5 Bento Box Lunches My Daughter Finishes Every Time
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Even before having kids, I knew I wanted them to grow up knowing how to speak Japanese. What I underestimated was the sheer difficulty of teaching Japanese at home. As you can imagine, it’s a huge commitment to teach a second language. My husband is Filipino, so we mainly speak English together. Trying to speak and teach Japanese by myself was much more difficult than I thought. So when my daughter Addie turned 3, I knew it was time for her to start school — Japanese school.
I guessed that being in a learning environment with other Japanese-speaking friends and teachers would be much more effective than me trying to teach her. I also got a healthy dose of pressure from my own mom because she wanted to be able to communicate with her granddaughter in Japanese — always good motivation!
I packed Addie a lunch every day in her trusty bento box, and she consistently finishes them all!
Here’s a look at a week of our bento box lunches:
What Addie ate: gyoza and rice, celery, strawberries, tangerines, and chocolate biscuit snacks
Addie adapted a lot faster than I expected, which was a nice surprise. Until she was 3 years old, she was home with me, so I worried it would be hard for her. But with any big transition, kids are usually more resilient than parents. I was definitely more anxiety-ridden that first week than she was. By the third week, she was happily waving goodbye during drop-off.
What Addie ate: salmon and rice, edamame, goldfish, and a juicebox
As far as her Japanese language skills go, she’s picked up so much more than I thought possible in such a short time. She went from barely speaking at home and showing no interest in the language to constantly singing Japanese songs. Even though we can’t have full-on Japanese conversations yet, she voluntarily says Japanese words in different situations. It’s only been 6 months, so I can’t wait to see how much she’ll learn in a year.
What Addie ate: yakisoba, edamame, blueberries, and apples
Addie loves anything noodles or pasta! She’ll chow down on udon, ramen, and spaghetti any day, without us prompting her to eat. For the most part, she eats a diverse variety of food for her age and I’ve had fun cooking for her.
What Addie ate: udon, cucumbers, apples, tangerine, and a juicebox
If you’re looking to introduce your own child to the foods of your heritage, I’d say: just do it! And don’t give up, even if your kids don’t seem to like it at first. It’s easy to get discouraged when your kids don’t like the food you make them, but it’s all about continued exposure without the pressure. Start by adding one food along with other foods they’re more used to, and gradually add on over time.
I encourage positive language and reinforcement during mealtime, especially when they’re not used to something. I like to say, “Let’s give it a try” or “Let’s try at least one bite. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it all.” And after that one bite, if they don’t like it, I say, “It’s okay! Good job trying.” and then leave it for that day. I’ll keep trying here and there. It’s absolutely worth it when you can share your culture with your kids through the food you grew up with.
What Addie ate: salmon onigiri (rice ball), green beans, blueberries, and a juicebox
As a parent, I’m always amazed at how much I don’t know. But you just figure it out as you go. And it helps when you realize that all parents are doing the same thing! You go into parenting thinking you’re the one teaching your kids, but really, they become your teachers. I feel like I’m rediscovering who I am through motherhood. In a lot of ways, I feel reborn through parenting Addie.