My daughter came home from school last week with some absolutely, truly, devastating news – for her, that is.
Clutching a letter which explained there have been concerns for how much sugar the children are consuming, her eyes filled with frustrated tears as I explained her primary school have decided to ban birthday cake. It seemed the sugar police had finally found us – but as I gave her a little cuddle of consolation I secretly jumped for joy inside.
No. More. Cake. No more staying up half the night, or waking up at 5am to magically produce something that looks impressive enough to show I’m a ‘good mum’ but not too much so that I’m showing off. Something that’s covered in enough glitter and contains enough food colouring to satisfy my daughter’s whimsy (rainbow cakes, I’m looking at you) but actually tastes nice too. Oh and of course something that doesn’t upset other parents because it’s totally pumped with sugar – don’t get me started on my guilt about the kids with allergies that I feel I have to offer something to so they don’t miss out.
I mean yes, it’s a lovely idea, but what an absolute pain in the arse. And it’s not just a pain in my arse either, what about that poor teacher? I know that when my two are jacked up on the white stuff they turn into tiny terrorisers, running about the place at double speed, so how does she deal with 30 of them?!
Before she even gets to the heart of the chaos she has to faff about cutting and serving a class full of tiny people, all climbing over each other to get to the good stuff.
Of course I’m moaning about all the effort an extra birthday cake just for school requires, but I do have some much more sensible reasons why banning cake is a good thing. As Jamie Oliver reminds us almost daily, our country has a serious sugar problem, and although you might have a handle on what your kids are eating when they’re with you, I bet you don’t realise how much rubbish they’re consuming when they’re not.
I hate to be the one to tell you, but birthday treats from school can be one of the biggest offenders. It seems like there’s a birthday every other week, which, combined with the parties themselves, adds up to a lot of unsolicited treats, until a treat isn’t actually a treat at all.
Sugar is addictive, and I don’t want my child to start craving or expecting cakes, chocolate or biscuits as part of her everyday diet. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for enjoying the sweeter things in life (I may or may not have eaten a packet of Hobnobs to myself today), but when I’m doing my best to look after little humans it helps when I know what they’re putting into their bodies – and when they’re not driving me mental on a cake crash.
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Want to celebrate your kid’s birthday at school? How about sending them off with a new game they can play at lunch time with their friends instead, or a selection of fruits to try.
The most important thing is that they feel loved and secure, and there’s plenty more ways to do this than teaching them celebrations equal eating unhealthy food.