Friday, July 16, 2010


Buckle up, it's time for a rant. 

Mary Grace and Claire have been enrolled in swimming lessons at the local municipal pool for the past two weeks.  They have gone every day for 25 minutes to learn to blow bubbles in the water.  Last night MG told us that today was their "party," because it's the last day of the session, and that they needed to bring snacks. 

We thought that she was confused.  Surely there's no need to bring snacks for a 25 minute class at a pool, right?  I mean, seriously.  We can't go 25 minutes without eating?  The class is from 9 - 9:25 am.  They just had breakfast for God's sake.  We figured that she learned at preschool that party = snack, and we chose to not send a snack.

BJ just texted me and said that MG was right, they were supposed to bring a snack today.


Snack was the hardest part of preschool for me.  I understand that some kids don't get breakfast, and so it might make sense for those kids to get a snack in the morning between breakfast and lunch.  Most of those kids, however, don't go to our preschool.  If parents can't afford breakfast for their kids, how are they going to pay for preschool that costs $75 a month?  Preschool only runs from 9 - 11:30 am.  It's not like the average kid in our fairly affluent town is going to starve to death if they eat breakfast at 8 and then lunch at noon and nothing in between!  And if there is a kid in the class who is at risk, they could make special arrangements for him instead of feeding the whole class daily. 

However, the school disagrees, so every day we had to have a snack.  Fine, whatever.  I didn't want to become that mom over this. I've got 18 years of being that mom in my future, why start over snack?

A cupcake for Fat Tuesday - coincidence?
But you should have seen some of the cupcakes that kids brought for their birthdays and half birthdays to eat at 11 am!  How am I supposed to teach my kids about healthy eating if they're getting a 500 calorie cupcake for elevensies?  (I'm not kidding - the average frosted cupcake has 500 calories - look it up.  When you're 3 or 4 years old, that's 1/2 to 1/4 of your recommended daily intake - and seriously, 2000 calories a day for a 4 year old seems awfully high to me).

Mary Grace always saved at least half of her snack to share with Claire (awwww!), so I didn't worry too much about her overeating, but for plenty of other kids, overeating is a serious, serious problem.  One third of our nation's children are overweight. 

Look, I understand that everyone needs a treat once in a while.  I understand that breaking the rules and eating cake for breakfast every now and then makes for good memories.  I understand that eating junk and not giving a rip is part of what makes childhood fun and special.  They have their whole lives to eat salads, why start now?  (Actually, because Claire likes them and orders them in restaurants, that's why, but that's another post).  But when we can't celebrate the tiniest, most insignificant milestone (like finishing a two freakin' week swimming class) without eating something, I think we've got a problem.  When we get treats all the time, for every little thing, they cease to be special.

This isn't what I want for my kids.
The thing is, when you're a kid and you're only eating 1000 or 1500 calories a day, you can't let a cupcake be 500 of them.  You need fruits and vegetables and protein and nutrients and not empty calories full of high fructose corn syrup and transfats to make up the vast, vast majority of your diet.  Otherwise you're going to look like the Stay-Puffed Marshmallow Kid by third grade!  And SO MANY parents are letting their kids drink soda, or unlimited amounts of juice...  These kids can't afford this institutionalized ........ (sound of needle being ripped off of a record).

OK, BJ just got home with the kids and their "goodie bags," which contained:
  • A juice box
  • Three homemade cookies
  • A snack-sized package of Scooby Doo graham cracker snacks
  • A snack-sized package of Mini-Oreos
  • Cantaloupe
  • A Tootsie Roll

And now BJ and I are the bad guys because we aren't letting them dive in head first.  He let them eat the cantaloupe and the (small) Tootsie Roll while they were there.

It's going to have to start with us.  We, as parents, are going to have to be the bad guys and we're going to have to say, "Enough is enough!  They don't need a snack during a 2-1/2 hour class!  They don't need a party after finishing a 2 week class!  And if you want to have a reward - fine, have a party, but don't center it around food!  Give them a coupon for free admission to the pool, instead.  That makes a hell of a lot more sense than giving them a 750 calorie bag of junk food after a class that their parents enrolled them in to promote physical fitness!"

We're going to have to demand that the government stop double-subsidizing garbage (first subsidizing the farmers who grow the corn to make the HFCS, then giving the poor food stamps and allowing them to buy soda full of the poison).  Why don't they subsidize apples?  Or broccoli? 

I've had it.  I was ready to call the people in charge of the swim class and give them a piece of my mind, but BJ pointed out that we have the option to opt out of the optional swimming classes.  Fine.  He's right.  We'll vote with our wallets, both with the classes and at the grocery store.  Because I love my kids I will continue to be the bad guy.  And I'll hope that they'll understand when they're the only kids in their third grade class who can walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded.


Erin said...

I totally disagree with BJ. You want your kids enrolled in these types of classes to learn skills, and like you said, promote physical fitness. So, I think you should call or e-mail and let them know you were disappointed in the "party". Suggest the free pool pass coupon and maybe another idea. If your kids learned how to swim, they should be rewarded with a party - just not one that includes their daily calorie intake. I think the people who run that class and the other parents could benefit from your suggestions too!

strwberrryjoy said...

Thanks! I was just feeling guilty for not making goody bags for Claire's party tomorrow. I figure a piece of cake and ice cream is plenty. I don't want to send them home with a bag of sugar or a bag of cheapy crappy toys...(Ok, now I'm feeling guilty for having cake AND ice cream...I'll cut the pieces small!!!)

Stacey said...

Hi, i found your blog from a post you made -through the grapevine. You had posted the freerange website in response to the author freaking out about leaving kids in a car, so when i saw that, i had to check out your blog. I have to say that i LOVE this post, "snacks". I couldn't agree more. In fact, i went out on a limb and declared "no goody bags EVER" at my children's bday parties. Some of the kids who attended were shocked. I mean, okay, i understand party favors for kids. But how has a simple, cheap toy turned into a massive bag of food crap for each attendee AFTER they've just had juice, cake and more white flour? I look forward to reading more of your work!


Heather said...

You go, girl. As usual. :)

The Elks hosts swimming lessons that Amelia's enrolled in at her preschool, and there aren't any snacks involved. There aren't parties involved. They swim, the kids are happy. End of story.

At the end of the kiddie gymnastics/dance thing, you know how they celebrated? They put on a two-minute show and got medals. No snacks. No parties. We let the kiddo pick the restaurant that evening for dinner, but we were going out anyway. End of story.

BJ is right that the classes are optional, but you are also right that the pool staff need to get a little perspective. Rewards don't have to be edible, and when they are, they don't have to be garbage. Why not print off certificates, for pete's sake?

If it helps, the goody bag thing isn't universal. Maybe it's because we have allergies at our preschool, but the goody bags when they exist are almost always pencils, stickers and maybe a packet of M&Ms OR small candy bars, OR gummies, OR some other treat - not all of them together.

B.J. said...

Just to set the record straight, I wasn't saying that the swimming classes are optional. They aren't mandated by law but learning to swim is a life skill and I only thought it was wise to have them taught by people who may actually convince my kids to go underwater someday.

Rather, I was saying that there was no one stopping me from intercepting the kids on the way to the table with the food, which in all fairness had pre-dished out plates of cantaloupe for each kid. And it was after the 25 minute class was over, ergo, I considered it optional.

Julie said...

::Shrug:: I'm with BJ.

Katie's been to plenty of parties, today included after a week of Vacation Bible School, where she didn't eat all the crap the other kids were eating. And what's really cool is that after nearly eight years of being told that sugar is not good for her and is only for special occasions and in serious moderation, it felt good to see her go for the fruit kabobs while the others were grabbing up cookies.

I'm with BJ. Don't sweat the small stuff. Use it as a teachable moment about what we do and don't put in our bodies. It will help them make better choices in the long run, when they're faced with a situation where they *could* opt to stuff their faces with junk. Then you can be nice and smug when you see them going for the fruit kabobs...

(Because I was totally the leading exporter of smug in the Detroit Metro area today when I saw Katie's plate versus the other kids' plates... Just sayin'.)

Anonymous said...

I'm with you. Goody bags are excess. Sugar snacks (in excess of an occasional treat) are harmful. None of this is helping our kids learn to enjoy the moment for the moment's sake.

That said, while my oldest is the kid selecting an apple out of the buffet of sugar snacks at parties, my youngest is totally the one covered in chocolate.

Which totally reinforces my desire to limit this crap.

You're right on here!

Anonymous said...

I agree with you to a point. Sugary snacks are certainly too prevalent where children are concerned.

However, on the point of snacks for kids going to a 2 1/2 hour preschool, I have to respectfully disagree with you. I used to teach preschool (and daycare) in numerous environments (i.e., affluent and not affluent at all) and in all cases the children got snacks. Developmentally it is appropriate for preschool age children to snack during the day, provided that the snacks are healthy.

And even though I think a party is strange at the end of a two week swimming class, I do think that parties are okay in general. There are plenty of healthy snacks that can be served.


Amy said...

Thanks for all the nice comments. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks snacks are out of control.

I'm going to have to disagree with you right back, Liz. 3 and 4 year olds are perfectly capable of going 2.5 hours without eating. Mine eat breakfast around 7:30, and when we're home eat lunch between 11:30 and 12:30 (a 4 - 5 hour gap), then we eat a snack at 3 pm (a 3.5 - 4.5 hour gap), and have dinner between 6 and 7 (a 3 - 4 hour gap). And all children go 11 or 12 hours at night without eating.

My kids are healthy, are not starved, and are maintaining their percentiles on the growth chart at the doctor's office. They can also see their own feet, which isn't something you can say about all kids anymore.

Occasionally when they've refused to eat a good breakfast, they'll get hungry and get a small morning snack, but that's very rare. It's definitely not something that happens (or needs to happen) every day. And if MG were truly hungry would she have saved half her snack for her sister every day? I don't think so. I'm fortunate that my kids are able to regulate their own intakes - a lot of kids, particularly those who eat a lot of crap elsewhere, are not so lucky.

I understand that eating 6 small meals per day is healthier on paper, but that's not how anyone eats in this culture, and that isn't the kind of eating that the constant-snack promoters are trying to promote. If they were, they would be insisting on carrot sticks and apples with peanut butter instead of cupcakes. (Can't do peanut butter anyway - someone might have allergies!)

And you can't deny that 1/3 of our nation's kids are obese - so tell me how it makes sense to continue doing things the way they've always been done.

The other thing about it that kind of honks me off is that it takes away MY ability to give my kid treats. There were many times when BJ and I might have wanted to take our kids for ice cream in the evening, but chose not to because they'd had cupcakes at school already that day. Limiting ourselves to one treat a day or less is something that we're trying to teach, and if someone else gives my kids their one treat - I can't!

I think teachers like giving snacks to their classes because it fills time, not because it's nutritionally appropriate to do so. Either that, or they do it because that's just the way it's done, or because it's the school's policy.

I'm not saying the teachers are bad or that they're trying to hurt anyone - I love all of the teachers we've had so far. I think it's a cultural problem here in the US, and one that's going to take work on the part of the parents to fix.

I'd love to see the daily schedule of preschools in other nations - especially nations that don't have the obesity problem that we have here.

Megan said...

I agree with you Amy. I think it's ridiculous to have a party at the end of every freaking occasion. The Portage school system no longer allows sugary treats and I believe that all school systems should follow suit. If you want to celebrate a birthday, sing and dance at school or play a special game. Don't get out the cupcakes. If you want to celebrate your swimming class then have free time in the pool. I am going to be "that" mom right there with you when it comes to my own kids. Something has to change.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the 'snack after any activity' has gone on over-drive. Just wanted to comment, however, on your many posts about sugar, calories, snacking, dieting, etc. Of course this info is helpful but please remember that when your kids learn to read they will see that you blog incessantly about food. Just a fair warning that research has shown that this parental behavior can trigger an eating disorder. Just ease up sometimes. Trust me, you don't want it to backfire.

Amy said...

Anon - I didn't realize that I had gotten to be that much of a food blogger. Food has been on our mind a LOT in this house for the past 8 months or so. BJ and I have each lost 50 pounds. It has required a major attitude adjustment for all of us.

It is interesting that you make that observation, though, and I'll certainly consider your point of view in future posts. Thanks!

chelsea said...

I have been very confused by our school's birthday snack policy so far... very inconsistent.
One year my daughter's teacher told us that the school is switching to only healthy snacks for birthdays... fruit, veggies, etc. No soda, candy, cookies. At first some of the kids were whiny about it but I thought it was great and it turned out fine. The next year, however, they were back to encouraging the same old junk. And my other daughter (same school), since they have to have their snack labels checked every single day for peanuts, and are not allowed to bring anything homemade or home-packaged... was encouraged to bring candy for birthdays. Not even cookies... cotton candy, jellybeans, junior mints, etc. Ack.