How Parents Have Sucked The (Sugary) Fun Out of School Birthdays
My daughter’s birthday is this week, at the end of August. Honestly, the reason I gave birth to my kids during the Summer was to hopefully avoid the birthday circuit, but thanks to the fact that school districts keep pushing back the first day of school to the middle of Summer (pretty soon it will be at Independence Day), my daughter has had to celebrate her birthday at school for the past couple of years.
When I was a kid and your birthday fell on a school day, your parents sent you to school with cupcakes and that was it. They might have been home-made or from the grocery store, but nobody cared. Flash forward until now. There are so many rules about what you can and can’t bring as a treat to school that you almost want to forget the whole thing. (Maybe that is the point).
Last year, I was informed that baked goods from home were not acceptable because the school could not be sure of the ingredients. (Like I was going to bake anything anyways). So I basically gave my daughter a box of chocolate cookies from the grocery store to pass out. Within an hour of school starting, I got an email from the teacher stating that because they were not “individually wrapped”, she could not pass them out. So I basically had to detour on my way to work to Smart and Final to get a large box of pre-wrapped Oreos.
Wanting to avoid all of the confusion this year, I asked the moms in our city through Facebook about what the exact rules were for bringing in treats. Most had a valid point; namely, that I should ask the teacher (which I did). But in addition, I was given a whole host of “no-no’s”: No nuts, no gluten, no dairy, no eggs, and no soy. These weren’t really school specific rules inasmuch as they were parents who were pointing out that someone might have an allergy to one of these items. Then someone else made a perfectly reasonable suggestion: fruit. Within seconds, another commenter pointed out citrus allergies. Other suggestions included non-treats, like pencils, which I would have been totally down with but my daughter really wanted to bring in a snack. At least two people suggested donating a book in her name. (I am all for donations but how is that special for the birthday kid???) I basically thanked everyone for their suggestions and stopped looking.
The teacher got back to me later that night, with only two requests: no nuts and no gluten. I get the no nuts thing. There is a decent chunk of the population that suffers from the nut allergy and can go into anaphylactic shock if exposed. But gluten? Come on. I looked it up. Only one percent of the population suffers from celiac disease. About six percent may have some insensitivity to gluten. The rest are just a bunch of crazy people who think it’s healthy to cut out gluten from their diet but are likely cutting out other important minerals too.
Even on the off chance that someone in her class has celiac disease, why should my daughter have to restrict her treats because of this one person? People are so busy trying to make everyone feel special that it is getting to the point where no one is. Thursday is my daughter’s birthday. She should get to bring (within reason) what she wants to share with the class. If Sally Joe can’t eat the cupcake, then she should just politely decline. It’s not Sally Joe’s birthday. When it is, she can bring in whatever tasteless treat she wants. When we restrict what treats the birthday kid can bring in for himself or herself based on someone else’s needs, we have made the day about that person and not the birthday kid.
In addition, as the allergy affected child becomes an adult, people are not going to keep dancing around him or her. When she goes into the office and it’s a co-workers’ birthday, there are full-fat, sugary, gluten glopping, nut-topped donuts sitting on the table. Her co-worker is not bringing in a crappy treat just because one person has an allergy. The person with an allergy will just have to suck it up, grab a cup of coffee, and go back to their gluten free snack on their desk.
It’s not just people with allergies. Some people simply don’t like certain snacks. For example, I don’t like cake. To me, it’s a wasted calorie that I would rather spend on an extra scoop of ice cream. But when I went to birthday parties, I did not demand that ice cream be served. If cake was it, I would simply politely decline, and leave it at that. I never felt left out. You know why? It wasn’t my birthday. For my birthday, I always had an ice cream pie.
So back to my daughter’s dilemma. Despite my better judgment, I stuck to the requirements and picked up some nasty looking gluten free, dairy free, nut free brownies at the store. (The clerk agreed with my disgusted look and surmised that they are probably taste-free, too). But I am seriously thinking of sneaking a box of donut holes in her lunchbox on Thursday.
I am mediocre mom!
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