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Dad swaps out daughter's 'authentic' Indian lunches with 'normal food' behind wife's back. AITA? UPDATED

Dad swaps out daughter's 'authentic' Indian lunches with 'normal food' behind wife's back. AITA? UPDATED


When this father is determined to take control of his daughter's lunches, he asks the internet:

"AITA for switching out my daughter's school lunches behind my wife's back?"

My wife Sara (36F) and I (35M) have an 11 year old daughter named Lily. Lily had begun attending 6th grade in September, but this problem only recently became a major issue.

Sara is Indian and makes great dishes that the whole family enjoys, and tends to pack these lunches for Lily as well. She typically packs Lily a rice with dal in a container or something similar, which she had no issues with in elementary school.

However, recently Lily came sobbing to her mom and I about the lunches she took. The kids at school had been making fun of her food, which absolutely made my heart break.

I had struggled with the same thing at her age (I come from a Chinese family and would always take homemade food to school too) and when I asked her if she wanted us to report the problem, she begged us not to so she wouldn't be called a "snitch" or worse.

When Sara heard this, she simply contacted the principal, which I didn't want to resort to at first, and left the issue, telling Lily she wouldn't be buying school lunch and to just ignore the other kids.

The same problem occured every day, Lily would be coming home feeling extremely upset and there were even times Sara would yell at Lily for not even touching her school lunch.

We both had talks with Lily about her culture and how she should be proud, have contacted the schools, but the school is ignorant of the issue (they simply had a talk with the parents, and ended it there) and Lily isn't budging.

I don't want her to starve, because so many days she doesn't even eat her lunch. I know how brutal middle schoolers can be, and I didn't want Lily to feel insecure or upset even if it meant making her take other lunches, but Sara refuses to make other lunches.

I began to make other lunches for Lily, like sandwiches, or sometimes mac n' cheese, so she'd feel more comfortable eating it in school in front of her classmates as a final resort when nothing else worked.

I would take Lily's lunch for myself at work and pack her own lunch early in the morning, which she finished and seemed happier when coming home daily after.

However, this only worked for about 2 weeks until Sara found out and was infuriated. She said I was denying Lily her culture and she needed to learn to stop being insulted by other kids, telling me I'm raising Lily to get whatever she wants. Is Sara right? AITA?

Before we give you OP's update, let's take a look at some of the top responses:

signit8 writes:

ESH because hiding things behind your co parent's back erodes trust and can really mess up a relationship long term. That said, your wife is playing with fire by not being more proactive for your daughter.

This situation could easily result in an eating disorder where she doesn't want to eat ANY food at school. I would really consider all options here, with the goal of preserving your daughter's health. Including eating mac n cheese from home, buying food at school, eating in another room, or switching schools.

indivad writes:

NTA. Middle school is a time when kids are merciless to each other. It is also a time when children want to fit in and when they start to exert control over those things that their parents used to do for them.

Your wife is not helping your daughter exert agency and make choices. Her dismissal of your daughter's concerns and wishes are bound to create resentment and will result in a massive blow-up when your daughter is older.

Worse yet, it almost guarantees that she will reject all things related to her ancestral culture because she'll associate that culture with conflict on all sides.

Discuss compromises such as keeping the home foods for after-school snacks. But even more importantly, encourage your wife to listen to your daughter's concerns and to take her wishes seriously.

timeu writes:

YTA. Not for providing the lunches. YTA for going behind your wife’s back. Don’t put your need to not have conflict with your wife ahead of your duty to be a team with your wife in the raising of your child.

Why couldn’t you have said to your wife “you called the principal and told Lily to stick up for her culture. She’s still unhappy. Can we try giving her different lunches?”.

How could your wife disagree with that? And if she did, why can’t you flat out tell her that you can’t bear to see Lily so upset bc you had similar experience and will be making her lunches from now on because it’s also causing YOU pain and you hope your wife would consider your happiness?

The solution might be different lunches. The solution you executed damaged the relationship with your wife. Apologize.

sussanahmio writes:

I am late for the show but I agree that NAH. The reason is simple: Those kids are racist and have already decided to dislike your daughter for being indian/chinese. The lunch gives them a reason for bullying at the moment but it is not the cause for the bullying.

Take away the lunches and they will find another thing. Maybe her hair because it looks different from theirs. Next thing you know is she'll ask to straighten her hair or dye it. And so on. No matter how often she changes certain aspects, those racist kids will always find something else to bully her for.

I went to school in a very white, very middle european rural area and witnessed that first had with the few turkish/arab kids we had per year. The racist kids always found a new reason.

I literally had an arab girl in my class with an arabic name, thick black hair, olive skin, modest clothes and always nice home made food when we started grade 6.

A few years into our teens and she had the most generic lunches, her hair was dyed blonde and straightened, she used skin bleaching creme which fd up her skin, did blend in with all accessoires and clothes even though she was clearly uncomfy in them and went by the most generic name back then, "Sarah".

She was still subjected to racist bullying.

I think your wife wants your daughter to learn how to deal with that kind of aggression because she'll most likely be subjected to it more or less all her life.

Also she might realized the lunches are not the true root for the bullying and taking them away is only a short term relief until the bullies find another thing. And at least her lunches are external. If they bully her next for her hair or skin it's much more personal.

But at the same time it is completely understandable that you and your daughter want to get rid of the immediate cause of most bullying in hopes it will get better.

If your daughter decides that her way of not being bullied is to be as "unobtrusive" as possible it's understandable and might work if the bullies attention shifts to someone else.

A lot of others already pointed out how you're N T A so I won't elaborate but I also do not think your wife is an asshole. Talk about it. Let her explain in more depth.

quayben writes:

YTA kinda because nobody is solving this issue. I was also bullied and internalized it. I have low self esteem and low confidence I never used to stick up for myself. Over time it became harder and harder until I reached my lowest and began changing. You don’t want your daughter to have to do that.

You want to strengthen her, teach her, encourage her, and nurture her. Those kids are little poops that deserve to be put in their place. They are being racist or whatever the right word is.

You need to go to a PTA meeting and embarrass those parents for not teaching their kids better because they are the problem. You’re teaching her to change and to avoid straight up serious problems!

There are times to ignore and there are times to fight. Right now she’s not even ignoring she’s being extremely insecure and letting them control her. What sucks more is maybe she really loves rice and dal.

searise6 writes:

NTA. Your wife wants to assert her dominance at the misery of your daughter.

There’s nothing in the culture rulebook that says you must eat every meal according to your own culture. And judging by the ignorant bullying of lily’s peers, you’re not living in India.

Your wife should first embrace the culture she’s immigrated to, a culture she’s chosen to raise her daughter in, if she wants other people to embrace hers. Being Indian is only 1/3 of your daughter’s culture. She’s also 1/3 Chinese and 1/3 the culture of where you’re currently living.

A very big part of parenting is coming to accept you can’t try to control your kids and sometimes you don’t know best. Sometimes your kids know what they need better than you. You’ve figured this out but your wife hasn’t, and she’s the one who needs a wake up call.

forloveofgiraffe writes:

NTA. I've been Lily. I grew up as an Indian kid in the UK and kids commented on my lunch. I was lucky that they just said it looked and smelled weird but didn't push it past that.

But it still hurt and I just wanted to fit in. I understand it's hard though because Sara doesn't want Lily to lose her culture, but she will resent it if this keeps on going. She can still enjoy the food at home and at family parties, while eating sandwiches at School (which guess what, Indians also eat).

And she'd appreciate it more that way round. But it's not fair to make her have to be the bigger person and stand up for her culture when she's just a kid who wants to eat without being teased. Now that her solution is simply not eating, you need to step up and find ways to make her eat. Which you did.

So please share this comment with your wife. Tell her how hard it is to grow up sharing two cultures and feeling stuck. How resentful you can get when the Indian side is forced.

But how much you can appreciate it when you're allowed to explore Indian culture at home, in a safe way. Because now I love all Indian food and I'd proudly take it to work, but I'm a fully grown woman who was allowed to make that choice in my own time.

And until then, my Mum made me ham sandwiches and was just thankful that I ate something. I will forever be grateful that she understood that the only way I'd feel like I fit in is it she embraced both cultures and you can bet she learned how to make sandwiches, roast dinners, Christmas dinner etc, while also feeding me rajma at home.

Then, OP provides this first update:

EDIT: Bringing this post and topic up tonight, I'll post an update when I can. Hopefully this is enough to convince Sara- if not, I'll do what other comments said and just keep packing Lily's lunch or let her pick.

Okay, so I'll start by saying thank you for all the comments. A lot of people agreed with me, some told me I should let Lily pick her lunch.

I showed the post to Sara and it took about an hour or so, but we both sat down and talked w/ Lily on where she wants to go from here and she said she liked the lunches I packed her etc.

However we also figured out this bullying had been going on for longer than just 2-3 weeks. So Sara agreed to let Lily take whatver lunch she wanted on the condition that she'd eat homemade food, Chinese or Indian, for dinner/breakfast still and we all agreed, so Sara got her part in it.

As for the school, since the principal hardly did anything, we reached out to the school board superintendent and are still waiting for a response. I think this'd solve the issue better too, and when we get a response I'll post a second update. Thank you for the advice!!

OP's second update:

So, I'm sorry for taking so long to update. But we managed to resolve everything. The superintendent and school board were actually incredibly helpful and got back to us within 2 days to schedule a meeting about this.

I don't want to go too much into detail, but there were 2 specific girls who played a big role in the bullying. I believe one of them got detention for some time, and another got suspended because she'd done this before.

Their parents were also super apologetic and supportive of Lily, and didn't try to get in the way of the consequences which really was nice.

As for Lily, she is doing much better and is definitely more content and happier when she comes home from school. thank you!!

What do YOU make of OP's story? Was he TA here or was he justified in sneaking behind his wife's back?

Sources: Reddit
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