This month's theme is vent…brace yourselves, here's mine.
Thirty-seven weeks of school. Twenty-four kids in an average, local Kindergarten class. That’s twenty-four birthdays and you can’t even subtract the summer babies because we make sure they know when their “half-birthdays” are during the school year so they have the same opportunity to shower the class in junk-food as those lucky kids born during the school year.
Don’t forget the parties—on our calendar we have a Harvest Party, a Holiday Party, and, of course, the newest horror, Pink Halloween in February. Then there are field trips, an ice cream social, and random days like the first day of school when the teacher just feels like handing each kid a cookie as big as their head. Which is sweet (no pun intended), don’t get me wrong. The problem is not in the sentiment it’s in the sheer quantity of sugar.
That is a lot of sugar pumped into one Kindergarten classroom in a year. Since my kids entered public elementary school three years ago, I’ve witnessed five-year-olds given cupcakes and an entire Sprite at 10:00 a.m., countless “cooking decorating” party activities, involving not only a huge cookie and frosting, but piles of dye-filled candy heaped on top, doughnuts as class treats, and party favor bags filled with lollipops, nerds, and those sticks full of dyed sugar (SHUDDER).
Yes, I have a pet peeve, have you sussed it out?
I like sweets. I like treating my kids. We often eat sugar, baked goods, and even candy. But some weeks, I feel like it’s inappropriate for me to add a treat onto all the crap they’ve eaten at ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. Don’t even get me started on “fruit snacks” that contain only HFCS and chemicals or strawberry milk in the cafeteria with more sugar than a soda pop.
I know we all want to spoil our kids, make them feel special, and shower them with love. I know it’s fun to see a roomful of little kids light up at the sight of a tray full of cupcakes with glow worm gummies piled on top. What I don’t understand is why we can’t see that it’s never just our kid’s birthday, or just the sweet we want to bring. It’s always times twenty-four and it’s too much.
We—collectively, as a society—are teaching our kids the very thing that so many of us spend an entire adult lifetime trying to unlearn.
Sweets = happiness. Sugar = fun. Cupcakes = love.
The celebration hasn’t happened until we feel sick and our teeth are coated in sugar residue.
Our bodies naturally crave sweet things because of their easy energy content. Encouraging a psychological attachment to sweets as a shortcut to positive feelings is unwise. And yet, we reinforce this message constantly to our very young children with a flashing neon sign that says JUNK FOOD = FUN PARTY.
I can’t help but believe that in doing so we will pass on all of our negative patterns. When I’m sad, frustrated, depressed about the winter, cold, tired, or overwhelmed, I want SOMETHING CHOCOLATE WITH FROSTING. It’s a test of my will power not to eat crap when I feel strong negative emotions, searching for a certain level of happiness and satisfaction in sweets. I usually win, but it’s hard and I know I’m not alone. I see this kind of complaint posted everywhere.
We were taught that whether we want to admit it our not. That’s a lesson we learned at the knee of this idyllic childhood-party-sweets-holiday mentality. If we don’t want to raise kids who struggle with the food issues of our generation we need to stop the constant association of positive social events and sugar.
Not in every single instance. Of course, I think birthday parties are fun. Dessert is a lovely family event. A milkshake after hockey games will always be a part of our family culture. We love sweets in moderation, but our elementary school has left moderation in the dust when it comes to sugar and I want my kids’ treat moments back.
I want to spoil them occasionally, when I think it’s appropriate. At school, I want them to learn that protein is good for your brain and your school work and that people can be celebrated wonderfully and meaningfully without a single teaspoon of sugar. Put a crown on that birthday kid, let him be line-leader, let her pick the free play for the day, sing a song just for him, let her sit in the teacher’s chair for an hour. Have a buffet of red fruits on Valentine’s Day and then go outside and play games. Teach them that happiness, fun, and love can be found in actions, words, and traditions. Maybe we’ll raise happier twenty-five-year-olds that way.
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