My two & a half year old is a different story. We make most of her meals, take her grocery shopping, slice toy wooden vegetables together with dull, plastic knives. She knows the word organic and can name our farmer, whom she sees weekly at the farmers market (Jorge). But even her feeding isn’t always within our jurisdiction. She started daycare earlier this fall and, while the school does stress healthy eating, banishing fruit drinks and juices and insisting on water, and having a no-cookies policy, they still equate children’s birthday parties with pizza and cupcakes. Birthdays are a frequent occurrence with two classrooms of two year olds there are sometimes even four a month.
Now, I don’t object to pizza and cupcakes once in a while (as long as they’re quality goods). Tasty, filling, treats. But what my wife and I do object to is the equation of pizza and cupcakes with celebration and also the frequency with which this now occurs. These days, our daughter rejects her homemade lunch for fast food about once a week. And birthday is now synonymous with “pizza and cupcakes” as though they are the only way to celebrate.
I believe that there are other ways to celebrate special occasions at school and would be happier if celebrations were imaginative rather than the mindless distribution of fatty, salty, sugary treats. How about a special outing? A visit from a magician or other performer (music is always a hit)? If you do insist on distributing goods, how about a small toy, a ball even.
Time after time when we ask, we’re told, but little Jimmy wants pizza and cupcakes, so it has to be. This begs the question: why would Jimmy want it this way if you hadn’t established that is the way it is?
Parents have a tiny window in which to imprint messages about healthy food and celebrations. When childhood obesity is at such a sorry state, why would we choose to message it this way?