School Birthday Parties (grrr)

Posted on: Thu, 05/10/2001 - 8:21am
Sandra Y's picture
Joined: 08/22/2000 - 09:00

pI'm interested in hearing how other parents deal with school parties. My son's first year of school (preschool) is coming to a close. Next year he'll be in a full day kindergarten in the same public school. I love the school, but he's the first PA kid, and it's been a challenge./p
pThis year, I simply left safe treats for him at school and he chose a treat when the other kids were having cupcakes for a birthday. I know he's not really happy with that. One morning he saw a mother arriving loaded down with cupcakes and he started crying and said he wanted to go home./p
pI'm starting to think this safe-treat idea is not really fair. He's only 5, and cupcakes are a big deal to him. Being singled out in this way is no fun. I've started to realize this is really like having a birthday party in his classroom without inviting him. He can't participate./p
pI don't understand the birthday-party-during-school custom. We didn't do it when I was a kid (granted, a million years ago) and it seems so unnecessary, particularly if it EXCLUDES one child./p
pI'm thinking of asking for no food during classroom birthday parties next year. They could bring non-food loot bags or donate a gift to the classroom. Has anyone else done this?/p
pI understand my son is different and has to assume responsibility for his medical condition, but the birthday parties are not part of the curriculum--it's just a custom and NO FUN for him. He understands he has limitations and (usually) accepts them with pretty good grace. But is it really reasonable for a classroom full of little kids to have a celebration that excludes one?/p
pMy son has other things that set him apart. He has a cleft palate and cleft lip. His speech is somewhat difficult to understand, and he has facial scars. He is adorable, but I know from adults with clefts that growing up with a facial difference is very challenging. /p
pThis is really bothering me lately. All children face challenges growing up. I don't want to be overprotective or shelter him from the small disappointments everyone faces growing up. On the other hand, I wonder if in this case the custom is taking precedence over the child, and by being a bit creative and changing the custom, the school could let ALL the kids have fun./p
pWhat do you think?/p

Posted on: Thu, 05/10/2001 - 10:15am
EILEEN's picture
Joined: 04/06/1999 - 09:00

I wish I had the answer-we're coming to the end of kindergarten and there are so many parties in addition to the birthday cupcakes, Valentines day, Christmas, Hallowen, St Patrick's, end of terms...the list is endless. I know first grade has less parties and I'm trying to focus on that right (since we are in the middle of very trying Mother's Day party as school issues). I hope you persuade you fellow parents to adopt a no-food policy for birthday celebrations. Good luck.

Posted on: Thu, 05/10/2001 - 10:59am
Sandra Y's picture
Joined: 08/22/2000 - 09:00

Actually, I'm not planning to appeal to the parents, but to the principal and the teacher. I'm thinking of trying to include it as part of his IEP (he already has one, but we'll need to revise it for the new school year.)
The food is out of control in schools. My older non-PA daughter is in 2nd grade and comes home with candy frequently. Teachers use it as a reward/incentive. That's the other thing I hope to eliminate (in his classroom only, not school-wide). How could they use it as a reward if it can't be given to him?
As for the parties, I'm hoping to put myself in charge of them (room mother or whatever you call it) so I can be the one to buy the food.
Halloween and Valentines...another problem. He came home with tons of candy--MOST of which he cannot eat. So I have to take it away. Am I crazy to expect the school not to give a kid food that could kill him? They have a security guard at the front door of the school to keep students safe, and they're giving peanuts to a 5-yr-old PA kid. OK, I think he's smart enough not to eat the stuff, but still...
Notice none of this has anything to do with education? I guess that's what bothers me the most. I sense that trying to change these practices is seen as interfering with tradition, yet none of these things has any educational value at all.
Actually, I haven't even approached the principal about this yet, so I guess I shouldn't assume the worst. I just thought I'd float these ideas here first and see if anyone else has done something similar at their own school.
This is on my mind right now because the preschool field trip a few days ago was a trip to a large grocery store to learn about healthy foods and the food groups. As soon as the tour started, they handed out Snickers bars. Great lesson in nutrition, eh?
I know I'm ranting. I'll shut up now and let someone else get a word in edgewise. Thanks for any feedback!

Posted on: Wed, 05/16/2001 - 9:11pm
anonymous's picture
Joined: 05/28/2009 - 16:42

Sandra Y.
I don't know if you time or an interest, but you might want to think about taking a cake decorating course. Wilton ([url][/url])has a good home study course and videos. This way you can make some cupcakes, freeze them, and prepare a special cupcake for your child, the teacher, and possible the birthday child. My kids really love my decorated cakes and cupcakes. In fact, they know I can do a lot better than most store bought ones and they get real excited over them. When kids see fancy decorated cupcakes over plain, frosted ones with a couple sprinkles, guess which ones win hands down.
Also, you might want to consult the teacher about the birthday of every child in the class and be prepared for every birthday. Have the teacher ask the parent what the child plans on bringing in beforehand--whether it be Rice Krispy treats, cupcakes, whatever. Then you can make the same or a close alternative. I know it's a lot of work, but it may help your child feel like he's more included in the activity or party.

Posted on: Wed, 05/16/2001 - 10:04pm
Claire's picture
Joined: 04/19/2000 - 09:00

HI, What i always did with Christopher is let him make his own goodie bag for the party coming up in school. I would find out what kind of treat the parent or teachers were sending and try to keep his bag the closest to theirs as possible. However a little different so as no mix ups.I would buy the bags and let him decorate them for the party and bake his goodies with him at home. He actually loved this. He was having a party as well as enjoying all the bowl lickinge,and egg breaking. i think it was fun for myself as well. Then the day of the party he would bring in his birthday loot bag for himself and have the same fun as the others. I always went to the parties with him and just sat back and watched. I think it is important for him to feel he was on his own and I was not a nagging mom. I tried anyway not to be. This method always worked and Christopher knew he was safe. He was taught never to accept anything from any child. I went to the beginning of school meetings and open house and would have the opportunity at some point in the meeting to talk with the parents about the allergy and they were all very eager to learn. At the end they would actually ask me questions. Best wishes claire

Posted on: Wed, 05/16/2001 - 11:28pm
California Mom's picture
Joined: 07/14/2000 - 09:00

Sandra Y, I'm with you on this one 100%! I had tears in my eyes reading your post. I know I always get a knot in my stomach whenever there is a birthday or other type of party in Leah's class. I wish so badly that they just wouldn't have food in the classroom. I agree with you that it seems totally unfair to exclude one child. Some children seem to handle this better than others. My daughter has never cried or expressed extreme feelings about it, but I think it really does bother her. The only time she was happy was when she had a Hostess Cup Cake from her safe treat box at Sunday School, and she said that a lot of other kids told her hers looked so much better than what they were eating. (Obviously I'm not a baker or cake decorator! Only when I really have to.)
The worst situation we had (in my opinion) this year, was when Leah's kindergarten teacher brought in a cake for her own birthday that had a peanut/nut warning on it. I was really quite upset by this, and felt that the teacher should have more compassion for a little child than to do that. She actually apologized to me but said that this is her favorite cake and she must have it every year on her birthday. I was sick inside that a grown woman would make that sort of decision. I hope we have a better situation next year, in first grade, too.
Also, I'm sure that it breaks your heart to know that your son may suffer due to his facial differences. It is so hard to have our children have differences that make them stand out.
I wish you well in trying to get things changed for next year. That would be fantastic if a "no food treats" policy could be part of his IEP. I think you have very valid reasons, and I hope the school will accept them.
I want to put it in Leah's 504 that I will be a room parent, or that the room parent will need to work in close contact with me. When I told the principal that I want to be a room parent she said "a lot of times the teachers like to choose their own room parents". I was surprised by that response, and replied that I have a very compelling reason for wanting to be a room parent. I will address it again at our 504 meeting, to be held within the next month.
I'm sending hugs....

Posted on: Thu, 05/17/2001 - 12:30am
Joanne's picture
Joined: 02/22/1999 - 09:00

Sorry for the double post.
[This message has been edited by Joanne (edited May 17, 2001).]

Posted on: Thu, 05/17/2001 - 12:34am
Joanne's picture
Joined: 02/22/1999 - 09:00

I make cupcakes, cookies or brownies (whatever Sean chooses) and put a container of these treats in the teachers' room freezer. Whenever there is a birthday party Sean gets one of his treats. He is in first grade and so far it has not bothered him that he is eating different food. I'm pretty lucky in that he wants to eat what HE likes and doesn't really care what the other kids are eating. (Knock on wood that this will last!)
For the 3 class holiday parties (harvest, winter holiday and valentines) I was the room mother last year and insisted upon doing all of the baking. This year I wasn't the room mother, nor have I been asked to do the baking, so I find out what the class is having and them I make him his own Sean-safe food. We have lots of fun making these treats together at home.
There is another elementary school in our town that handles birthdays differently. They suggest (but do not require) that the students celebrate birthdays without food but with stickers, special napkins, a birthday book, etc., and I think they only do this in kindergarten. After that no birthday parties. I'm not quite sure how this came about.
I'd love to eliminate the food birthday parties. However, my son doesn't mind and is actually quite happy when he does get to eat a treat in school. Also, I worry that the social distress caused by eliminating birthday cupcakes would raise more negative issues than I want to face right now. (Or, to put it less delicately--the other moms would go nuts!)
Good luck!
[This message has been edited by Joanne (edited May 17, 2001).]

Posted on: Thu, 05/17/2001 - 2:01am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I can certainly understand where you are coming from Sandra. I don't have a problems with celebrating holidays...all promote awareness and tolerance of different beliefs. That, to me, has educational value. But, birthday parties? Come on. I remember the big thing in our elementary school was that on your birthday, your name was mentioned over the PA during morning announcements (but, then again, they had silent moments (not prayer) and kids were required to say the pledge and sing the anthem).
We haven't had to deal with this yet as our daughter will be just starting kindergarten in Sept. But, believe me, it has already crossed my mind. Matter of fact, a friend of mine was telling me she made cupcakes for her daughter's (1st grade) soccer team to celebrate her birthday! I just don't get it.
Let us know what you decide to do.

Posted on: Thu, 05/17/2001 - 11:42pm
Heather's picture
Joined: 10/08/2006 - 09:00

My girlfriend's daughter is in the 4th grade and just took the MCAS (achievement tests) earlier in the week, the parents were asked to volunteer to bring in food and drinks for the kids while they took the test. I was shocked by this. I said "why, does food make them perform better on the test?" I get so mad when people are constantly trying to feed my child. I've been struggling with the Baby Gym class for over a year now because at the end of each session, they throw a party with food. That same day, the parents get to write up an evaluation of the class. Last time I wrote something like "the parties with food are sending the kids the wrong message, especially in this age when the American Academy of Pediatrics has officially declared an epidemic of obesity in kids. That's a fact, not just my opinion." So yesterday, the teacher announced that on the last day of class, there will be a teddy bear's picnic and everyone is to bring a healthy snack for her child. Too bad we won't be at that party, we'll be on vacation. My son is going to pre-school in September and the school has a policy of no food being sent in by parents whatsoever (except the parents of the allergic kids send in snacks for their kids only). If there is a b-day party, stickers or small toys have to be sent in instead of food. The director told me she noticed every single celebration centered around food and she didn't like it, not only because it's a danger to the allergic kids but also because of the obesity epidemic. Can I keep him in pre-school for the rest of his life?

Posted on: Fri, 05/18/2001 - 4:25am
Sandra Y's picture
Joined: 08/22/2000 - 09:00

Heather-that is great! Schools have far too many food "treats." My oldest daughter does not have food allergies, but I have always been irritated by how much junk food she gets in school. You are right--I've heard about the problem with childhood obesity, too. In fact, I'm going to hunt around for some documentation about this to hand to my principal when I discuss this issue with him. If anyone has a link, please post it here!
All the parenting advice Ive ever read discourages parents from using food as reward or punishment. I've tended to follow this advice as I've noticed lots of adults (especially women) have strange obsessions with food, and eating disorders. It bothers me that schools totally disregard this advice. You don't have to feed kids candy to get them to learn!
Looks like this is a much bigger issue and involves more than just food allergies.


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