So I attended the twins’ pre-K Easter party today. Mercy. I actually really enjoy rooms full of pre-schoolers because I’m weird like that. I do have to admit, however, that my enjoyment becomes somewhat strained when we give them all a plate full of “treats” to eat and then set them loose on the world. The volume increase alone can be staggering. In my attempts to reinforce my kids’ good eating habits I usually feel like a Scrooge at all holiday affairs. Don’t get me wrong, I let them partake, but do a fair amount of talking beforehand and whatever meal they have before an event like this is exceptionally nutritious and my expectations for their participation in consuming that meal are very high. While the table of offerings at their parties have, thankfully, decreased a bit since the parties at the beginning of the year, it is still chock full of nibbles that my kids don’t usually get (including candy) and each of these parties includes some kind of take-away that also includes candy. … See, you’re even thinking I sound a little mean. And maybe I am, but I just don’t think a 5 year old needs to consume the sugary equivalent of a King Sized Snickers bar (and even I can appreciate the wonder of a King Sized Snickers bar) as an afternoon snack to celebrate Easter.
So in my concern about these dietary issues, I’ve assumed that I am alone, that the other parents think this is fine and dandy, and that I am the only one who thinks this whole equation doesn’t add up. But today I listened. Each of the parents that came to help was coaching children to take some of the healthy choices, pushing grapes and carrots and popcorn, eagerly offering water over juice boxes, placing limits on the time and amount of take away candy consumption that would occur. Sighing and shaking their heads as they watched the escalation begin. So I left wondering why, if we all think this is a bit much (as we seem to), we continue to do it this way? These kids are 4 and 5 year olds; wouldn’t now be the easiest time to train them NOT to expect all of the junk? Wouldn’t now be the time to develop family and community traditions that don’t require us to walk around harping after our children and thinking we didn’t pull it off anyway at the end of the day? Let me be clear; I am not suggesting that we stop having parties. And you should know from my earlier posts that I am also not suggesting that we ban chocolate. I just want to explore the scale. So many of our daily dietary choices are based on habits, and often on habits that are not particularly healthful. Do we continue to binge and to teach our children to do the same out of habit? And do we then grimace at the amount of noise and the tears that follow 40 minutes later when they crash?
Lest you all think that you should send my children Easter treats in the mail, I should tell you that next weekend, they will get Easter baskets and that those baskets will have some candy. A chocolate bunny, some mini chocolate bars, and some lovely white Jordan almonds. No high fructose corn syrup (which wasn’t THAT hard to do) and none of the food colorings that are on the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s “Food Additives to Avoid” list (this was harder). Their baskets will also have a small toy (thank you Legos). As for eggs we will, at some point, be dying eggs… I have yet to decide HOW we will be dying them as all of the “kits” also include “Avoid” colors. I am sure, however, that I will be able to convince my children that any method we choose for coloring eggs is fun. What 5 year old doesn’t want to do a messy art project as a family?
Should you do what I do? That’s not what I’m saying. Is all candy bad? I have NO idea (except about chocolate, which is good, plain and simple). I do know that for ME responsible parenting means trying to bring as many days as possible into some kind of alignment with my fundamental beliefs. I fundamentally believe that the additives in much of our food are cumulatively harmful; I actively stress the importance of teaching our children to eat better than we do. Celebrating a holiday does not mean giving up who I am, and who I want us to be. Separating our harmful habits from our cherished traditions may well help us to enjoy our holidays and celebrations even more, as ourselves, and as who we want to be.
So that’s my plan for the upcoming holiday. What’s yours? Is it what you want it to be? Are you celebrating by habit or by design? And, more selfishly, if you do something cool and food safe with eggs, do tell. Yes, there are millions of things out there on the web… Which are your favorites?