I intended to post on an entirely different topic today, but then I received this robust and thought-provoking response in favor of the right to bring cupcakes (or other treats) to school on your child’s birthday:
As a mother, an attorney, and a libertarian, I can tell you the last thing I want is one more stinking law on the books regulating how I ought to raise my kids.
Personally, I aim to be the kind of mother who speaks with authority and raises children who listen. Asking my legislators to assist me, because I don’t want to be the “mean” parent, seems terribly weak.
Pro-freedom = Pro-cupcake.
P.S. Not that it matters (I’m pro-cupcake either way), but 1/7th is an overstatement. 25% of all birthdays occur over the summer, not to mention weekends.
Usually if I reply to a reader, I do it in the comments section but this seemed like a conversation worth having up front. So, here’s my response:
First, thank you for taking me on on this issue. I want this forum to be a place for debate rather than an echo chamber full of people who share my views. And reading your response today forced me to sharpen my own thinking, which is always a good thing.
While you might get a different impression from my recent lily-livered cave-in on the birthday donuts, you and I sound fairly similar in our parenting approach. My two children will sadly attest to the fact that I’m pretty firm about setting limits, on everything from screen time to junk food. And, like you, I don’t want to live in a nanny state. That said, I do take issue with the idea that “pro-freedom = pro-cupcake” because in this case, your freedom is directly encroaching on my own.
To me, cupcakes in school are a lot like second-hand smoke. Sure, you have the right to light up a cigarette at will, but you don’t have the right to do it in an elevator where I have no means of escape. Similarly, when my kid is sitting in school he’s entirely captive to what goes on there. And when you bring your two dozen cupcakes to class, you might be inadvertently violating all sorts of things I care about with respect to my child and how I choose to raise him.
Maybe, like a parent who posted here earlier, I have a policy against feeding my child certain additives like the high fructose corn syrup, trans fat or artificial colorings found in many supermarket cupcakes. Maybe, like another parent who posted here, there’s only so much sugar I want my kid to have in a day, and now that he’s eaten your cupcake the quota’s filled, leaving me in the unenviable position of having to deny treats that I might otherwise have been inclined to allow. Whatever the issue, it seems to me that the feeding of a child should be within the sole purview of the child’s parent, not other parents and not the school (unless of course, I’m permitting my child to receive lunch or breakfast there.)
Now, I can already hear you saying two things. One, a cupcake isn’t a deadly agent like cigarette smoke. That’s certainly true and I like a good cupcake as much as anybody – maybe more. But lately – and this is going to be the subject of a whole other post (or series of posts) — I feel like I just don’t have the luxury of viewing any individual treat in a vacuum anymore. We now live in a society about which Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently said: “. . . if you go with the flow in America today, you will end up overweight or obese.” That is, he believes obesity (and its associated diseases) are almost an inevitable consequence of the way we live now.
So in today’s world, is a cupcake just a cupcake? Or do we have to view it in the context of an American child’s entire lifestyle, which is likely to be relatively sedentary, rich in highly processed, sugary, salty and fatty foods, with frequent, unnecessary snacking and all the rest? This is a big question, and something I want to examine in more detail in the coming days.
The second thing I’m guessing you’ll say is, if I claim to have such backbone as a parent, why not tell my kid firmly, “Sorry, buddy, no classroom cupcakes for you.” Yes, I certainly could do that. But why should I be put in the position of asking that of a seven year old, glassy-eyed with envy as 24 of his peers sit around him, licking cupcake frosting off their fingers? Just to accommodate your inalienable right to celebrate a birthday with sweets on a school campus — sweets which could be enjoyed at your off-site party instead, or a birthday which could be celebrated in the classroom with dollar store toys, healthy food or the other items suggested by readers here? I guess I’m not sure why your rights necessarily trump mine in this case.
One last thing: whether you regard it as an outrage or a big yawn, I stand firmly by my calculation that 1/7th of the school year = cupcake day. I don’t know what’s going on in your school, but in ours, kids whose birthdays fall on the weekend celebrate on Monday or Friday, and kids with summer birthdays (like my son) are allowed to celebrate it with treats on another day, usually in May.
It really is, as one blogger put it, “No Cupcake Left Behind.”
If you’d like to reply, I’ll certainly post your response. And thank you again for reading and sharing your thoughts.
As for the rest of you, I promise that this blog isn’t going to devolve into an ongoing debate about cupcakes in the classroom, but I do think this is an issue worth examining in that it relates to many of the larger themes I hope to address on this blog. Share your thoughts as well.
I’ll sign back on after the holiday weekend. Enjoy, everyone!