A Dose of American Culture.

Just read this most ‘laugh out loud’ piece at the NYT – about the obsession with food; activities and overplanning, and losing sight of what is really important in the lives of these kids.  Perhaps many will relate.  Others may feel they too are guilty, but how does one extricate from this?  And then they will be those who just shake their heads in vain.   It is just another example of how much American parents are caught up in catering to their childen’s whims and what they think is the ‘done’ thing because everyone else is doing it. 

Was chatting with some friends on this topic recently and we all reflected similarly…Has life become over complicated?  In another life, another time (or not!), our behavior would have been mocked, and today people strive to emulate.  Gone are the days when kids would just walk out the front door, play in the streets (heaven forbid they do that now in this ‘who knows who will come by in car and swipe your kid off the street, etc…) and eat from meal to meal, vs. needing a snack in between, or just even have a simple birthday party without it becoming a 3 ring circus event!  But many of us are inextricably part of this rat race – and are guilty for fueling the fire so to speak.  Many of our children’s lives are super structured with afterschool classes, weekend meets, activities, music lessons, enrichment programs…when we see our friends children involved this way, we too feel, “Hey, they’re like me, shouldn’t my child be participating?”  And while the kids themselves may enjoy it, is it not up to the parents (at least during the younger years) to make some of those decisions?  Going to school and perhaps doing one special activity or club involvment a week seemed to suffice when I was growing up in an uber competitive New England  town north of NYC…And with all the work, I remember still being ‘stressed’….can’t imagine what our kids will go through in the coming years if we continue at this pace. Simplicity and simple pleasures seem a distant memory…Incidently, am reading another same topic book, “Madness of Modern Families” by 2 UK authors….it is a more in depth humorous account of the crazed ‘parenting’ frenzy of the 21st century. 

Anyway, thought this article was hilarious, all things aside.  Best lines: “Cupcakes the size of softballs” and “use the small foods as calming pellets? .”  Enjoy!

Op-Ed Contributor – New York Times

Will Play for Food

Published: October 27, 2006

Ridgewood, N.J.

Cartoon above by:Chip Wass

 

ENOUGH with the organized snacks.

When did this start anyway? I’m at my 7-year-old’s soccer game. The game ends and this week’s designated “snack parent” produces a ginormous variety pack of over-processed chips and an equally gargantuan crate-cum-cooler. Our children swarm like something out of the climactic scene in “The Day of the Locust.”

Do our kids need yet another bag of Doritos and a juice box with enough sugar to coat a Honda Odyssey? Can’t they just finish playing and have some water?

Call me a spoilsport, but I don’t want to bring a team snack. I hate that first day, when the coach’s spouse passes around the sign-up sheet so we can schedule what parent brings the communal snack on what day. It’s too much pressure. Suppose I’m away? Suppose we want to visit relatives and miss that week? Now we have to find “snack coverage.” And heaven forbid you forget altogether and then the little darlings look longingly for the expected goody and you’re the social pariah who didn’t come through and that one mom, the one who always has the perfect after-school arts ’n’ crafts project, gives you the disapproving eye and head shake.

The scheduled snack is yet another way we cater to our child’s every whim. Guess what? Precious can go an hour — maybe more! — without eating. And if your child can’t make it that long, bring your own snack. Feed your kid’s need, not mine.

Are none of us reading about the obesity of our young people? Do you think it helps their well-being that after every sporting event our children gorge themselves Fall-of-Roman-Empire style on extra calories, extra sugar, extra hydrogenated fat? I recently sat down with Annette O’Neill, a registered dietitian and bona fide nutritionist, and asked her, “Do you think it’s a good idea for our kids to have Cheetos and Kool-Aid after a sporting event?” Her response: “Uh, no.”

And please don’t get on me about bringing so-called alternative or healthy snacks. I barely remember to put on my son’s shin guards and cleats, not to mention those long socks and that black soccer eye makeup — I don’t have time to slice up 50 orange wedges that the kids will never eat because last week’s cool parent brought Ho Hos and Hawaiian Punch.

This isn’t about ruining anyone’s fun or being the food police, but does the fun always have to revolve around food? Do you know what should be fun when your kid plays soccer? Playing soccer.

While we are on the subject, when your child celebrates a birthday during the school day, maybe we can try for a small cookie or cracker and a rousing, even multicultural, rendition of “Happy Birthday.” Stop with the cupcakes the size of softballs. Have you ever seen the leftovers brought into the school’s main office? By two in the afternoon, the place looks like the San Gennaro festival.

Where did this organized snacking start anyway? Is it a holdover from the toddler years, those half-hour library story times when we trot out Goldfish and those cute Cheerios containers and use the small foods as calming pellets? Is it the Old World philosophy of food-equals-love? Or are we just trying to keep them quiet for our own sake?

I don’t know. I don’t care. But I want you to join me in banning these organized parental sports snacks. Let’s do something for the youths of this country right now and end the American Snack Tyranny.

I will start by asking my friends at the Ridgewood Soccer Association to stop the snacks. Furthermore, I am asking all sport associations in my hometown to follow suit. I encourage the rest of you around the country to contact your league officials and join the fight.

Instead of spending those last few athletic minutes forcing down a fruit roll-up (what mentally malnourished monster, by the way, invented those?), why not have your child gather with his coach, have him or her explain some of the fundamentals (like how being active is healthy!), talk about teamwork or the important life lessons of sports? Maybe even try listening — instead of trying to sneak an extra Chips Ahoy for his younger sibling?

And hey, enjoy your water.

Harlan Coben is the author, most recently, of “Promise Me.”

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5 Comments »

  1. Tahira Piracha said

    Aisha, enjoyed the NYT article thoroughly and had a good laugh. You both turned out OK, I guess, without an overdoze of all the craziness of afterschool activities. Slow down and enjoy life a little more. Ammie.

  2. Aisha PZ said

    Will do, and am trying to, hard as it is! Thanks for the comment, as always, Ammie!
    -APZ

  3. mad muthas said

    hello there – i enjoyed this post v much (and only partly cos i’m one of the authors of ‘madness of modern families’. i wasn’t sure the same sensibility existed in the us – but it looks as if it does … unless you think coban is in a minority? i’d be interested in your take on it as an international phenomenon. i have my theories about why parents are so anxious these days … i’ll bore you with it, if you like (although it may be in the book – i can’t remember now – it seems like years ago that we signed it off now – but it was only about may!)

  4. Aisha PZ said

    Hello Meg – wow. Thank you for stumbling on my blog entry and reading my post! I am currently enjoying reading your book – if I’m not falling asleep after a long day of strenuous ‘parenting’ (no, no it’s not the book!!) Today was Halloween, so we went the whole nine yards, and I am wondering, did we have to do it all? (costumes, KG kid’s school parade, fieldtrip mom, snack mom, preschooler’s Enchanted House, Clay class, Halloween decorations, costumes again, cookie baking, trick or treating….) But the kids did have a funfilled day…

    I really appreciate your comments and would love to hear about WHY you think parents today are the way we are…I think in the US, we as parents are probably at par if not more, at times, ‘involved’ than in the UK…though it may depend on which region or social group one belongs to.

    Thanks again for reading!

    Aisha PZ

  5. sabizak said

    Hilarious article! I get hugely irritated as well as bewildered and then rather guilty about all this hyper parenting, keep wondering ‘am i a bad parent if every single second of every single day i am not scheduling my son’s life in one way or the other?’. This provides some sort of validation. I think parenting today is also like a consumerist product, we are sold an image of it daily and anybody deviating slightly from the norm is considered a freak. I loved the bit about the mom who always has the perfect arts and crafts project. LOL. I am so totally terrified of such women.

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