I wasn’t surprised when I heard that birthdays are food-free celebrations at Big Girl’s new school. I had run into the mom who I suspect is behind the policy, and figured something like that was in the works.
We were at the park and recognized each other. The kids had been in nursery school together. She asked me how Big Girl was doing. I asked her how her Big Boy was doing. Fine, she said, but the school district was giving her a tough time with the allergy thing. She wanted a special education itinerant teacher (SEIT) in the room with her son at all times. His allergies were really bad, and she wanted an adult focused on him in case of anaphylactic shock. She was shaking and almost crying when she told me the school district flat out refused. Someone at the school told her that she needed to stop babying her son, she told me. That he had to live in the real world at some point, and having someone follow him around was a bad idea. And then the thing that I knew would change everything came out of her mouth: “I’ve hired a lawyer,” she told me. Soon after, in-class birthday parties were banned. While I don’t know for a fact that her lawyering up got the school to change its stance on in-class parties, I’m thinking that’s the case.
I’m surprisingly on the fence about this. I absolutely hate what they’ve replaced the birthday cupcake with: a birthday goody bag. The goody bags can’t have any candy or edible objects even if they are wrapped, so parents are forced to find inexpensive, unique fun things. Ha! As if that’s possible! So far there’s only been one birthday. We got a bag full of pencils and pads and stickers, all made in China, and all thrown away or recycled if possible. I just don’t allow any of those things in the house. Too many reports of lead contamination for my liking. With Big Girl’s birthday this month I bought a bunch of Magic Treehouse books to hand out as our goody bag. I wasn’t going to make up a bag that would end up in the trash ten minutes after it went home.
To me, there should have been another option: fruit or maybe packaged foods that are healthy and disclose all potential allergens. The child in question has milk and nut allergies, both of which can be scary and life-threatening. However, banning all food in all classrooms throughout the school seems a little drastic. What about allowing celebrations in the lunchroom, where there’s already an allergy table? In that situation the parents who have allergic kids could be notified so they could send in something special. (It wouldn’t be right unless everyone could partake in the party.) And since it would take place in the cafeteria, there would be much less of a chance that the affected child would encounter any cross contamination — a serious and common problem.
As someone with food allergies, and who has kids who have food allergies, I am totally sympathetic. However, as someone who also eats differently than others I would never try and make everyone in society eat the way we eat. Will I mock someone for eating McDonald’s? Hell yes, but I won’t tell them they can’t eat it. Did I always send in healthy snacks for Big Girl when the other kids were eating Dunkin Donuts Munchkins — you bet. Have you seen what’s in a chocolate glazed Munchkin:
Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Enzyme, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Palm Oil, Water, Sugar, Skim Milk, Soybean Oil, Cocoa processed with alkali, Contains less than 2% of the following: Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Egg Whites, Whey (a milk derivative), Salt, Artificial Flavor, Sodium Caseinate (a milk derivative), Soy Flour, Modified Corn Starch, Defatted Soy Flour, Soy Protein Isolate, Wheat Starch, Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acids, Guar Gum, Carbohydrate Gum, Soy Lecithin, Gelatinized Wheat Starch, Xanthan Gum, Cellulose Gum, L-Cysteine Hydrochloride; Glaze: Sugar, Water, Maltodextrin, Contains 2% or less of: Mono and Diglycerides, Agar, Cellulose Gum, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Artificial Flavor.)
Not kid-friendly, IMHO. Although I personally love the company’s coffee. Can’t do the muffins or bagels, though. They have high fructose corn syrup. And the jelly-filled Munchkins are worse. They have artificial colors, which another blogger recently broke down for us. Hint: they contribute to ADD and ADHD symptoms. Here’s the ingredients of the jelly Munchkin:
Enriched Unbleached Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron as Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamin Mononitrate, Enzyme, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Palm Oil, Water, Dextrose, Soybean Oil, Whey (a milk derivative), Skim Milk, Yeast, Contains less than 2% of the following: Salt, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda), Defatted Soy Flour, Wheat Starch, Mono and Diglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Cellulose Gum, Soy Lecithin, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Artificial Flavor, Sodium Caseinate (a milk derivative), Enzyme, Colored with (Turmeric and Annatto Extracts, Beta Carotene), Eggs; Jelly Filling: Corn Syrup, Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar Syrup, Apple Juice Concentrate, Pectin, Contains 2% or less of the following: Pectin, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate (Preservatives), Locust Bean Gum, Sodium Citrate, Red 40, Blue 2, Caramel Color,
But as always, digressing. Okay, so the kids can’t celebrate birthdays with cupcakes anymore because one person sued the school district. Tells you something about our society. If I had been that parent I probably would have done things very differently. I would have asked for a list of birthdays and called every parent before their kid’s party. I would have asked them to avoid my kid’s allergy foods. I would have asked for an Epi-Pen to be kept in the classroom. But I don’t think I would have taken all the cupcakes away. That just doesn’t seem fair. What do you think?
This post is how I am participating this week in Real Food Wednesdays and Fight Back Fridays — two awesome campaigns to get people eating real food again.