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Peer Pressure and Lunchtime

Last Wednesday night my daughter’s school held a gala. I bid for and won several gift certificates in the silent auction. I went to the school yesterday to settle up and bring home my gifts. (Free pizzas, a baby class certificate, a free adult dance class.) I got there during lunch, so the woman who works in the office said I could go up and say hi to Big Girl.

Little Girl and I got to the dimly-lit room — they eat in darkened silence for the first ten minutes to encourage good nutrition — and I spotted my daughter. She was seated next to That Girl, the dreaded class bully who pushed my daughter down and got herself suspended. That Girl, I noticed, was fishing her sandwich out of a Wonder Bread plastic container. She didn’t even give me a chance to say hello to Big Girl before she started in on me. It seems Big Girl’s organic whole wheat bread was not satisfactory. I needed to buy Wonder Bread since it’s the only good bread out there. (She obviously doesn’t know that Wonder Bread’s fourth ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, or that I don’t take parenting advice from 7-year-olds.) I was only there for a few moments but That Girl kept up her marketing ploy the entire time. This child who has caused me so much grief had decided I needed an education in school lunches, too.

I deflected her comments and left quickly so I wouldn’t disturb the kids, but I was very uncomfortable with the exchange. I wasn’t sure why. I was buckling Little Girl into the carseat when it hit me, though. THAT must be why my normally good eater had recently started bringing home full lunchboxes. It made sense. That Girl was making my daughter feel like her lunches were all wrong. No wonder Big Girl wasn’t drinking from her reusable water bottle. That Girl had a pouch of Capri Sun — and not the one that is water and juice. Nope, the high fructose corn syrup-laden one. Water probably isn’t cool. And forget Big Girl’s yummy grain-filled bars and fresh fruit snacks. How could they hold a candle to what That Girl has in her lunch box? What a nightmare. Of all the kids who were there eating good, healthy things (in the few minutes I was in the room I noticed one kid had a bowl full of tuna and a sack of cantaloupe while another girl had rice and what looked like sushi in her box), my kid has to sit next to the one who eats like garbage and thinks, for some wacky reason, that her parents are the only ones making the right choices. And talks about it. Loudly.

I was barely home a few minutes before I found myself blasting off an email to the teachers, CCing the school’s director. As often as I have sworn in the past that I would let Big Girl be and let her make her own mistakes, this time I made an executive decision to get involved. I wrote to the teachers telling them that Big Girl is not to sit at the same table with That Girl during lunch. I can’t tell her who she can play with during free time but, for her health, I can say who she can sit next to when food is involved. My husband is on board, too.

I know, I know, it might seem like I am overreacting, but my kid is thin to begin with. I don’t need this little girl confusing her or making her feel bad about eating. The world will take care of that in time. For now, for right now, I want her to eat and feel good about it. Wonder Bread — and That Girl — be damned.

Did I do the right thing? Am I overreacting? What would you have done?

11 Responses to “Peer Pressure and Lunchtime”

  1. I probably would have done the same thing. As you know, food education is a big thing with me, so to have that undermined (by a known bully, no less) would drive me up a wall. We’ve worked very hard to ensure that our daughter doesn’t judge what other people eat, so I get really angry when others don’t pay us the same courtesy. In fact, I wrote about this very subject on my blog: http://spoonfedblog.net/2010/04/07/preachy-little-foodies-and-how-not-to-have-one/

  2. I think these kinds of things are bound to happen, whether it’s food, designer-brand clothing or the kinds of books they read. I think it’s normal for kids to see what other kids do and wonder if they got the better deal. I’ll never forget when my daughter, who was about 6 at the time, came home from school and asked, “Mommy, why don’t we have a babysitter like some of the other kids? You’re here all the time.” I guess I could have sat her down and discussed how lucky she was to have a mom who worked from home, but I actually just laughed. It’s been five years, and she never asked me that question again. :)

  3. Laura says:

    That Girl sounds VERY annoying. She definitely needs to keep her eating habits to herself. I wouldn’t want her making my child feel inferior either.

  4. susandelg says:

    I recently heard a simple phrase that has changed how we deal with this kind of a situation: Don’t yuck my yums. Kind of says it all.

  5. Debbe Geiger says:

    As the parent of a teenager, i think you have to brace yourself for the cold hard fact that you are not always going to be able to influence where your child sits, or who she is exposed to. My kid wants a belly ring and her ear cartilage pierced. She also wants to drive in cars with strangers, stay out all night for her boyfriend’s prom, and stares at me in absolute mortified shock when I say I’m going to call a girl’s parents when she mistakently thinks I’m going to allow her to sleep at a girl’s house I’ve never met. It’s our job as parents to teach them right from wrong at home, and team them to fend for themeselves in the real world where other parents’ values are not the same as yours or mine. Unfortunately, you’ve got a long road ahead that won’t be fixed by calling the school and complaining about “that girl.” In this case, I think, unfortunately, you are in the minority with your food choices. There’s a lot more out of them there that will influence your daughter in other, less-than-desirable ways that I’m sure your daughters will enounter as she grows up.

  6. Julie says:

    My question is what are you going to say to Katelyn? Are you going to ask her why she sits with That Girl when they’ve had conflict in the past? Are you going to tell her she’s “not allowed” to sit with her anymore or that you called the school?

  7. Lori says:

    You absolutely did the right thing. I would be interested to hear the response the teachers and directors gave you.

    And as Christina @ Spoonfed said, we have made the effort to teach our son to treat others as he would want to be treated, which means no making fun of other people because of any reason and not going along with others…being the better person. So I too have no tolerance for kids like That Girl. Her parents should be ashamed of themselves.

  8. Shari says:

    I am sorry Katelyn was made to feel badly about her lunch box. I have not encountered this yet with my son, actually, he has often told me that certain friends of his want their moms to buy the snacks he has. Occasionally I do slip in a “junky” treat such as a conventional cookie or a piece of Halloween candy so that he knows it is OK by me if its in moderation.

  9. kb says:

    I asked her yesterday if she felt bad that That Girl was making fun of her sandwich. She said, “Wonder Bread is nutritious.” She looks up to this little girl so much. I don’t get it because she’s come home crying hysterically from things she has said and done to her. I’ve had other parents who were on trips tell me about issues. It’s so frustrating.

    Yes, I’m going to ask her who she sat with today and tell her that I suggested that she not sit next to That Girl during lunch. Again, wouldn’t tell her she can’t play with That Girl. Just that I want her to feel good about what we’re sending for lunch.

  10. kb says:

    We do cookies, too. (Not allowed candy as per school rules.) And we’ve definitely had the talk many times about how we, as a family, are not against cookies or sweets. She watches me eat cookies and she can eat them, too. I think the problem was how That Girl was making Katelyn feel bad about her choices. And that worries me. There are going to be plenty of That Girls in the future after all…

  11. kb says:

    Re: Minority: In this case we’re in the majority. The school doesn’t allow candy or chocolate. The majority of the class brings healthy lunches.

    You’re right about teaching right from wrong. I’m trying. Katelyn is so impressionable, and so young. She wants to be liked by That Girl, who, despite the fact that she has been awful to Katelyn, has been a favored friend all along. Even when she was suspended for pushing my little girl down.

    Good for you for being such an involved parent, BTW.

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