Last week I told you I was facing a difficult test of my principles. On this blog (and elsewhere) I’ve come out strongly against sugary birthday treats in the classroom, but my fifth-grade daughter really wanted to bring cupcakes or donuts to school for her birthday tomorrow.
I sent out an SOS to Lunch Tray readers for suggestions for alternative treats, and last night I read out aloud to my family every one of your creative ideas — everything from “cupcakes” made from fresh fruit (thank you, Mile Hi Mama) to buying trees for planting by the class (ditto, Corrie) to origami flying squirrels (Michele Hays)!
At first my daughter was leaning toward healthier food treats, like homemade chocolate-dipped strawberries (suggested by an anonymous reader via email) or possibly gift certificates for Ben & Jerry’s cones, which would at least require some parental approval before the treats could be eaten (thank you, Tari).
But then I explained to my daughter how I, too, had once thought healthier treats were a fine substitute for sugary ones until parents of food-allergic kids woke me up to the fact that even those foods can exclude and/or endanger their children. I did, say, however, that I’d be happy to go the chocolate strawberry route (as a compromise) if she really wanted to bring something edible.
My daughter mulled it over for a while and then announced that she wants to celebrate her birthday in school in two ways. First, she’s going to bring in a plain white t-shirt to class to be signed by her classmates with fabric markers (thank you, Visitor from FAS!) and second, she wants to make a birthday donation to the charity of her choice in the name of her entire fifth grade class (excellent idea, We3Beans!). (My daughter chose Star of Hope, which aids homeless families in Houston.)
I have to say, I’d been dreading this conversation with my daughter, fearing that she’d feel I was being too rigid by putting my principles ahead of her understandable desire to do what everyone else is doing. But instead my whole family wound up having a thought-provoking discussion about obesity, food allergies, the rights of parents to keep other parents from feeding their kids, the ways in which economically disadvantaged students might feel left out by the whole “birthday treat” custom, and more.
A reader named “another fas visitor” had advised: “What sort of education and message do you want your child and her classmates to have with whatever you send in? Figure that out and send in something that relates to that message.”
And that’s just what we did.
Thank you again to everyone who took the time to write in, share links and provide encouragement. And I have to say, one comment in particular kept me on the straight and narrow throughout these deliberations. From reader Jamie, an early (and beloved) Lunch Tray adopter:
You best stick to your guns Missy…You and you alone changed MY whole view on Cupcakes At School. If you cave I’m gonna sic my kid on YOU when he realizes he’s not getting CAS on his birthday.
Good luck and Happy Birthday to your daughter!
[Ed Update: Be sure to check out the original post on this issue - in the reader comments section you'll find many other wonderful ideas that you might use with your own kids.]