As a follow-up to my post the other day about all the junk food my son’s teacher has requested, I’m now fully ensconced among others who have been saying for a while that we are all just eating way too much sugar. Honest to God, there are a million articles about unlocking the mysteries as to why so many of us are overweight and obese. Epidemic levels, and particularly sad as it relates to our country’s children, of course. But I’m really starting to believe it’s not a mystery. And while it’s certainly a confluence of many events – less time for recess, a convenience-based, more sedentary lifestyle, the prevalence of inexpensive fast food, I really wonder if the sugar factor were removed, or at least drastically minimized, how much of a positive impact that would have on the whole of the population. I don’t mean in some Big Brother way, just people starting to say no to it and creating change.
I’m not really a sweets person, as is widely known among my friends. I have a completely unscientific and unproven theory that the formation of you being a sweets person starts in infancy and early childhood, based on how much and how often you are exposed to sweets. If your Mom was “a baker” and your after school snack often consisted of things like cinnamon rolls or pumpkin muffins, if pop/soda was prevalent, if dessert was always served, a lot of folks (but not all) grow up with a sweet tooth. My Mom strongly disliked sweets. We had pop on Fridays when we would order pizza, and pie at the holidays, but that was about it. I have heard women for years obsess particularly about chocolate and ice cream. That they can’t have ice cream in the house or they eat the whole carton. Or that chocolate should be everywhere, all the time. I wonder why this is? I don’t know if there is a scientific answer, but wonder if the increasing prevalence of sugar everywhere has something to do with retraining your taste buds to prefer it, seek it out, and crave it? I mean, I occasionally have a small bit of chocolate – “that time” and all, but generally at birthday parties I decline the cake, when I take my kid out for ice cream I can’t even finish the child’s sized cone, etc.
My son’s teacher responded to my email, saying most of the things she requested were to assist with various lessons/learning. Pretzel rods for building log cabins. Teddy grahams for graphing. Fruit loops for measuring, counting and weighing. I am not a teacher, and it’s not my job to tell her what to do – as long as she is not giving these things as Pavlovian, behavior-based rewards, I’m not going to make a huge stink about it, but since when did chips ahoy and gummi bears become part of a teacher’s teaching aresenal? I sure don’t remember anything like that when I was a kid. I mean, sure, we made necklaces with dried macaroni once in a while. But using “food” (and I use that term loosely with regard to these items) as part of regular lessons is going to make it impossible for most kids not to eat at least some of what’s in front of them. I know if I had been in school and we had been given stacks of sliced pepperoni for counting, I would have eaten some of it. Why are these foods presented as impetus to get them to participate and comply? Because sugar is the magic motivator, apparently.
It’s everywhere. In addition to breakfast, lunch and snack I prepare and send for my son, there’s also the junk in the class they will be playing with, and at his after-care, they are given an additional snack. I’ve now asked my son to decline the snack, after trying to gauge from him for a few days what the snack is that’s given. So far I know of popcorn (ok I guess, though it is a choking hazard for kids under 7 and I’d prefer he only eat it when I’m around, but whatever), some type of cocoa cereal bar, and yesterday’s snack, which was a baggie full of at least a cup of unidentifiable cereal (to me, because I don’t buy that shit). It looked like a mix of chocolate cheerios, regular cheerios and fruit loops, and then a bunch of marshmallows in there as well. He’s been bringing the snack home so I can see it and then I throw it away (I did let him have the popcorn).
I know these ladies at extended care work very hard and that a lot of kids are picky. I know they are working with very tight budgets. But surely we can do better. When I told my son to just start saying “No thank you, I am saving room for dinner,” he said, “but Mom, what if I get hungry while I’m there?” “I would be THRILLED if you came home hungry for dinner,” I told him. “That’s actually the way it’s supposed to work. And then you actually eat the food I’ve prepared for you.” And yes, I plan to try to find a way to help out with what’s provided for snack at extendedcare. I’m not rich, there is only so much I can do on my own, but maybe I can propose it to the PTA and we can set aside some funding for it.
It’s not just kids. My Mom has been trying to get out and do more and different things, even though she’s not particularly social. She and some other ladies from her Silver Sneakers class have decided to take a bus trip to Amish Country. She told me the activities on the day trip include making candy, making “whoopie pies” and some other sweet thing they are going to make, and that she’s not very excited about it and hopes there will be some “real food” at least somewhere during the trip. What the actual fuck, America? Is anyone aware that diabetes and is actually a really bad disease?
Mom said to me this morning, “I’m just not sure you’re going to win this battle.” I know that, I told her, but unless I speak up, and unless an atmosphere is created where other parents are educated, concerned, and also speak up, nothing is going to change. It obviously CAN change, since when I was a kid it wasn’t like that. I’m old, but I’m not THAT old, it wasn’t that long ago. I have to at least try.