The Column for April 9th
Oh no! Not another class party I say to myself as I open the teacher’s note telling me about the party to celebrate (insert holiday here). While Halloween and Christmas festivities are staples for the preschool set, I wonder when it became customary to hold similar parties for Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Groundhog Day, Dr. Seuss Day etc.
At my son’s old nursery school, they seemed to relish every excuse to party (or was it an excuse to skip a proper lesson?) Almost every other week, a volunteer list would be posted at the door requesting the usual: themed paper products, juice, cupcakes, goody bags, and goodies to put in the bag, which usually meant a ton of candy. It was fun to volunteer and shop for these items, but after a while, it concerned me how much CANDY all these holidays involved. Heart-decorated Valentine cello bags are filled with conversation hearts and heart-shaped lollipops, pastel-colored Easter goody bags are filled with chocolate bunnies and eggs, while orange and black spooky Halloween bags contain creepy gummy candies and candy corn. I mean, come on, how much sugar do we want to give these 3-4 year olds?!
But perhaps, what’s more bothersome is the message that these parties send out. Life is a Party. And it ain’t a party without sugar and a treat bag. Also, if every little holiday or pseudo holiday (like say, World Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day*) is commemorated, then how can we truly celebrate the important milestones in our lives, like the birth of a child, a wedding anniversary, college graduation or a job promotion? The truth is, life is not always a party, there are good days and there are bad days, you win some, you lose some, free swag is cool but it doesn’t pay the rent, and finally, too much candy is bad for you.
If we want to teach our kids a better way to mark a special day, perhaps we should focus on quiet reflection and stress the fact that, more than balloons and cupcakes, it is being able to share those days we deem important with our family and dearest friends. —MT
PS. And speaking of parties- what about out of control birthday parties? I mean, since when did a kid’s first birthday have to be an “Event”? See how a small group of parents in St. Paul, Minnesota are trying to launch a national conversation about keeping birthday parties under control at Birthdays Without Pressure.