If you add up the ages of all of my children, I've been a mom for almost 38 years, which is almost as long as I've been on this Earth. You might think I have most things figured out. I know I did. But as it turns out, you're never too old a mom to learn new tricks.
This tip came from the brilliant family of the child who has the locker next to my oldest daughter. Both freshmen in high school, one day my daughter saw him pull a girly lunchbox out of his bookbag. There must have been an exchange of expressions and the explanation followed.
"I forgot my lunchbox at school yesterday so my mom packed my lunch in this princess Lunchbox of Shame. I'm never going to forget it at school again."
Upon hearing this story, my eyes got wide and I probably stood there, mouth agape, wondering why I hadn't thought of this long, long ago. While our children are pretty good at remembering to bring their lunch boxes home, they are terrible at remembering to unpack them. We're those weird "save the Earth" people who pack everything in reusable containers and have no-waste lunches, so the unpacking of containers is kind of important. It becomes even more important over an extended weekend when I unzip the forgotten box early in the morning to find four-day-old strawberries that could double as a science project. I don't make the kids do many chores, and throwing plastic containers in the sink after I've done all the packing isn't too much to ask, right?
Needless to say, I immediately wanted to adopt this marvelous parenting tool. It was enforced that very day. "Don't let this happen to you!" I stated, and sat back to wait and see what would happen.
It took only a couple of days for someone to forget and in my great excitement of packing a princess lunchbox, I was defeated on two counts. One, I couldn't find the lunchbox I was planning on using. And two, it was my youngest daughter who would be accepting of said lunchbox, totally defeating the purpose of humiliation and, oh yeah, a life lesson.
So instead she was awarded her salami sandwich in a brown paper bag. But this was no ordinary bag. It contained special messages in large, bold print. On one side, "I didn't unpack my lunchbox and my mom forced me to use this paper bag and a beautiful tree died for no reason at all. I'm so sorry I was forgetful, little tree." And on the other side, "I didn't unpack my lunchbox and am forced to carry the Brown Sack of Shame."
On the bottom I wrote, "P.S. I still love you. Love, Mom."
The next day, everyone unpacked their lunchboxes the second they walked in the door. This scheme of mine might not work for long, but that's OK with me. I've got the next Brown Sack of Shame text all ready to go.