.
Ellie has been invited to a number of birthday parties from friends at her new school and crucially, was desperate to go to them. She was also ridiculously excited when we wrote the invites for her birthday party and handed them out in the playground herself (at her insistence). She’s now had several play dates outside of school and is looking forward to going to one on her own later this week.
For my part, I now know the names of a number of the other mums from school and have their mobile numbers. We are in the process of organising a night out and a pamper night is forthcoming! I’ve met several of the neighbours at our new house and actually know their names … oh yes I do.
I am no longer anxious about how to drive to the places I need to get to in the area. Okay okay so I know it sounds sad, but no longer needing my sat nav for every single journey has to count as an indicator that we’re settling doesn’t it?
We also had parents evening this week and there’s no doubting the fact that Ellie has settled at school. I felt immensely proud as I was told that she was doing really well in all areas, learning well and being kind to others. They also mentioned she was very tidy minded so that’s noted! The fact that Ellie joined the school slightly later than everyone else is now clearly insignificant.
So it’s fair to say that by and large everything’s going pretty well which is why I can’t help feeling utterly frustrated that once again I’ve found myself struggling to get the balance right…that is the utopia of being as great a mum as I can be whilst also satisfying the desire/need to work and to deliver in my work. I’ve had tears (mine not Ellie’s), I’ve felt down and I’ve felt like a bad mum.
I’ve had a couple of occasions where I’ve needed to literally beg and borrow family and friends to look after Ellie, I’ve had a lot of nights where I’ve been tired and bad tempered and there have been several things at the school which I’ve been unable to do.
On the other side I’ve got a number of key things to get done for work and quite frankly, not enough time…I simply can’t work late in the office because I have to come home for Ellie but I do want to achieve. I’ve been really fortunate in that I’ve been able to work from home regularly for a few months now, but that isn’t something I can do for much longer.
If I’m honest though, what I think makes this all particularly frustrating is that, rightly or wrongly, I really do feel that I should just be able to deal with this, get over it and well…get the hell on with it! My inner voice is loud in its annoyance with me, not least because as I’ve already said life is actually settling nicely at the moment, but also telling me to quite frankly give it up because this is real life…millions of other working parents manage it and quite frankly you can’t have it all.
Well I’m sorry…but when it comes to this I want it all. That is when ‘all’ is working and also being able to be Ellie’s mum in an active, every day part of her life way. Surely this isn’t too much to ask?
So come on guys help me out here…I’m dying to know what you think. Is it possible to balance it right? Have you managed it and if so, can you share your secret? Also of course, I’d love to know that I’m not the only one who feels this frustration.