Thursday, April 23, 2009

No more birthday treats ...

"Call it the Birthday Treat Ban," reports today's Star Tribune. "Starting this fall, students will no longer be allowed to bring celebratory food or gifts to share with classmates, a move that principals say they're making out of concern about childhood obesity, allergies and the feelings of kids whose parents can't afford to buy treats for the whole class."

At last. I don't remember when all this overfeeding and overcelebrating started, but I think it might have been in the late '70s and '80s, when many of us mothers entered the outside-the-home workplace. We started sending all kinds of treats to school to make up for our absence in our kids' lives. We felt so guilty for having to make real cash money to afford our overpriced houses that we showered our kids with too much of everything so they would know we really loved them more than the jobs and the real cash money and the too-big houses. Us Baby Boomers really blew it on this one. The results? We created kids about whom we now complain. They act "entitled," we say. Well, duh.

Around the same time that mothers began sending 40 perfectly decorated clown-themed petit fours from Woullet's bakery to Mrs. Smith's third grade, the great birthday party competitions began. Before that time, kids' birthday parties were affairs lasting a couple of hours with a rousing game of "drop the clothespin in the bottle" or "pin the tail on the donkey," modest presents for the feted child and homemade cake and ice cream. For a real thrill, sometimes there was homemade Chef Boyardee pizza. Anyway, those parties grew into all-day and overnight, with trips to pizza palaces and pony rides for all. Storytellers, clowns, Sesame Street characters. Helium-stuffed supersized balloons. Goodie bags. "Themes" and matching paper cups. You had to have a damned staff to run a 5-year-old's birthday party. And yes, you had to have ... drumroll, please ... a party coordinator. Oh, the pressure of it!

Well, I'm all for simplification. My kids will probably tell you their parties were pretty lame. But there's some mother at Echo Park Elementary who's really disappointed she can't make little Billy's day "really special" and crepe-paper companies predicting a drop in streamers futures.

My suggestion? Send Billy with a really good lunch and a napkin note telling him how much you miss him today. Tell him you love him even more than you knew you could love somebody. Tell him today how happy you were on the day he was born. If Billy doesn't think that's enough, don't worry. Someday, he will.