I’m so excited to share the first post in our Summer Showcase of “small voices” with “Big Messages.” Our first contributor, Melanie Mason-Conrad is a college professor and mother of two living in Georgia. Her passion is the health of our children, and her battle is with candy. To hear more from Melanie, please visit her blog, Be the Snowflake.
Have your own message to share? Let me know! Click here for details on how to participate in the summer showcase.
Breaking the Culture of Candy
Today my sons’ school sent home a note about preparations for Field Day (For my Yankee friends, Field Day is a day in which the kids get to spend the day playing games and having fun on the playground). I read the note and blew a gasket. As part of the preparation they requested that parents send in items to sell at the concession stand. The items requested include Airheads, Starburst, Ring Pops, and Pixy Stix. Ironically, the note was sent from the Physical Education teacher who is charged with helping keep our kids healthy. Don’t get me wrong. I am not blaming him. He does an awesome job organizing this event and getting the students excited about physical activity. He is simply carrying on a tradition that the school has maintained for many years by selling candy at Field Day. But I also realized it is not just Field Day at which my children are offered candy at school. It is all the time. We have created at my children’s school, and I am sure many others, a culture of candy. If we are serious about combating the epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes we all need to be the snowflake in the avalanche that puts an end to the culture of candy.
My first reaction after reading the note was to fire off an email to my fellow PTO moms voicing my dismay. When I ran into some of them later at the soccer game (Yes, we are also soccer moms) we talked about my email. While they agreed with my premise they weren’t sure if anything could be done to change the situation. Generally, they responded with two counter arguments. 1) If we had healthy options the kids would not eat them and 2) It’s only one day a year so what’s the harm. Before I go on, let me say that I deeply respect these moms. They have raised beautiful, intelligent, and charming children. They have truly earned their “Super Mom” titles. However, I think we are giving in and giving up without a fight if we accept these arguments so easily. My children are proof that if you give them healthy options they will eat them, though it does take time and patience. Now when we go to restaurants and order kid’s meals they refuse french fries and request fruit. At Olive Garden Jack practically inhales the salad. Aden thinks it is a special treat to eat carrots. We call him a “Fruitatarian” for good reason. If we give them healthy options and only healthy options and they don’t eat it, so be it. But we do our children a disservice if we always have candy as a fallback.
The belief that it is only one day a year is fallacious because IT ISN’T ONLY ONE DAY A YEAR. In addition to Field Day, my children have also been given candy at Easter, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and Halloween. They get a cupcake and Coke party if their class collects the most Boxtops for Education. Jack’s teacher gives her students a piece of candy if their parents sign their daily agendas. If I send in an extra 50 cents they can get ice cream. All of this junk food adds up. It is not just a few kids that are overweight. Take the time to eat lunch at an elementary school and you will see what I mean.
It would be easy to just throw up our hands and say it is not my problem, it is not my kids, and I do not have the power to affect real change. And you would be wrong. Starting today when I am asked to send in something that is slowly killing our children, I will refuse. I will instead send in something that will empower them and make them smile. Starting today, I will ask my kid’s teachers not to reward them with candy, but with something that will truly make them better (They love hugs and praise). Starting today, I will be the snowflake in the avalanche that ends this culture of candy. Are there any other snowflake out there?