It's a back-to-school paperwork tornado over here, and I'm not positive but I think I signed away my firstborn to a bridge troll on one of those forms I hastily read and autographed. One form that did stand out to me, however, was sent from my son's kindergarten classroom with a list of "rules" we parents must agree to follow. We were asked to sign the form and return it to the classroom so that we were forever remembered as "being on top of things." I liked that little bit of humour to soften what was a list of some serious classroom rules.
One rule detailed the classroom life-threatening food allergies that we must promise to avoid when packing lunches. (No prob!) Another rule made us promise we would read to our child every day. (Of course!) And there were some other rules I don't remember, but hope I follow, because wouldn't it suck to be the only neglectful parent? (Heh.)
Another rule stated that we promise "not to send treats in daily" and focus on sending healthy options in our kids' lunches. (Ummm, what?) There was no definition of what a "treat" is, and I think that's the first major problem I had with this rule. I signed the form, sent it back, then ruminated for a while about what bothered me so much about that particular rule.
Is it a teacher's place to define what is or is not healthy?
How do they define "treat"?
How would they enforce this in the classroom?
I spoke to the teacher personally about the issue, and she said she's not against sending "treats" to school, but that there are some lunch bags that don't contain anything healthy, so they're trying to avoid those situations. (And that is such a sad reality, especially in a kindergarten class.) I told her that it's difficult to define what "treats" are, and that we consider those granola bars with chocolate chips, or yogurt tubes to be a treat, to which she replied, "But those are healthy options!". Are they? Oh. I guess, then, that the rule was faulty from the get-go.
Every family has their own definition of what treats are, don't they? Around here, a treat packed for school could be anything from a homemade muffin (with very little sugar) to a package of mini Oreo cookies. And I'd like to think that because I feel my kids eat a balanced diet, that it's totally ok for me to judge what is acceptable. They know their treats are to be eaten last, and that healthy options come first. We teach them about nutrition, and about the foods that act like healthy options but aren't (hello, most kids' yogurts!).
My kids ask me constantly why they can't have Dunkaroos in their lunches, or why I don't buy Lunchables. They want to know what Froot by the Foot tastes like, and why certain granola bars are "treats" and not healthy options. How come they can't have juice boxes? I spend an awful lot of time explaining food labelling, nutrition, and balance to my kids—that's my job, I'm their mom. I also explain to them that everyone has their own house rules, and these happen to be ours. Our rules also allow treats in their lunches (by my definition of "treat"), where someone else's parents might not allow them to take treats. Just like everything else in life, we all have different tolerances, and in our house, the kids follow our rules for eating. We do not make the rules for anyone else. And while I do realize that these talks certainly don't happen in all homes, is a classroom-wide ban really the best course of action, especially when the "rule" is so vague?
What about the families who just really don't know? What about those who don't have access to better options? What about a million other variables that can affect what we send in for school snacks and lunches?
On my personal blog's Facebook page, I asked my readers what they thought of the rule, and had a lot of interesting responses, ranging from:
"It wouldn't bother me. I don't send treats (mean mommy alert) regularly, but I can see why some parents would not appreciate being told what to do." (Philly T.)
"Hold up a minute here. The allergy component I get but the no treats. Nope, sorry, forget it. It's all about a balanced diet." (Shayna M.)
And the community on the YMC Facebook page was even more lit up about it with responses like:
"if they are going to feed my kid...fine. Otherwise, bite me..." (Chrissy H.)
"I think different people have different definitions of "treats". Some people view muffins as a treat, others see them as a breakfast staple. I appreciate the effort to encourage healthy lunches, but I'm just wondering if this is just making things a little more complicated than it needs to be." (Katie M.)
So I ask you, wonderful blog readers, what do you think of teachers making rules like this?
Looking for more to read? Embrace monotony with Nicole's great post about Boring Back-to-School Lunches. And don't miss all these great posts that'll teach you everything you need to know about Back to School this year!