Yesterday I took part in a luncheon/brainstorming session with a great group of Colorado women as part of LiveWell Colorado’s LiveWell Moms group. LiveWell is a non-profit dedicated to reducing obesity in Colorado, and LiveWell Moms is an off-shoot of moms (duh) who want to drive healthy change in the community.
As moms of young kids know, any excuse to get out of the house wearing “nice” clothes in order to spend time with other adults is welcome. This particular commitment was especially nice for me because I was in the company of like-minded women struggling to balance their desire for healthy kids with the constant challenges of a not-so-healthy mainstream. Sometimes I feel like a feel like a freak for not just going with the junk food flow that could easily engulf my boys. Other times I’m angry that in simply trying to teach my kids healthy habits, I may come across as freakish to others. With these other LiveWell moms, I felt normal. Well, as normal as I ever feel. Ha!
One of the main topics of conversation was frustration over how to handle what one mom dubbed our “cupcake culture.” You know, how every birthday party or celebration of any kind necessitates cupcakes. Not that I have anything against cupcakes. Actually, I think cupcakes are little chunks of heaven, sent down to make us all a little happier. I just don’t think anyone needs 36 of them during the course of a school year, which is about what it adds up to if every kid in class brings in cupcake birthday treats.
Frostingy fingers aside, it’s a sticky topic of conversation. Crack down on cupcakes and other classroom celebrations, and you come across as a fuddy duddy or worse. But the alternative isn’t much better, because if you think about it, it’s not just cupcakes. It’s cupcakes, other classroom celebrations, candy for good behavior, treats for winning a game, junk food in the lunchroom, candy sales for fundraisers, and kids sharing sweets they’ve brought from home. And that’s just the school day. Add on Pop Tarts for breakfast, sports drinks and juice boxes after soccer practice, and dessert after dinner, and you’ve got a day full of nutritionally void foods.
So, what’s the answer? What I learned yesterday, is that it’s different for every mom, every family. I believe in keeping the day-to-day meals and snacks as healthy as possible, so I feel no guilt whatsoever when we go out for pizza, bake a loaf of pumpkin bread, or drink steamy, marshmallowy hot chocolate after a winter night walk. That means I don’t want my kids eating junk at school. I don’t want them eating crap after sports games. I don’t want them getting soda at a friend’s house. I want to be able to treat them when I see fit. Seriously. And I want them to learn that sweets are just that–a treat. Not an anytime occurrence because you played a baseball game, or won a classroom bingo game, or celebrated the birthday of some kid in your class you barely know.
To some of the moms I met yesterday, I take too lax a view. To some of you, I might seem overly strict and unrealistic. To me and Mike, it feels just right. Even our kids feel we have the right idea, as they relish the special treats we allow, and start to make healthy choices on their own. Of course they don’t turn down a gorge fest when mom and dad are out of town (they’re not alien children), but then that’s a learning opportunity too, isn’t it?
So friendly readers, I’m curious–what’s your opinion about snacks and treats and such? Do you struggle with the amount of junk food your kids are exposed to, or do you, in fact, think I’m a crazy person for wanting to ban cupcakes in the classroom? Do you struggle with how to address these issues with other parents and caretakers? Or do you get angry with people like me, who take this health stuff way too seriously?