All year I have been force-feeding my son sandwiches for aruchat eser. This is because I learned my lesson last year. At the beginning, when we were fresh off the boat, I tried to send Ariella to gan with rice cakes, or pasta, since she's not much of a sandwich kid. I was told, "Mah pitom?" Aruchat eser is to consist of a sandwich, a fruit/veggie and THAT'S IT. I think I even blogged about it at some point. It definitely made an impression on us.
This year I have tried to be a good gan parent. I know that Yaakov's class washes and does birkat hamazon, so I assumed (and there's where it alllll goes downhill) that the same rules applied. You MUST bring in bread for washing; you CAN'T bring in anything else.
Now, I should have been a little wiser, having been introduced to the Theory of Random Gan Rules. (In first grade, things seem to be pretty standard, across the board. Ariella, and her first grade Chashmonaim counterparts went on the same tiyul (Goose World) and had the same Letter Party.) However, the each gan is a kingdom unto itself, with the head ganenet reporting directly to the Prime Minister.
"You must bring a lunchbox to school."
"Do NOT, under any circumstances, bring a lunchbox to school!"
"Only ONE parent may come to the party."
"Both parents MUST come to the party."
"Parents MAY NOT attend the party, under pain of death."
"The parent of the Shabbat Abba/Ima is expected to come in and talk about the parsha."
"Parents attending when your child is Shabbat Abba/Ima? MAH PITOM??!!!" [Insert Israeli "tsk tsk tsk" here.]
But I did not learn my lesson. So all year I've been trying to find something Yaakov will eat on, with, or next to bread. Jelly. Various cheese spreads. Plain sliced cheese. A hard boiled egg. (He already hates peanut butter and chummus.) I actually had to receive this note in my child's lunchbox, "Please stop sending cheese. Yaakov does not eat it." Which, of course, I read as, "You twit. Don't you know what your own kid likes????"
Finally, in desperation, I started giving him a piece of plain bread along with his fruit/veggie. And even that, he would only deign to eat one circle from the middle and no more. The only sandwich he gobbles up with gusto is his Friday chocolate sandwich, but though I have been known to let him eat cookies (on occasion) for breakfsat, I couldn't lower myself to a daily chocolate sandwich. At least with jelly I can pretend there's some nutritional value. So I relied on the old standby - if he was really starving, he'd eat the damn bread.
And that's how it came to be that on a clear, sunny Sunday morning (5 months into the school year), when I dropped off Yaakov, I innocently asked the teacher, "So they have to bring bread to aruchat eser, right? Because you all wash and bentch together?"
"Mah pitom? Send him what he likes to eat! We all say the brachot together, but he doesn't have to bring bread. We've been meaning to tell you, in fact, that he doesn't like his plain bread."
So now, a whole new world of food is open to us. Today he brought a Gamadim to school. And, I believe, ate it.
Well, as the saying goes in our house right now, "At least we'll get it right for little Punja." (Don't worry, it's just a placeholder name, created by Yaakov. Check back in May - God willing - for both the real name and to see how, despite our best efforts, we continue to bumble our way through parenthood.)