A little over a year ago, I made a resolution. I looked at what we were eating for lunch and was very dissatisfied. It was always a scramble. The kids were generally picking at whatever I put out and grouchy for the rest of the afternoon. My kids dislike sandwiches for the most part so tossing out the sort of lunch fare I was used to in my childhood wasn’t working. And as they’re getting older, I find they need to eat something decent. The “what’s for lunch?” pestering starts as early as 10:30 around here some days.
So I made the resolution to make better lunches. I made myself a little list of possible lunches that would be more filling. I resolved to have things on hand to prepare more hearty lunch fare. We struck up a routine of eating a hot lunch every day and watching a documentary or educational TV show while we eat. It has allowed us to watch all kinds of things. I make homemade fried rice with fresh vegetables and leftover meat or spaghetti and premade meatballs or sausage and rice with vegetables or eggs with homemade hash browns and fruit. I still use some convenience items, but mostly we do a pretty good job on lunch now. And the documentary routine has been great for watching more rich content and discussing it. Just the other day, we enjoyed How Plants Talk to Each Other from PBS’s Nature. You guys, plants are talking to each other! We were shocked too.
Here’s the thing. As I’ve gotten better at lunch, dinner has suffered a bit. I think I really only have one good meal in me most days. By the time dinner rolls around, I find I’m not always hungry enough to want to make a big deal, even if the kids really want something. It’s exacerbated by our evening schedules. BalletBoy has (you can probably guess…) ballet three or more evenings a week. Mushroom has rehearsals. It’s not uncommon for kids to leave at five and be back after nine. My dinner failures don’t need to be picked apart, but suffice it to say that we’ve been doing more dinner scrambling.
It strikes me that life is just like this. There’s no way to do it all. Sure, better systems, better organization, better resources, more help from others… they can help us do more and more efficiently. But the biggest thing stopping us from doing it all is time and energy. They’re limited quantities. There are no time turners or Tardises and no magic little energy pills for us or attention pills for the kids. If you take energy and effort to do something, you’re usually taking it away from something else.
I think we forget that much of the time. We think that we can add things, especially to our homeschool, without making choices, as if we have unlimited time and energy available to us and our kids. But every time you add a new set of logic puzzles, something else will fall a little by the wayside. Every time you toss in a few more math problems or a fun science reading book you lose a little of something else. Every time you pick one book to read aloud, you have to turn down other books you might have read aloud. Every time you fix your morning schedule, you risk that your afternoon schedule might fall apart a little bit. And even when we add a little something and it doesn’t take away from school, it’s taking away from the kids’ free time, which also has a value.
That’s okay, of course. I’m just reminded that it’s all a giant system in balance. It’s good that I’m always making adjustments – we should add and fix and change and try to do better and I wouldn’t change our lunch routine and efforts now by any means – but there’s no way to make a perfect system. Sometimes I just have to be happy with the imperfections too.