candy in schools rant

below is a response i posted on my fb profile about an article i reshared on gluten issues. it's just after valentine's day and i've been grappling with my every-holiday frustration about the schools providing my kids with candy for the occasion. as well as ice cream with candy toppings this year. @@. i got the expected dissention on my profile and told i need to lighten up about the issue, but i just can't. i'm trying to examine why.

all i can come up with is: if you've ever done weight watchers or any other type of intensive diet, you might understand a little. your world narrows down and you get tunnel vision about food. you obsess over it, you think about it constantly, you have to train your mind to be brainwashed into accepting the new restrictions. it's insanely hard, which is why everyone i know who lost weight on atkins & south beach has now gained it back and then some. you have to go through your anger, your grieving, your relapsing, your seeing through eyes that decide everyone else has the same issue you do, but don't know it (you know, like recovered alcoholics that are sure everyone else is an alcoholic, too!), and finally to acceptance and resigned self-denial. well, i don't know if most fad diets last 3 years, but part of what happens when you have to do it this long is some level of intolerance.

i feel very intolerant of someone else feeding my kids crap i know is harmful. when i've had to be this rigid for this long, it's pretty hard to make my mind flexible again around the concessions i've already made.

i have had to go on the most extreme elimination diet of just about anyone i've ever heard of - starting 3 yrs ago. we now have to completely eliminate:

dairy, corn, egg, soy, wheat (gluten 99% - b/c i don't have to worry about cross-contamination) seafood, shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts, most beans, lentils and sesame.

and i consider us lucky, b/c there was a time last summer when we had to go down to nothing but rice and a few fruits for over a week, when 'lou became allergic to everything on the limited menu we had been eating!

so, imagine the mindset it takes to maintain living this way for this long. if you got all emotional about giving up your favorite foods for atkins or weight watchers or south beach, imagine what i went through. there's no days off for me, no reward days, not even any cheating, ever. i tried that the 1st few wks and watched what it did to my son and the guilt was hideous.

i have to spend a huge chunk of my free time learning about foods today. trying to understand why 2 of my kids could die from eating foods that should nourish them. finding other families with kids like this so i can learn about and from them, too. and oddly enough, as a lactation counselor who mostly gets clients through word-of-mouth, i seem to be attracting mainly new moms that have just been told their babies are allergic to one, several or many foods the mom eats. so you could say my whole world is pretty much about these issues for the past 3 yrs or so. so this could either make me a real radical...or a lay expert, depending on if you want to learn anything about (or agree with) what i'm saying.

one thing it doesn't make me is someone who can afford to lighten up about it.

with my oldest three children (11, 9.5 and 6 now) -they can eat almost anything they want w/ no ill effects (except dairy - they all get sinus and ear problems from it). even before food allergies, i never allowed any of my children to have straight cow's milk, ever - nor did i ever drink it myself - except before i was too young to have a choice. they've never had soda or juices or much candy at all. i definitely bought into the "they're not fat, so we can do fast food" philosophy and absolutely hated cooking and fed them from boxes and cans and thought it was pretty normal and even healthy!!
( "there's tomatoes in spaghettios!! tomatoes are very healthy"!!)

it's been hardest on them to convert to this restricted diet and all the home cooked meals. they remember the addictive trash food more than the younger kids. i've made a compromise with them. they have to eat as we do at home. but for school, i still use more traditional foods in their lunches. i buy the trader joe's or annie's organics spaghettios now and then. i make wraps with "normal" tortillas as well as spinach or tomato ones. but *i* choose when, how much and why.

just like i imagine spankers who got up in arms about the schools paddling their kids back in the day, so do i feel about the schools giving my kids candy and junk food. it upsets the balance i'd already decided i could live with. and truly, our school is pretty excessive about it as far as i can tell when comparing with other parents. and I'M the parent and they're MY kids - nobody else gets all the rights i have to make these decisions for my kids. i think the problem is that most other people don't even realize that standard food is pretty much like poison for families that have to live as we do.

anyway! rather than absolutely forbid my kids to ever experience the temptations out there, i do see they need to learn moderation (my definition of moderation might differ from most people's, i know - LOL!) and learn how to navigate social pressures about food choices for themselves. i'm trying to find ways to help them make better decisions when on their own rather than push my doctrine onto them further.

for example, knowing the school party was going to be another sit-in-the-classrooms-and- gorge-yourself-on-candy event, i told all 3 of my sons that if they politely declined any and all candy and donated what they received from friends back to the teacher, i would reward them with a $5 bill and immediate trip to spend it after school. only my oldest took the incentive, but the wails of protest from the other 2 told me i might have more takers for the next party!

it was a valuable lesson for my oldest and it was interesting to hear his perception of resisting the junk food. there were no other activities available in the classroom, everyone was eating candy and ice cream. he sat at his desk and read his ebook. his teacher came up to him several times and asked if he was feeling all right and urged him to go get some of the treats. they had all been ill recently, so i understand her concern over how he was feeling.

i am so proud that he resisted her urgings toward the junk food. jake is a real people pleaser. it's very important to him to be well thought of and have adults happy with him. he felt he was somehow disappointing, worrying or inconveniencing his teacher by not doing as the other children were. but he politely stood firm and didn't eat any of it and i rewarded him immediately after school, as promised.

i don't blame the teacher here or think in any way she was trying to harm my son - i honestly think she wanted to give the kids a treat and a fun day and everyone knows kids love candy and ice cream best. she's just being nice. and honestly, it's the room moms who organize and bring the treats in - the teacher just goes along with their choices. if i really want to change things, i know i need to become a room mom and lobby to bring in healthy treats or take the emphasis off food as a means of celebrating and do crafts or games or ask that they exchange things like silly bandz instead of candy or something.

but guess what? i don't want to be a room mom. i don't even particularly want to be much of an involved school mom. i don't want to fight the norm and upset everyone and ask for all these changes. my plate is already more than full w/ the educating and advocating i do elsewhere in my life. my kids are top students, completely independent, well-adjusted, socially responsible little people (thank you, APing!) and i don't need nor want to hover. my free time is used helping a much more needy and fragile demographic - new babies that need their moms to breastfeed them and learn how to eat, without eating things their babies are allergic to. i need my kids to learn how to make good decisions for themselves now that they're old enough to. i haven't succeeded as a parent if i have to go to school and remove every obstacle for them. besides, i'm going to have to whether i like it or not when my allergy children start school, so i really need to make sure the other 3 can make good decisions on their own.

this doesn't mean i won't rant and rave about it when i hear how much temptation and pressure their school puts on them toward unhealthy foods, though!! with the diabesity epidemic our kids are dealing with today, i'm shocked every time i hear another candy-filled holiday party is scheduled or another pizza party for meeting some goal during the week is coming up. i can't believe other parents aren't protesting it.

so, there's the background on the facebook rant and here's the rant. i think it's worth preserving for days when i feel like i just can't do this anymore...and if it helps someone else along the way, even better. if it offends you or makes you defensive and you just don't think any of it will ever apply to you or your family - ignore it. but know i can't let it go or shut up about it, i'm stuck living this way with children who are harmed by what has happened to food today...and i spend my time helping other babies being harmed by it and i need to speak up or spontaneously combust sometimes, it's just how i'm built. if you can still be my friend despite our differences of opinion on such incendiary matters, we have a resilient friendship indeed & i will try to return the favor. :-)


it is a slap in the face, isn't it? i r/m when i 1st started learning about all this stuff...i absolutely did not want to hear it and didn't really b/l it, either. i would get so overwhelmed i couldn't even absorb the facts. i'd push it all away and decide it was radical, biased, hyped up BS -just scare tactics. i'd cheat "just a little" on the diet restrictions and watch my son get sicker.

i know it pisses ppl off and annoys them, makes them defensive and makes them roll their eyes or think i'm some crunchy radical treehugger when i go off on my tangents about foods and the school feeding my kids junk... but how can i unlearn what i've learned? how can i unexperience what i've experienced?

how can i not be territorial and possessive about what someone gets to feed my kids when i know what i know? it's one thing for ME to decide to take exactly so much risk in letting the non-allergic ones have 5 or 6 pizza and ice cream days a yr...i can prepare for it, monitor it, and make myself okay w/ it b/c it's in such moderation. but to think of someone else like the school doing it...w/ no moderation, little monitoring, at the drop of a hat w/ no notice or permission from me...just drives me crazy.

as a parent today, i've learned that i have to worry about melamine in the food supply, GMO's, now plastic particles in chinese rice (!!) besides the allergens that are an every meal concern...there's no way a teacher can check labels and ingredients for all that for 25-30 kids.

w/ the rising rate of food allergies and strange new GM foods being made today, i simply don't think anybody should be feeding kids except their parents or caregivers, for liability reasons, if nothing else!

what if jovie had had her 1st anaphylactic reaction at school during a holiday party instead of home? what if it happened when she was way out on the playground, behind the trees? how long until some kid *does* have their 1st reaction at school? is the teacher going to come to the hospital and stay there w/ my kids until they're recovered? is the school going to help pay for dental care for cavities back when they had a party nearly every day for student bdays? help my kid lose weight when they get fat from pizza parties every friday and then some? no? then guess what? if you're not going to address the issues harmful food is going to cause for my kid - and it's going to be MY problem if you unknowingly feed them melamine chocolate or something - then YOU shouldn't be feeding them!

we just don't know what's in the food today, let alone how ppl are reacting to it - it should be up to me what my kids eat and how often i'm willing to let them get the crap. i don't need the schools or anyone else stacking the deck towards more potential harm for them.

ppl want to pretend it's just about too much fat and preservatives in our foods and decide that moderation is okay -"my kid doesn't have a weight problem, we can do mcdonald's a cpl times a wk" but it's not about trans fats and preservatives anymore. the food we eat today is almost unrecognizable as the food we ate when we were kids and nobody has any idea what it's really doing to our kids. the saddest part is ppl really don't want to know. which is why our food industry gets away w/ feeding us slop other countries won't even take from us for their animals.
wake up and smell the GMO's, peeps - we're one sick nation.


Jenn D. said...

Jack, I applaud your vigilance about watching the types of foods your babies eat in school. I wish more people cared even a tenth as much as you do! You are right about the state of the 'food industry' in our country. Much can be learned from you and those moms you are educating now about food choices are the parents of future school aged children . . . the change you wish for is coming, not by choice, but by consequence of the environment. It may not happen at a time that's convenient to you, but it will happen eventually. Thanks for sharing your rant!

jack said...

thanks for reading and for your reply, jenn! sadly, before i had my allergy kids, i don't think i would have made it past the 1st paragraph or two! it's so good to know more and more ppl are becoming concerned and aware!

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