My daughter’s school must think I am some of sort of hippie freak (which I am, just not in the way they think). For example, Lili brings her lunch to school everyday, even the two days a week the school brings in Chick-fil-a and Papa John’s Pizza. I avoid most of their fundraising drives. Liliana often goes to school in wildly clashing colors and patterns.
There are, in my opinion, reasonable explanations for these. Putting aside my ideological issues with Chick-fil-a and Papa John’s, we don’t think she should get in the habit of eating fast food twice a week at school just because the other kids are doing it. Liliana hates pickles, so I don’t think contributing to the football fundraiser that involves buying her pickles all the time is logical. And my daughter dresses herself and looks cute in her own way. She at least looks like her own person.
It probably doesn’t help that the days I don’t have to drive directly to work, Charleigh, our border collie mix, helps take Lili to school. One of the drop off/pick up helpers thinks she’s some sort of giant mutant dog. (She only weighs like 40 pounds–the dog world is so sizest.) Or there was the time I was waiting to pick Lili up and took a shot of clear cough medicine out of a small, clear glass, only to see the woman behind me in the review mirror, her mouth dropped in horror. So maybe they think I drink in the pick up lane, too. Oops.
My hippie-freakness has become especially prevalent around the holidays. Both of my children attend schools where people go overboard. At Christmas, we were supposed to send sixteen little stocking stuffers for Lili’s class and a wrapped book under ten dollars for Alex’s class. Lili gave her friends pencils with eraser toppers that I knew they could use in class. Alex brought a paperboard copy of The Little Engine that Could.
In return, we received bagfuls of stuff from the other kids–individual stockings full of candy, felt bags overflowing with stickers and glitter pens, stuffed animals, Hot Wheels, and tiny toys too varied to name. While I appreciate the generosity at the heart of it, it’s just too much. A two-year-old does not need Fun Dip (actually no one needs Fun Dip), a one-inch ornament, stuffed miniature bear, and three lollipops–especially not all from the same child.
Being the hippie freak that I am, I just think about what messages we’re sending through (and to) our kids. What Kindergartner really needs seven pencils, two mini coloring books, stamps, and holiday tape? (Again from one child.) With sixteen children in her class, Lili would have had plenty with just one thing from each child. As it is, it all gets lost in the noise–a heaping pile of plastic, throw away, sticky, choking hazard mess that she will lose, break, or forget about. Consumption this way is so conspicuous and feels so hollow.
It also blows my mind that in a class full of two-year-olds, people would give out so much candy. My kids are allowed one sweet type thing a day and it has to be before five. They only have one cup of juice each day at lunch. The rest of the time it’s water or non-dairy milk. (What happens when they are with their grandparents is unfortunately out my hands. At least my mom is kind enough to lie to me if she’s hopping them up.)
I’m not asking that parents adhere to my dietary restrictions. Both my kids eat some dairy and meat. But no matter who your kid is or what your beliefs are, that much sugar is never a good idea. As a result I become the lame mom that sends pretzels or vegan fruit snacks for Trick or Treating. My main compliant against giving out candy can be summed up in the following story:
Last Saturday while I was dealing with laundry, Alex found a Fun Dip. Despite my efforts to purge the candy from Christmas (I hate being wasteful, but I don’t really know what else to do with it), this little packet had fallen out into Lili’s backpack. Exploring, as little boys do, Alex discovered it and claimed it for his own. I found him hiding under the desk (because he knew he shouldn’t have it), his mouth and hands bright green, powdered sugary stuff everywhere. He was crazy for about an hour and then cranky. It wasn’t great for his system, either. We won’t even talk about the stains that I can’t get out of his shirt, the floor, and the wall. (Our cat somehow managed to get it out of her fur, so maybe I’ll see if she has some tips.)
I am already dreading Valentine’s Day when scads of candy and toys will hitch a ride into my house. Thus I am asking all mothers: can we not? Can we not go overboard? Can we go for quality over quantity? Can we teach our children that the world is not made of throw away material things? Can we think about the impact of our actions on others, especially our impressionable children? Can we keep it simple and sweet?
Last year Lili gave out seed imbedded Valentine cards that could be planted. I’m starting to brainstorm ideas for this year. It would probably be in poor taste to regift all those toys and candy from Christmas, right?