I have a confession to make:
My son is 17 and I still make his sandwiches.
As someone who believes in the power of words and works in the field of storytelling, I’m aware of how this single sentence might tell its own story, an unfavorable one.
You’re probably thinking… why?
He’s within a year of being able to vote. Surely he’s capable of making his own damn sandwich?
Perhaps you’ve labeled me as that helicopter mom, hovering incessantly, overinvolved, unable to let go.
Or a micromanager who has to oversee every detail of my kid’s life.
Or a professional chef whose sandwiches are beyond compare.
None of which is true (especially the chef part).
And yet, this year, like all the others of his childhood education, I’ll be packing a sandwich for him to take to school for lunch.
Go ahead, judge away… But allow me a moment to assemble the ingredients and provide the recipe of my thoughts.
Yesterday, he was in kindergarten…
(OK, not yesterday. Twelve years ago…)
Twelve years that have passed as a blip. Some days I feel I blinked and missed it. Some days I wonder how I got through it. With each passing year, I share Musings on the Age of Old.
Through those twelve years, there were lots of triumphs (mostly his), lots of tears (mostly mine), and many, many sandwiches (mostly PB&J in elementary school and turkey with cheese in more recent years…)
Early on, I single-handedly packed his Spiderman lunch box with a sandwich with the crusts cut off and a pouch of fruit snacks. Now we operate as a team. I prepare the sandwich and he packs the rest of his lunch. If he forgets to bring it, he’s out of luck. This restaurant doesn’t deliver.
For those wondering… yes, he’s perfectly capable of making his own damn sandwich. I’ve taught him to do it. I’ve seen him do it.
He’s capable of the many tasks he completes around the house from clearing his plate, loading and emptying the dishwasher, walking the dog, taking out the trash, doing some (but not enough) of his own laundry, and mowing the lawn.
Outside of the house, he pulls in $11 an hour greeting customers and folding t-shirts at a retail store, the proceeds of which he promptly spends on his biggest love, Chipotle. (Oh, to have him look at me with the love in his eyes that he did as a toddler, the way he now looks at a burrito…)
He’s confident in the kitchen. He knows how to chop and mix and flip fried eggs so they usually land in the pan and not on the edge of the stove. He knows my wrath when he leaves those missed flip eggs to dry to a hardened mess. He makes a decent veggie omelet and the most amazing oatmeal chocolate chip cookies from scratch.
And, when I’m not around or don’t offer or he just wants to make one on his own – yes, he makes his own damn sandwich.
So, you see, it’s not that he can’t do it.
But there’s a universal truth about sandwiches and it is this:
A sandwich tastes so much better when someone else makes it.
Just like a salad tastes so much better when it’s chopped and tossed, there’s something about a sandwich carefully prepared with love that makes it that much more enjoyable.
And there’s something about preparing that sandwich, with love and for someone you love, that is equally satisfying.
Chew on that.
I have made hundreds of lunches throughout his school years. And I’ve made them occasionally on weekends too. Those are even more special because I use good rustic bread and take out the panini press, melting the cheese just so before plating the now “pressed sandwich” for my perfectly capable son.
And he eats it with appreciation and declares, “Good sandwich, mom!” as he clears his plate and loads the dishwasher and runs off to wherever he goes when he’s not with me, which, these days, is most of the time.
Which is more full, his stomach… or my heart?
Here’s the other reality:
They say the days are long and the years are short. This is true.
Yesterday he was in kindergarten (well, not yesterday, but you know what I mean…) and soon he’ll be graduating and on his own, returning for only the occasional lunch.
So, judge if you want, but this year, I’ll be making a sandwich for my almost adult son as he heads off to his final year of high school.
It’s not a parenting error. It’s a privilege.
Sandwiches don’t last forever.
The clock eagerly eats up childhood. Until the time is done, I’ll be dining on every delicious moment.
Valerie Gordon is a lifelong storyteller, an Emmy award-winning television producer, and the founder of career and communications strategy firm, Commander-in-She. She offers corporate workshops and virtual training to help clients capitalize on the power of their own stories. Read more from the Commander-in-She blog.