I first noticed it after my son’s third birthday party. I had gone a little overboard with the party planning, and we ended up with one dozen extra cupcakes after the big day was over. I thought it would be nice to bring them to church in the morning and have my son share them with his Sunday School friends. They could have a second mini celebration right there in class, singing the birthday song to him and everything!
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
When I came to pick up my son after church that morning, I found that all 12 cupcakes remained in their clear plastic container and were sitting on a table outside of the door. One of the Sunday School volunteers shrugged at me apologetically and said, “One of the moms asked that I remove these from the room. She didn’t think it was a good idea.” I didn’t even understand the problem at first. Did the mom think that they were full of eggshells? Laced with poison? The cupcakes were not homemade — they had come from a local bakery and they looked beautiful. What was the issue?
As I skulked down the hallway towards the parking lot, I could feel the other moms giving me the side-eye and practically shielding their children from seeing the sinfully sweet contraband I carried in my hands. I tried in vain to find a few people willing to take a cupcake or two off of my hands, but I may as well have been peddling illicit drugs or pornography right there within the walls of the church. I went home feeling defeated and abashed. But what exactly was I feeling ashamed about? Ashamed that I had tried to share some treats with our church friends?
The war against sugar only got worse once preschool started. My son came home with a note from the teacher explaining that they love recognizing birthdays throughout the year, and any student who would like to celebrate in class with friends is welcome to bring a fruit tray or perhaps a non-food treat like stickers. A fruit tray?! Where would they put the candle?
A second realization about just how far the saccharin spite extends came later, when I was unpacking my son’s lunchbox at the end of the day. Each day I kept packing him a Little Debbie brownie as a treat to eat after his lunch, and each day it was being sent home in his lunchbox. “Does he not like Little Debbies?” I wondered. When I asked him about it, he seemed unaware that he had even been carrying a dessert around. My suspicions were confirmed when I picked him up early from school one day, right as they were finishing their lunch. The brownie wasn’t even on the table with the rest of his food! His teacher had seen it in his lunchbox and decided to keep it hidden away.
Why is my son not allowed to eat a treat that I packed for him myself? When does the madness end?!
My family and I are not obese people. We like to eat, and we probably over-indulge at times, but we are also very active and we eat a balanced diet. My three-year-old son has more energy than anyone I’ve ever seen. He burns approximately 9,000 calories a day, and I’m not particularly worried about a brownie or a cupcake sticking to his hips. In fact, if there is ever a time in a person’s life when they can load up on sweets without any consequences, childhood is it! As he gets older, my son’s metabolism will change, and he’ll start to face the unpleasant reality of adults — that we are what we eat. He has plenty of time later for counting calories and worrying over whether his food is organic, free-range, and grass-fed. But right now he’s only three. Shouldn’t he be allowed to eat the brownie?
I picked up my son from preschool a few days ago, and an elderly teacher assistant was there — one I hadn’t met before. Our first conversation consisted of her fussing at me about my son’s knowledge of sweets. She told me that when she polled the class, he was able to list more types of junk food than any of his fellow classmates. She tsk-tsked me about how junk food is bad for heart health, and shared her concerns about his diet. To my embarrassment, as this conversation was unfolding, my son was poking around in my bag and found a Saran-wrapped cookie that I had bought for him to eat on our way home in the car. “Oooh…what’s this?” he asked, holding it up proudly. From the look on his teacher’s face, you would have thought he was brandishing a gun. I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “I bought you a treat today for being such a good boy.” Teacher was shocked. I don’t care.