Lunch Time 451

Hi Readers — Thought you might enjoy this peek at the lunchtime shenanigans at one American school. (Well, perhaps “enjoy” is not quite the right word, but anyway.) A reader writes:

At the beginning of the school year we got a list that forbade nuts and nut products, which is pretty standard these days.  My daughter started coming home from school complaining that she was told her apples should have been “without the skin” and that oranges were “dangerous,” because there is a kid in the school who is allergic.

I contacted the school and asked them to explain the policy. They told me that even though there is no “formal” list, they do not encourage skin on fruit because it could be a choking hazard.  A few mothers and I ignored them and continued to send the kids to school with the normal fruit, skin on, and not cut up. The lunch mothers make the kids feel bad by constantly telling them that this is not allowed, even though there is no formal rule.

The “no processed lunch meat” is another story altogether.  A few of the PTA mothers decided that it was unhealthy, again constantly harassing the kids during lunch by saying so.  Again, the school has no formal policy not allowing processed foods ( you should only see what they serve as a school lunch)!  This whole effort is spearheaded by a few helicopter PTA moms who have nothing better to do.

This is the same school that outlawed tag and does not allow kids out for recess in below 50F weather.  My son attended the same school a few years back and none of these practices were in place.  The school and the principal go along with this hovering because this PTA does raise a lot of money for the school.

In my community, as a full-time working mother, I am in the minority.  Since I and the few others like me can rarely attend PTA meetings (these are not held in a the hours a working mother can make), we have a very weak voice.  Every time we do speak up, we are reminded that while we are out at work, there are mothers who truly care for their children by staying home and being “involved.” They act like good, old-fashioned school-yard bullies.

Honestly, it is not worth the effort to fight with them.  I laugh them off and continue to send my daughter to school with whole apples and salami sandwiches.  I let her play tag all she wants on our street ( thank God, we live in a small development where almost all parents believe in the Free-Range concept).  She is allowed to go out in all kinds of weather and go to her friends’ houses by herself.

She will be out of that school in a year or two… and off to middle-school where my son is now.  That school allows apples and salami, but they have taken other things to absurdity.  One of these days I will post on the concept of “punishment should fit the crime.”  I think that in some of our schools the zero tolerance for violence policy is taken to absurdity, but that is another topic entirely.

Yes it is. Can’t wait! Meanwhile, thanks for this glimpse into the black hole of lunchtime. — Lenore

What foods are permissable in the lunchroom? Photo by Shinyai

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131 Responses to Lunch Time 451

  1. Jennifer T January 29, 2010 at 12:52 pm #

    This reminds me of several messages sent to parents a few years back at my kid’s school about birthday treats. The teachers sent them at the “request” of the PTA. Store-bought cupcakes were declared persona non grata, but homemade treats were ok. (This was before cupcakes became cool.) I thought it was primarily classism, masquerading as concern over too much sugar. I also thought it was darned rude. If *I* bring a treat for the class, it is a gift. If *you* don’t want your kid to eat it, teach her to politely decline.

  2. Rich Wilson January 29, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

    Apple skins a choking hazard? What do these kids use to write with, crayons? Because obviously they might get a sliver from a pencil.

  3. Jaime January 29, 2010 at 1:24 pm #

    Obviously crayons are too dangerous – kids might choke on the paper wrapper.

  4. Vanessa January 29, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

    I can see apple skin being a choking risk for a baby or a young toddler, but surely school-age kids know how to chew their food properly? And who would want to eat a peeled apple that had been sitting in a lunchbox and turning brown for hours?

    My daughter’s school is one of the few I’ve encountered with no real rules around food. Homemade treats are allowed – I just sent cookies for daughter’s birthday this week – and so are nuts and nut products. A couple of times a year, we get a note reminding us that they would prefer the kids not to bring candy and flaming hot cheese puffs for lunch, but I’ve never heard of a kid being hassled about his/her food. 90 percent of what I pack in the lunch box is healthy anyway (we’re vegetarian) but once in a while I’ll put in a soda or a piece of chocolate as a treat, and no one’s ever said anything about it. They’d better not, either.

  5. KateNonymous January 29, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

    I’m sure they’re just trying to prevent tragedies like the one in my elementary school, in which a girl choked to death on the peel from her pear.

    Oh, wait. That never happened. Anywhere, I would guess.

    I think I’d ask the bully pulpit PTA to provide statistics on the hazards of apple skins, and to explain why a single child with a citrus allergy is driving the eating habits of so many others. Is this child running around eating off of other people’s plates and trays?

  6. elizabeth burtt January 29, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

    maybe we should put all of our children’s food through the blender and package it in a tube to reduce the chances of them choking. Oh and lets see if we can remove all of the colour and flavour while we are at it. Give me a break people!
    Someone needs to shake up that PTA. Fruit is healthier with the skin, plus Chewing is a good thing, As for the nut and nut products issue, well. I have an anaphalactic nut allergy, and apple allergy. I taught my children at a very young age to wash hands face and brush teath after eating these products, they even wash the utensils used. But they still get them, just not in the car, where it is close quarters and hard to control. I attended public school where apples and nuts were not banned. I survived because I was taught to be responsible for my own safety.
    We ban too much in our society.

  7. Ben January 29, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

    Do I have too much faith in the kid’s self-reliance?

    I was under the impression that kids with food allergies are perfectly capable to seek out foods they are allowed to eat and avoid the things that give them skin rashes and breathing trouble.

    I don’t see why kids are forbidden to bring PB&J sandwiches which they are able to eat themselves, just because a few others can’t. As long as you don’t smear it across the allergy kid’s face or shove it down their throat there is no actual hazard to protect them from.

    The real dangers lie with schools that constantly serve fries and macaroni & cheese and other fat meals to their students.

  8. Jacqui January 29, 2010 at 2:09 pm #

    I would start a letter-writing campaign to the school board and superintendent. You mothers do have a voice even though you can’t make the PTA meetings, and don’t let their bureacratic tripwires convince you otherwise.

  9. Rational Jenn January 29, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

    “As long as you don’t smear it across the allergy kid’s face or shove it down their throat there is no actual hazard to protect them from.”

    That is not true. Some kids (not all) are contact sensitive and will have a reaction if they touch the allergen.

    Apart from that, though, residue is a big concern. You know how kids (even responsible kids who ought to know better) spread germs around like crazy? When they touch a germ-contaminated surface and then touch their faces or mouths, they can contract the illness.

    Kids with severe allergies can accidentally ingest trace amounts of allergens in precisely the same manner. Only instead of a cold, the consequences can be life-threatening.

  10. Dot Khan January 29, 2010 at 2:21 pm #

    Healthy fresh fruit is not allowed, exercise at recess is banned, kids no longer walk to school and we wonder about childhood obesity.

    I’m glad there were no restrictions on lunch when I went to school. At on point I ate Bermuda onion sandwiches. I stopped eating them because for some reason I was no longer popular. Later found out mom also had them as a kid.

    Are bananas next? Someone may slip on their peals.

  11. Zie January 29, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    Gah. There was that same attitude at the CA my son was at for half a year. I was sent home notes that he wasn’t to bring fruit snacks for a desert one day, and another when he took Newman O’s as a treat in his lunch, nevermind that they’re organic and all. He also had people get down on him for taking the lettuce off the school’s (organic and locally farmed which was great except it was $5.50 per lunch) turkey sandwiches.

    WTF people. He ate the rest of his lunch, please don’t question what he’s been allowed to bring. He ended up refusing to take treats in his lunch at all because he knew it would always result in his getting a talking to. That’s so wrong.

  12. Nicola January 29, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    *sigh* I don’t even know what to say about this one. These idiot mothers of the PTA don’t have anything better to do. If I were you, I’d get a petition started complete with the information about what is healthy and not in schools, as well as a accompanying fact sheet on what a 5-year-old (and up) can chew with the teeth they have in their little cherubic faces. I’d bombard them with information that pretty much made them look like high-and-mighty morons – so much so that it would make them think twice about talking to anyone’s kids about what is in their lunch. I can’t stand people like that… man… I feel incredibly lucky that my kids’ school is sane. Kids can walk home without adults feeling they’re incapable, kids can bring peanuts to school, home-cooked goods, they can play whatever they want outside… oy. Sanity and common sense… sounds like your PTA needs a good dose.

  13. Uly January 29, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

    And who would want to eat a peeled apple that had been sitting in a lunchbox and turning brown for hours?

    Well, my older niece will not eat apples with the skin on if she can at all help it. Sometimes I get annoyed at this and tell her to deal with it herself, but when preparing her lunch I just slice the apple (she can eat up to the peel and toss it or bring it home for the compost) and rub the white part all over with a lemon. She says it tastes fine, and it won’t brown even a day later. (Ew.)

    Not that this rule isn’t stupid, but I’m just pointing that out.

    As far as peanut allergies go, aside from the risk of residue and contact allergies, a severely allergic child may also be at risk from *breathing in* peanut residue.

    However, unless such a child actually attends this school, this level of precaution is almost certainly unnecessary.

  14. King Krak, I Drink The Wine January 29, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    Wow, what can one say? Apples with skins on them – thousands have died (of laughter) over the centuries for this edible faux pas.

    Most processed food is crap, so I’m siding a bit on the Heli camp there.

    Still, what’s up with parents not pulling their children out of that school to Home School? Why have your kid in that environment? Soon they will be warned not to go out in the daylight – you can die of sunstroke, ya know. Bucko.

  15. Mikhail Schneider January 29, 2010 at 4:24 pm #

    It’s the hypocrisy that blares the loudest here. No processed lunch meats because they are unhealthy? The peel of a fruit contains 70-75% of all the nutrients in the fruit (in some cases more), so these PTA mothers are on the one hand trying to promote healthy eating, and then on the other demoting it.

    You could print out the apple portion of this article (or one of a hundred like it) highlight the “don’t discard the skin” paragraph, and post it around the lunchroom:

    http://www.organicfacts.net/nutrition-facts/fruits/nutritional-value-of-avocado-and-apple.html

  16. Bob Davis January 29, 2010 at 4:41 pm #

    I’ve seen articles about the increase in food allergies in general and peanuts in particular. Have our scientists come to a conclusion about A) why so many cases of peanut allergy now? and B) any cures being developed?
    Regarding some of the other matters discussed, it does seem like there are quite few suburban mothers who need a shot of “Neumannol”, a new drug named after MAD’s Alfred E. Neumann, the “What, Me Worry?” kid. Not too heavy a dose, just enough to cut down on worry warts.
    Regarding home schooling: I’d say it’s like Raw Bits, that product on Prairie Home Companion, “Not for everyone.” It would be interesting to do a survey of people who were home-schooled and have reached the age of (for example) 30, and how the “outcomes” stack up against public school and private school “alumni”. (I’ll admit to a certain bias because there are three former teachers in my background.)

  17. Frau_Mahlzahn January 29, 2010 at 4:47 pm #

    oh my God, that is unbelievable! They have rules at our school, too, as far as the snack is concerned, that is: no cake, no coke. Certainly they are allowed to bring food that contains nuts, milk or has a skin — who on earth would even think about that being a danger for the kid who’s allergic? I mean, doesn’t this kid bring his or her own food? Isn’t it taught to watch out for him/herself?

    Once a week my son’s teacher will prepare the snack with the kids, and — OMG — sometimes she sends a group of kids (first graders) over to the grocery store to pick up something for her… (even though they have to cross a public square with some kind of traffic). Anyway, this way she introduces those kids, whose parents always pack cake and unhealthy drinks, to healthy food. I think it’s great!

    I cannot believe what I just read!

    So long,
    Corinna

  18. Stijn Hommes January 29, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

    @Dot: You’d be surprised how hard it actually is to slip on a banana peel.

    @Rational Jenn: While people might be so allergic that even contact can cause a severe reaction, it’s still not a good reason to ban the offending foodstuff altogether. Just teach the kids in the school to handle them responsibly.

    The increase in allergies has, by some scientists, been linked to the constantly increasing fear of germs. Because kids are less and less exposed to germs early on in their life, their immune system doesn’t evolve as it should.

  19. Marius January 29, 2010 at 7:11 pm #

    The home of the brave, indeed…

  20. Phoebe January 29, 2010 at 7:23 pm #

    Soylent green, people… Obviously it is the only answer.

    If you scrub the apple (thereby getting rid of the pesticides) with soap and water (oh and rinse too lol) before eating, the skin is actually quite delicious. Besides, agree with a PP, who wants an icky brown apple? Ew. You might as well send your kid to school with durian fruit instead (yeah, they’d looooove you LOL).

  21. Kimberly January 29, 2010 at 7:28 pm #

    Ben,
    I have a student who is deathly allergic to peanuts – by touch. I have the same allergy. Here are our rules.

    1. If student or I ask you to move away you do so 1st and ask questions 2nd.

    2. If you know you have peanut butter stuff – stay away from us

    3. If you eat certain types of foods like granola bars, nut mixes that don’t say peanuts in the flavor assume they have some form of peanuts and keep away from us.

    4. If you eat something with peanuts or that might be suspect at lunch tell person on lunch duty “I had peanuts, so I have to wash my hands before going back to Ms. Herbert’s room.

    5. Do not leave your lunch kit or backpack out where Ms. Herbert or student has to move it to get to school supplies. Do not put your lunch kit or backpack on top of Student’s. (The last time I landed in the ER for peanuts – I picked up a lunch kit a child had left on a table.)

    6. On the 6 days a year we are required to eat in the room (early release days for conferences (4 days) and end of term (2 days)) do NOT bring peanut food. Room is peanut free area. If you do bring something with peanuts you will eat in another classroom.

    As for the original post . If the OP is reading this do most of these super helicopter Moms have kids in 3rd grade? On a teaching site I mentioned that our 3rd grade this year has huge cluster of extreme helicopter parents. I mean coming to school and hand feeding their children (so they won’t choke) up to the end of last year. A bunch of other US teachers observed the same thing.

    One made a comment about “What was in the water that year” (meaning the year they were born). A non-US participant of the board posted – Um Guys those children were infants in 2001.

  22. Wendy January 29, 2010 at 7:34 pm #

    Holy Cow! Where is this school? I can’t imagine. I think the “working” moms should band together and tell the holier-than-thou helicopter moms to shove it. If anyone consistently demeaned my child for the food choices I made for them, they’d be getting an earful from me.

    Then they should demand that PTA meetings be held at a time when EVERYONE can attend. I find it utterly incomprehensible that, in this day and age, there are still places where this DOESN’T happen!

  23. Kim January 29, 2010 at 8:45 pm #

    OMG. And they wonder why us working moms don’t want to volunteer for the PTA. It’s not really that we don’t have the time. It’s that we don’t want to be judged and belittled by these “know-it-all” stay at home moms. I’ve never fit in with that crowd. Even at kids’ sporting events they all gather in a group and talk about how great their kids are and how sad it is that “other” parents aren’t as involved and can’t be in the classroom all the time. (meanwhile their kids are usually making fun of some other less popular or atheletic kid). Sorry but there were NEVER parents in the classroom when I was a kid. If someone’s parent happened to be a teacher or a sub or playground aid, they were totally embarrassed and stayed as far away as possible.

    BTW, my latest pet peeve…parents who drive their kids to the bus stop and sit there with them in the running vehicle until the bus comes. PLEASE – just drive the kid to school already! We’re not talking a rural situation either. We live in a subdivision where the bus stop is about two blocks in any direction. It is not freezing outside and these kids are in middle school. Give me a break.

  24. Kim January 29, 2010 at 8:54 pm #

    When I was a kid there was a girl who brought dog food in her lunch. Seriously she brought a baggie with dog food as part of her lunch. Disgusting, yes. Did anyone say anything? No. She liked it. I don’t know if she snuck it or what. I knew another girl who at the whole apple….peel, stem, seeds, and everything. Weird, yes. Did anyone say anything, no. It is none of anyone else’s business what kids bring for lunch. How do people think they have any right to judge? This is insane.

  25. Jean January 29, 2010 at 8:58 pm #

    King Krak, I Drink The Wine, on January 29th, 2010 at 3:25 pm Said:

    Most processed food is crap, so I’m siding a bit on the Heli camp there.

    The point is – if it’s my child, who the hell are you to tell me what to feed him/her? It’s NONE of your business. If I ever catch a teacher/parent giving my kid a talking to about the lunch I prepared for MY child, well, it won’t be pretty.

    All this makes me want to homeschool.

  26. Jonathan Bartlett January 29, 2010 at 9:00 pm #

    One of my three children has strange reactions to pretty much anything with food coloring in it. What have we done – teach him to decline such things when offered! I understand the peanut thing, but pretty much everything else doesn’t cause life-or-death situations, and can be fixed by teaching the child to refuse.

  27. BMS January 29, 2010 at 9:12 pm #

    Lord, save me from the PTA moms.

    The ones at my school say they want help, then ignore you if you are not in their little clique. They have all these ‘values’ they want the children to have, but God forbid if you actually want them to have independence. They encourage walk to school day, but then drive their kids half way there so they don’t have to walk too far.
    Drives. Me. Nuts.

  28. Kim January 29, 2010 at 9:12 pm #

    You know, reading through this I agree with a lot of what you all are saying, but for God’s sake, lay off the stay at home mom’s, please. I am so damn sick of being looked down upon by ‘working’ moms because I choose to say home. It’s always the same thing…’where do you work?’, and when I answer that I am currently staying at home, the working mom’s want nothing to do with me. I say, piss off. You are no better than me. I do a lot of work from home, and I write for local publications. You have no idea how much work I do in a day, but because I stay home I’m not worthy? I don’t think so. Knock it off.

    There. Now that that is off my chest, the no peels on apples things is stupid. My son’s school does allow apples, peels and all, but they discourage sugar filled snacks. However, you can get corn dogs and ice cream and cake in the cafeteria. Go figure. I sent my son to school with ha peanut butter sandwich, yogurt and Oreos today. Semi-healthy, maybe. 😉

    Oh, and, the PTA, in my son’s school is run by a few stay at home moms and a few working moms. The meetings are all at night.

  29. Kim January 29, 2010 at 9:14 pm #

    Oh, and no, I am NOT a PTA mom. I do help out on field trips, though.

  30. HappyNat January 29, 2010 at 9:18 pm #

    The other day my son (13 months) saw my daughter (almost 3 eating a whole apple (with skin!) as she has been doing for over a year. He reached for the basket with apples, so I thought why not see how he handles it and gave him a whole apple. I watched him as he gnawed away on it for 15 – 20 minutes. He got a few bites, he spit some out, he fed some to the dog, he dropped the apple a few times, then he got bored and wanted to read a book. The important thing is he was learning how to eat an apple, so when he is older he can do it himself.

    Sure processed meat isn’t great, but sometimes I don’t have time in the morning to kill a fresh pig for their lunch.

  31. KarenElissa January 29, 2010 at 9:19 pm #

    Fruit peels are a chocking hazard?! We don’t cut the peels off anything for my one year olds where I work, in fact, I actively encourage them tol eat the peels because they are so healthy. And guess what, not a single child has even come close to chocking! If even my smallest one year old can handle them, I would hoe a grade schooler could.

  32. Pennie January 29, 2010 at 9:26 pm #

    It is absolutely ridiculous what children are not *capable* of doing for themselves these days. When I choose to send a lunch with my daughter to school, she gets a bologna sandwich, go-gurt, a juice box, fruit snacks, and an apple or banana. Bologna is the most processed lunch meat out there, haha!

    Boo to parents that feel that everything is a hazard to their precious kids. Get over yourselves, already. Your children are going to die whether or not you keep them in a bubble.

    As for the poster who said there was a girl who brought dog food… I would say something about that, though. Hopefully she just snuck it… but if she’s eating it because that’s all there is… there’s a problem.

  33. Kim January 29, 2010 at 9:37 pm #

    Dog food costs more than people food, so yeah, if that’s all they have in the house, the is a problem. They’re more concerned about the dog than the people?

  34. Harmony January 29, 2010 at 9:56 pm #

    I want to redeem us stay-at-home moms. We’re not all like those PTA moms at the poster’s school! Many of us are very free range, and some of us would rather do just about anything else than be involved in a PTA. 😉

    Peanut butter is a staple in our house. We even give it to the dog who – gasp! – sometimes licks the baby’s face.

    I will admit to eating most apples peeled, but that’s because my throat swells up when I eat the peel of non-organic apples (non-organic strawberries, too, if they’re not washed *really* well – I must be allergic to a pesticide or something). But the rest of the family gets them just the same.

  35. Josh R. January 29, 2010 at 10:11 pm #

    The paragraph that starts “In my community…” really resonates with me. My daughter goes to preschool near the in-laws, in a much wealthier part of town than we can afford to live in. Almost all the other kids in her class have one stay-at-home parent, but we can’t afford that.

    So far two kids have had birthday parties during hours we can’t take our daughter — 3:30pm on a Monday, and 3:30pm on a Friday — and the fact that my inlaws are willing to take her to the party is the only way she gets to go.

    And the other parents just keep inadvertently rubbing it in because they don’t realize… or maybe they do — we’re the only parents in our county, which is farther away than the two counties they live in (near the school).

    So which is worse? PTA helicopter parents who rub it in because they’re being petty, or generally good parents who rub it in because they don’t know they’re doing it?

  36. tana January 29, 2010 at 10:25 pm #

    what i find interesting is this attitude of us vs. them. sahm vs. working mom. homeschooling mom vs. public school mom. helicopters vs. free rangers. it can even go as far as moms of only children vs. moms of multiple children. divorced/single moms vs. married ones. when are we going to figure out that these attitudes of conflict isn’t helping us OR them, whoever they are, or our kids. sure, when the lunch mom at school makes your kid feel bad over what you chose for her to eat, talk to that mom. if it’s more than one person, talk to each of them, like adults. ask them politely to back off and leave your kid to eat in peace. tell them if they don’t, you’ll be forced to get the principle or school board involved to mediate exactly what role the lunch moms are supposed to play in setting lunch policy. insist, as one person suggested, that PTA meetings be convenient for all. try to work together for the benefit of everyone’s children.

  37. catgirl January 29, 2010 at 10:28 pm #

    So, kids can’t have peanut butter, and they can’t have processed meats. What the heck are they supposed to eat? They can’t have processed snacks, but they can’t have whole fresh fruit either. It seems like it would be a lot easier to make a list of the foods the kids can bring to school for lunch. But giving kids peeled, cut-up apples that sit for several hours (probably without refrigeration) seems like an excellent way to turn kids off of fruit for life.

  38. Jenny January 29, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    The latest and largest studies on peanut butter allergies show that the earlier and more one is exposed to it, the less chance that a severe allergy will develop. That’s right – if you give your infant peanut butter from the start, they probably won’t be severely allergic to peanuts.

    There’s a theory that preventing exposure to all these potential allergens actually jumpstarts mild allergies into becoming severe allergies. It is the only theory that has actual large scale studies backing it up, so I’m going with it.

    The USA is a hot zone for severe food allergies for a reason. Eggs, peanut butter, milk, etc. allergies are much worse problems here than anywhere else. Because we avoid any potential allergens.

    Remember what allergy shots actually are – small doses of the allergen over time to build immunity. By denying exposure to any allergens from a very young age, we’re actually triggering severe allergies.

    The only known cure for peanut allergies with some great results in current trials is small, repeated exposure to peanuts. Same for milk allergy cures. Obviously with a severe allergy this is something for a doctor’s supervision.

    That being said, there are many unavoidable severe allergies. Just genetics and a little bad luck. If your child is allergic to something, they should be taught to avoid that allergen and if very young, the teachers should certainly know about it. But it shouldn’t affect the entire school’s eating habits.

  39. Uly January 29, 2010 at 10:51 pm #

    The USA is a hot zone for severe food allergies for a reason. Eggs, peanut butter, milk, etc. allergies are much worse problems here than anywhere else. Because we avoid any potential allergens.

    Yeah, maybe, but at least we don’t have widespread allergies to celery like they do in Eastern Europe.

  40. Aaron January 29, 2010 at 11:12 pm #

    The closest I can come to this happened to me last year, while my daughter was going to school in India. There are no cafeterias and all kids bring a lunch (in these fantastic tin ‘tiffin’ boxes). They also all have mothers who wake up between 4-5 am and begin cooking for the day. My daughter, not so much…

    So most days I was able to send her in with a curry and rice or something, but every now and again I would not have time or she, being homesick, really just wanted a PBJ. One day I sent her in with just such a sandwich, a cut (but not peeled) orange, and some potato chip: an all-American lunch. The school manager berated her, severely, for not having a “proper” lunch, and told her she’d better bring in something more appropriate form now on.

    To be fair, he really was just looking out for her health, and he just didn’t believe that a sandwich and piece of fruit was a meal. Such is tradition, I guess.

  41. BMS January 29, 2010 at 11:17 pm #

    As the vegetarian mom of two vegetarian boys, the food restrictions make me climb the wall. Thankfully, there is no nut ban in the cafeteria, or my second grader would starve to death. But some places don’t want nuts, discourage prepackaged snacks, don’t want seeds, don’t want soy. What do I feed them then? A single carrot?

  42. sonya January 29, 2010 at 11:18 pm #

    My kindergartener would love for me to send her lunch apple all chopped and peeled, but (a) the skin has the most nutrients (b) it would go brown. So she gets to use her teeth and eat a whole apple. (Or if I send a clementine, she gets to use her fine motor skills and peel it herself). I am guilty of sending processed meats in her sandwich most days. But frankly if I’m shopping once a week, I can’t see an alternative to ham/salami other than cheese. Freshly roast beef won’t keep that long. And at least it has protein, unlike her first choice of sandwich filling (nutella). Sometimes the teachers quietly suggest we might want to try something else, but then when they see she won’t eat it, they give up. I really think other moms have no right to tell you what to feed your child, and they should keep their nose out of other people’s business!

    On another note, a comment earlier complains about people who drive to the school bus-stop and sit in their cars. I’m one of those – our bus-stop is 200yd down the road and around the corner, no sidewalks, fast road, so we just can’t walk there. I would much prefer my daughter to walk to the bus-stop, but there’s just no way to do it safely. I still think it’s better than driving to school because it keeps down the congestion around the school itself. And the bus-stop is on the way to my other daughter’s preschool, so we all go in the car, leave daughter #1 on the bus, and then drive off to the preschool with daughter #2. So don’t throw blame around if you don’t know all the story. In my case the blame rests firmly with the town/county, for building roads unfriendly to pedestrians.

  43. Hilary January 29, 2010 at 11:20 pm #

    Please let’s not generalize about “PTA moms,” either. At our (urban, poor) school the PTA is largely made of a few very overworked parents who manage to find the time and energy to help organize, run (and raise funds for) events that the WHOLE SCHOOL participates in, as well as funding class field trips, classroom supplies, and other things that the district cannot afford to pay. I know every school and every parent organization is different, but it makes me sad to hear people being derogative about an organization that – at least in our school – does so much for the children, and would welcome help and input from ANY corner.

  44. Amanda January 29, 2010 at 11:22 pm #

    Is there anyway that a PTA can be started for the working parent, where you can do all the same things as the stay at home parenters do, like raise money? Or petition the school to make it later in the day. PTA is for Parents, hence the P in the name. So, are the working dad’s not supposed to PTA meetings too? Rediculous!!!

  45. crystalblue January 29, 2010 at 11:24 pm #

    Geez Louise, it’s worse than I realized.
    If the PTA wants to get into a tizzy over something, why not focus on how a disturbingly large amount of Americans, including teachers and school administrators, do not know how to make a word plural or write the contraction of “you” and “are”? Why don’t they start rallying for excellence in academics and higher expectations of our students who are capable of doing better than the school thinks of them?

    PS I had a student with a severe peanut allergy. She went into anaphylactic shock when a friend, who had just eaten a snickers bar, handed her a piece of gum. Thankfully she had her epi-pen on her.

  46. rachel January 29, 2010 at 11:38 pm #

    A few comments:

    1. I used to be in public education (for 10 years) but now stay home to take care of my 5 children. I “had it up to here” with PTA moms when I was working (some teachers do seem to enjoy the hovering/help, but I did not) so I do not go anywhere near the PTA club now that I am a parent.

    2. A good principal would stand his/her ground and speak-up. Maybe the principal actually believes this crap OR has too many other fish to fry.

    3. I made it my goal this school year to start packing a waste-free lunch for my kids. I invested in thermoses and snack-taxi (fabric snack/sandwich bags) so that there would be no waste (besides an apple core, etc.) to add to the trash. WELL . . . after about 2 weeks of school my daughter came home upset and wanted me to start packing her plastic bags again. I questioned her and it turns out that the new “policy” this year in the lunchroom is that kids are not allowed to get up from the table to throw away their trash. (Not sure why this is the case.) Instead, an adult (mom volunteer) bring the trash can to the table and then all the kids put their trash in the middle and slide it down the table until it reaches the can. My daughter was wanting me to pack plastic bags so that she would have somewhere to put her apple core, orange peels, etc. so that she could slide her trash down the table. I told her to get over it, stick it in someone else’s bag or just throw it on top of the pile. But seriously, kids don’t get enough exercise and now we don’t even allow them to get up to throw away their trash?

  47. Alana M January 29, 2010 at 11:43 pm #

    Ugh A’s old preschool forbade seafood and nuts. TG for didn’t stay for lunch. The elementary school doesn’t have a nut policy. But he has come home with the chocolate in his lunch because the lunch monitor wouldn’t “let” eat it. Also they are constantly telling the kids not to trade food. I just tell me boys “not to get caught”. I loved trading lunch items. I think grade school kids can figure out what they can’t eat.

  48. SKL January 29, 2010 at 11:44 pm #

    This is offensive. They should not be talking to the kids about what their mother prepared for lunch. It reminds me of how I used to be chided in KG because my parents didn’t take me to church. If it’s that big of a problem, it should be brought up with the parents. I don’t care what kind of attitude problem they have; I would go directly to whoever is harassing my kids and have a word with them. “Thank you for your concern, but your criticism of my child is misplaced and I don’t want to hear of it happening again. Here’s my email address if you need to tell me anything. By the way, if your issue is my kids’ nutrition, please provide your credentials as a nutrition specialist along with your comments on my meal planning.” [OK, I might leave off that last sentence. Maybe.]

    If you can’t have peanut butter and you can’t have lunch meat, that doesn’t leave a lot of healthy choices for a packed lunch. And not every child has a weight problem. I dare them to try to tell my skinny kid (who loathes most meat anyway) that she shouldn’t eat something because it has fat in it. Who do these people think they are?

    I ate nothing but pbj and boloney for lunch for many years. I was skinny, strong, smart, and allergic to nothing. Thank goodness nobody was on my butt about the contents of my modest lunch bag.

  49. Waltz January 29, 2010 at 11:50 pm #

    If you and your like-minded mothers have vacation time I think you should all take one day off and show up for lunch and spend the whole time making the helicopter mom’s feel bad for bullying the kids. Let them know what truly small and cruel “people” they are.

  50. damaged justice January 29, 2010 at 11:51 pm #

    Think you have problems? Talk to the carnivores:

    http://forum.zeroinginonhealth.com/showthread.php?tid=986&page=1

    As if their own families didn’t try to sabotage them enough.

  51. jeanette January 30, 2010 at 12:07 am #

    Sadly – I think you live in my town and attend my children’s former Elementary School. I too am the minority ‘Bad Mom” (working) – our restrictions are ridiculous – beyond food ….My 3rd Grader was sent home with a note that the “Macbeth graphic novel he was reading was not appropriate – not because it was a comic book, but because it was Shakespeare. Wears shorts to school unless it is dangerously cold (I call the Guidance Counselor in Sept and have cleared it with his Pediatrician) He preferred a half sandwich for snack – nope – it had to be a ‘snack’ – was not permitted to buy the egg salad /salad as it was a “Teacher lunch”. Was told that his picture of Godzilla walkin through a city could not show people being stepped on, and was sent to the School Shrink when he wrote an essay illustrating the horrors of Germ warfare in regards to Christopher Columbus …Long story …… All of this would not have happened if his Mother didnt, you know “work” …

  52. Mae Mae January 30, 2010 at 12:36 am #

    I agree with Tana. The generalizations on this site drive me bonkers sometimes.

    I had a problem with this the one year my daughter attended school. (Not food restrictions but other stuff) I called the the woman in charge of the lunch staff and told her I would file a complaint with the school board if anything else happened. It stopped immediately.

    I also agree that other people have NO business commenting to my children about any choices I make for them. My response to anything like this is, “When you’re listed as a parent on her birth certificate, then you can make the calls.” Shuts ’em up every time.

  53. pentamom January 30, 2010 at 12:41 am #

    Are these moms REALLY portraying themselves as caring, stay at home Moms, and that’s their justification for minding everybody else’s business?

    If so, thanks a honkin’ LOT for giving the rest of us a bad name. I don’t stay at home full time with my kids so I can meddle in how OTHER PEOPLE raise their kids. I know that people have probably run across moms with this attitude before, but rest assured, it’s FAR from universal among us SAHMS. I dare say it’s the minority — but as is so often the care, the minority within a group can often have VERY BIG MOUTHS.

    And that’s exatly what this is. So WHAT if some OTHER poarents sends their kids to school with less than ideal (in someone’s opinion) food. Do these moms want to take these kids home, care for them, and raise them? If not, BUTT OUT.

    I am way more annoyed by the attitude displayed than by the rules they’re trying to enforce. Mind you, the rules are ridiculous as well, but the attitude is even worse.

    And though I haven’t read all the comments yet, I’m assuming that by now at least ten people have pointed out that if your child can’t eat an apple or a peach without choking on a peel by the time he’s old enough to go to school, you have bigger problems than peels that need to be addressed. And if your worried about that, don’t send YOUR CHILD to school with unpeeled fruit. MY CHILD can eat peels!

    And as for allergies, as far as I know, the only allergies that pose a threat to kids merely for being in the same room are nut allergies. Just “being around” anything else is not a threat. So if you must restrict things for that reason, at least limit it to things that are a threat even when not ingested.

  54. Tracey January 30, 2010 at 12:48 am #

    Oh man, something to look forward to when my kids start elementary school…I hope not!

    Rachel, I think that the idea of pushing trash along the lunch table sounds kind of gross, but no doubt there is some rationale for it, maybe they are worried the kids will trip and fall on their way to the trash can?!

  55. Jessie January 30, 2010 at 12:54 am #

    Oh for pity’s sake! My 9-month-old doesn’t choke on apple skins. She rather gracelessly spits them out. :-) People would do well to learn the difference between choking and gagging.

  56. Debbie January 30, 2010 at 1:19 am #

    One of the many reasons I “unschool” my son.

    What had the world come to…really.
    As for allergies and school, my five year old nephew is allergic to peanuts and the rest of his family still eats peanut butter…in the house. They have taught him to stay away from it…to ask the right questions.

    And how rude of these PTA mom’s to hover and insult a child’s lunch. Bugger off…it’s none of your business.

  57. Ann January 30, 2010 at 1:28 am #

    Just a side note: Almost every commercially manufactured brand of bread has a nut warning on it. Which means a “no nut zone” should, theoretically, be a no store-bought bread zone too.

  58. Kim January 30, 2010 at 1:29 am #

    I feel the need to clarify a statement that I made: “It’s that we don’t want to be judged and belittled by these “know-it-all” stay at home moms.”

    The use of the phrase “stay at home moms” wasn’t really appropriate. I didn’t mean ALL stay at home moms. I meant those who fit the category described in the original post–those who would attempt to tell other people how to raise and what to feed their kids. I admire and respect stay at home moms. I think it is probably the ideal situation for a kid. I wish it were an option for me but it isn’t.

    Stereotypes are created by those who are the most extreme – so if we are talking about PTA moms or stay at home moms or working moms, we usually aren’t meaning to generalize, but are talking about people who fit the context of the discussion. If you don’t fit the stereotype you need not be offended.

    The rest of us really need to start standing up to these pushy parents who would make life miserable for us and our children. They need to stop being put in charge and instead need to be put in their place.

    @sonya, your situation with the bus is different than what I described. I realize that it makes sense in some situations. In my neighborhood, the bus stops inside the subdivision. There are literally half a dozen cars lined up on the street running and waiting for the bus every morning. They don’t even let the kids out to wait with the other kids who are standing there.

  59. Harmony January 30, 2010 at 1:38 am #

    “Stereotypes are created by those who are the most extreme – so if we are talking about PTA moms or stay at home moms or working moms, we usually aren’t meaning to generalize, but are talking about people who fit the context of the discussion. If you don’t fit the stereotype you need not be offended.”

    Kim, you’re exactly right. Thank you for clarifying. And for what it’s worth, you described the “know-it-all SAHM” perfectly, because she does in fact exist. 😉

  60. Harmony January 30, 2010 at 1:43 am #

    Arg, pressed send too soon!

    I also wanted to say that I ought to have been more specific about PTA moms. My mom was a PTA mom, and she was wonderful. She wasn’t a helicopter mom (we were allowed free range of our neighborhood during summers so long as she knew where we were, etc). She really only volunteered as a room mom to spend more time with us. I think the schools were better off for her help. But we all know “that kind” of PTA mom, and that was all I was referring to.

  61. Andy January 30, 2010 at 1:43 am #

    “Every time we do speak up, we are reminded that while we are out at work, there are mothers who truly care for their children by staying home and being “involved.”

    Holy cow! If some Hover Nazi said that to my wife or my mom, the control freak’s wings would be clipped permanently!

    I’m sorry, but you need to exert pressure on the school and PTA to put the meetings at a time where all mothers can be represented and not just the poor dears who “really care.” If your wheel sqeaks enough you’ll eventually get the grease you need.

    Once you do, make sure you and the other sane parents have all the facts and figures in place and blow them away. Never let up!

  62. Babs January 30, 2010 at 1:44 am #

    Talk about draconian: at least our school hasn’t forbade lunch meats or has asked us to cut up/de-skin(?) our children’s fruit! (I do send in ‘chopped” carrots — carrots cut into circles — for my daughter’s lunch, but it’s more her personal preference.) At daycare/preschool, the school was vigilant on cutting up fruit and banning peanuts/peanut products.

    On the other hand: the school, in keeping with a state nutritional mandate, sugary snacks are verboten during regular school hours. Yet a number of parents have brought in less than nutritionally sound snacks for school (despite the so-called rules, which I have followed). Bake sales are allowed AFTER school; any type of snack is okay at Girl Scouts meetings or at evening school events.

    As for PTO issues…I’m a fulltime student but am not part of either the SAHM or the WOHM crowd. Our school, too, likes to hold PTO meetings every other month on a weekday morning — talk about discouraging participation! (My membership experience to date has not been good; i still feel it’s very cliquish and operates on a schoolyard level.)

  63. HSmom January 30, 2010 at 1:46 am #

    When I was a teacher (first grade), I only complained to one parent about her son’s lunch. I had to ask her to please not parade into my classroom during math (the last class before lunch) with a McDonald’s Happy Meal for her son. Not because it was a Happy Meal. (I have many, many fond memories of taking my students, IN MY CAR out to McDonalds during lunch ONE-ON-ONE as a reward… ), but that she would bring it in interrupting my class to do it. Grrrrrr…. no one is the least bit interested in two-place addition after that! Otherwise, we minded our own business on the lunches. Our school even ordered pizza from Pizza Hut on Fridays one year (We were a small private school with no hot lunch program.) Loved teaching there.

  64. HSmom January 30, 2010 at 1:48 am #

    Oh! Does this remind anyone else of the “Everybody Loves Raymond” episode where Debra fails to provide the T-ball team with a snack from the “approved snack list” (she brings pretzels…) Great episode.

  65. Kim January 30, 2010 at 1:50 am #

    The irony here, as someone else mentioned, is that they are on the case of the kids who bring their lunches. Have you seen what they serve for hot lunch at school nowadays? Just about anything would be better …maybe they should put their energy into changing that.

  66. Laura January 30, 2010 at 2:05 am #

    Please tell me where you live so I can add it to the top of my list, “Places to Never Move to”.

  67. animallover7100 January 30, 2010 at 2:10 am #

    at the school i went to the lucnh most looked forward to was taco boats. rumor was it that the shells were stale they tasted too. didnt stop us from enjoying them though.

  68. Uly January 30, 2010 at 2:31 am #

    And as for allergies, as far as I know, the only allergies that pose a threat to kids merely for being in the same room are nut allergies. Just “being around” anything else is not a threat. So if you must restrict things for that reason, at least limit it to things that are a threat even when not ingested.

    That’s not true. ANY allergy can be that serious. However, for whatever reason, in the US it’s more likely to be nut allergies that are like this. (For reasons that aren’t clearly understood, high risk allergies seem to be regional. For example, as I said earlier, in Eastern Europe nut allergies are virtually unknown, but equally deadly celery allergies are about as common as nut allergies are here.)

    As far as lunch options go I just want to point out that EVEN THOUGH the rules at this school are absurd, if you WANT to send your kid a lunch that’s not nuts or processed meats you do have a few other options for sandwiches (and more if you go with “break out the thermos and start sending hot lunch”). My nieces regularly have tuna fish, egg salad, leftover chicken reformed into chicken salad, sunflower butter, goat cheese and jelly (you could use cream cheese, but they can’t have cow’s milk products), and hummus-on-a-bagel. And if they could have dairy they could have cheddar sandwiches like I did as a kid.

    And if we break apart from the sandwich mold, we have more options for cold lunches without breaking out the thermos. We use divided lunch containers, so it’s easy to make one compartment with a hard boiled egg, or one egg covered in soy sauce (it tastes better than it sounds), or a bit of leftovers cut up as the protein, or “ants on a log” or similar. And then the main bulk of the lunch (they’re not big meat eaters anyway) is primarily veggies and fruit.

    All this does not mean I think the stated rules about lunch meats are reasonable, I think they’re absurd. But if you were wondering, there are a few other options out there besides deli meats and peanut butter. (On that note, I really do want to get thermoses so my nieces can have hot lunch some days. Mostly, this seems like a good way to use up popular leftovers like chili or pasta.)

  69. Sky January 30, 2010 at 3:49 am #

    “Is there anyway that a PTA can be started for the working parent, where you can do all the same things as the stay at home parenters do, like raise money?”

    Working parents certainly can do PTA if they want to; they generally just don’t have as much free time as stay-at-home parents. That’s just the reality. All of the meetings I’ve seen for our PTA are in the evenings, around 7:30. I’m a SAHM, and although I pay my dues, I don’t participate, because I have other ways I’d like to use my volunteer time, through church mainly, which is a better source of community for our family than school.

    “The latest and largest studies on peanut butter allergies show that the earlier and more one is exposed to it, the less chance that a severe allergy will develop. That’s right – if you give your infant peanut butter from the start, they probably won’t be severely allergic to peanuts.”

    Alas, not in my anecdotal case. Exposed my kid pretty early, and she developed the allergy a year after exposure (or at least that’s when she had her first severe reaction). There’s lots of theories, but I don’t think anyone really knows WHY it’s skyrocketing. Of course, some of the increases is increased diagnosis of MINOR allergic cases that would have simply not been reported in the past. But the severe cases are clearly going up to.

    “I was under the impression that kids with food allergies are perfectly capable to seek out foods they are allowed to eat and avoid the things that give them skin rashes and breathing trouble.”

    There ARE children who are so allergic to nuts that even touching one (indeed, even breathing in around one) can send them into anaphylactic shock, and if you have one of those in your school, a no nut classroom and a no nut lunch table makes sense. We have at least three such kids at my daughter’s school, and another dozen (including my own) who are severely allergic if they ingest a nut.

    I do not maintain a nut-free house (all of the rest of us eat them), but I also know she won’t have anaphylactic shock if she merely touches or breathes one; only if she actually eats one, and she knows not to eat nuts and to ask if nuts are in things before she eats them. However, if she was anaphylactic by touch, I *would* keep a nut free house. I’ve seen the reaction, the swelling, the inability to breathe – it’s traumatic, life-threatening, and not worth the risk. It’s too easy to accidentally touch a nut, or to touch something a nut has touched, etc.

    I don’t know of any other food (except maybe shellfish) that is this deathly allergic, however. And certainly “choking hazards” should not be a concern for school age children.

    ” But if you were wondering, there are a few other options out there besides deli meats and peanut butter”

    Too bad my daughter is also (in addition to nuts) allergic to eggs (at least, they make her throw up when eaten straight up; not when cooked in to something in small quantities, though) and sunflower seeds and doesn’t eat condiments as a matter of preference…or some of your suggestions would be great. But, in my situation, I’d be pretty much SOL without the processed lunch meat I send. Sometimes I do send just a cheese stick and garbonza beans. But if they didn’t allow processed meat..it would be hard. What’s so wrong with processed lunch meat anyway? Turkey, ham, etc. are sources of lean protien. Next they’ll be prohibiting non-organic frutis.

  70. Thomas January 30, 2010 at 4:15 am #

    “90 percent of what I pack in the lunch box is healthy anyway (we’re vegetarian)”

    “Think you have problems? Talk to the carnivores:”
    —-
    Wow. I’m not coming out and saying I’m healthy, but it annoys me when vegetarians assume vegetarianism is healthy. It can be, but you CAN be vegetarian and less healthy than average.

    On the other side of the spectrum, non-carb diets are incredibly bad for you!

    In the end, though, a packed lunch is just that… don’t yell at the kids, they probably didn’t prepare the lunch. Make sure rules are reasonable: peanut-only tables, not peanut-free schools; limit snack food as much as possible, but prefer parent-teacher counciling over outright bans.

    It sounds like these PTAs need more rational thinkers.

  71. Ali January 30, 2010 at 4:32 am #

    Ergh. “Concerned Moms” are the worst. Worst!! I can’t stand my PTO for the same reason.

    I get a little ticked at our lunch lady too. My DD packs a healthy lunch and she always eats what she’s hungry for. Come to find out the lunch lady insists the kids eat their “meat” first and the rest of their lunch afterwards. Why should I care if my DD eats her dessert first and sandwich last? Sheesh. Leave ’em alone already!

  72. pentamom January 30, 2010 at 4:53 am #

    Now that’s an interesting question: what counts for “processed meat?” You can buy luncheon meats at the deli that are basically ham, beef, or turkey with some added salt, cooked and sliced up. The added salt isn’t ideal, but is that so TERRIBLE? And yet somehow I doubt the lunch ladies are carrying instruments that can discern lean meats without extra additives from bologna. So are just just banning all kids’ sandwich meats whether reasonably healthy or not?

    Keep in mind, I already said that all of this was NOTB, but it sort of amazes me that every detail of this situation gets more irrational the more you think about it.

  73. Tray M January 30, 2010 at 5:01 am #

    I can’t post the picture, but if you hurry out to http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/pictureoftheday.html, you can see that not every school is restricting recess to above 50 deg weather! Go Cornwall!
    Tray

  74. Lisa January 30, 2010 at 5:12 am #

    To the mom in the original post: Have you considered going to your local media (newspaper, radio, TV, blogs) with this story? A little media attention could quickly bring this nonsense to an end, since the average citizen is smart enough to realize that nit-picking a kid’s bagged lunch (for any reason other than a life-threatening allergy of another student) is sheer madness.

  75. Kali January 30, 2010 at 5:49 am #

    There’s this one mom at my school I can’t stand. Her kids get away with everything. For example, her son has made racist remarks to another student amost every day for who knows how long. One day after he called him the N word the kid punched him. Guess who got ISS? Joey got on lousy day of lunch D-Hall. To protest this, Somebody started “Wear Black For Jarid Day” Most of the eight grade wore black. Well, the principal told us off for picking on “poor Joey” and how we were cheering somebody on for punching somebody. She made it seem like Jarid went wild and punched Joey for no reason! It was completly unfair. We weren’t saying bullying was okay with our protest, it was the opposite. We were saying it wasn’t okay.

  76. Shaylene Haswarey January 30, 2010 at 5:51 am #

    These stories reminds me of a few Desperate Housewives episodes I have watched. There have been a few episodes with Lynette being involved in the PTA. I thought the stories (on D.H.) were a exaggerated, but hearing all these stories, I am beginning to think D.H. is right on regarding a lot of things about the PTA.

    Who would have thought a school would ban apples with the skin? I am guessing Adam and Eve ate apples, right???

    About not allowing kids out if it is under 50 degrees. I wonder if whoever made this rule does not like the cold themselves, and doesn’t want to make the kids ‘suffer’? Or I wonder if it is because they are afraid kids will get ‘sick’, and everyday kids miss school, the school looses money??? By the way, I don’t believe kids get sick because of the cold. However, others may think so!

    I totally understand the teacher who hated it when the mom brought the Happy Meal. When I was a kid, I would have been jealous of the kid who has a Happy Meal! Yes, it would have been a distraction!!! It’s not the Happy Meal…it’s not fair to the other kids =)!

  77. Shaylene Haswarey January 30, 2010 at 5:53 am #

    A few years ago, the news said to cut down on school lunches to only 2 times a week because they are unhealthy! To the mom who sends her kids apples with the skin, You’re super mom!

  78. Kim January 30, 2010 at 6:03 am #

    The kids at my son’s elementary school are not allowed to talk during lunch. They might get into the conversation, forget they are eating and choke.

    eye roll.

  79. Uly January 30, 2010 at 8:12 am #

    ” But if you were wondering, there are a few other options out there besides deli meats and peanut butter”

    Too bad my daughter is also (in addition to nuts) allergic to ….

    That is too bad. I’m not saying you should vary your lunch menu – if you and your kid are happy with it (and she can eat it), so long as it’s not complete junk I don’t imagine it’s anybody else’s business. (If you routinely sent her in with nothing but a bag of potato chips and one of skittles, I would not be surprised if you eventually got a note home, and I wouldn’t go “yeah, you can do what you want!” about it either, but that’s an abysmal lunch.)

    It’s just that the way people were talking I was starting to think that nobody here ever had a lunch that wasn’t pb&j or deli meat!

    As far as “what’s wrong with lunch meats”, I can tell you what’s “wrong” with them – salt and nitrates. However, I don’t think they’re a major concern so long as bologna isn’t the only thing you eat for seven years, and even if they WERE it’s not as though the lunch lady can tell the difference between the cheap stuff and the organic stuff anyway, so whatever. (And besides, if you take exception to a student’s lunch and think you have a VALID concern about it… which nobody here has described their oh-so-helpful volunteers as having – you act like a grown-up and send a note home to the people who can make a difference instead of bullying the child.)

  80. Dean Whinery January 30, 2010 at 8:22 am #

    We had a parent object to the provided lunches because they included cheese and Jell-o.
    How many school lunches are served per year that include macaroni and cheese, pizza, and the old standby, rubber Jell-o?
    I’m getting hungry. Think I’ll have a peanut butter pizza.

  81. Donna January 30, 2010 at 9:35 am #

    This would really piss me off. I have an INCREDIBLY picky eater. Actually, there really needs to be some category beyond incredibly picky to describe my child’s eating habits. When we hit school, I will be forced to pack her lunch and snacks from a very short list of foods that she will actually eat – one of which is pb&j and many of which will be a bit atypical. School lunches are not an option for us as she won’t eat much, if anything, on the menu (thank god since they are complete crap). We have way too many food issues already, and if some lunch nazi comments to her about her odd lunches, I might actually kill her (the lunch nazi, not my daughter although some meals the feeling extends to my child).

  82. bmj2k January 30, 2010 at 10:08 am #

    When The Simpsons parodied schools like this it was funny. In reall life it is sad, stifleling, and pathetic.

  83. Bob January 30, 2010 at 10:35 am #

    RE: I’ve seen articles about the increase in food allergies in general and peanuts in particular. Have our scientists come to a conclusion about A) why so many cases of peanut allergy now? and B) any cures being developed?

    I read recently a well respected doctor wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that a significant reason for increases in asthma and alergies is a poorly formed immune system. The reason for the deficiency is an over use of antimicrobial agents. He has been working on a “worm pill” to make up for what used to get absorbed through bare feet, Other’s have cited a Vitamin D deficiency caused by too much sunscreen and not enough sunshine exposure in general. In other words send ’em out to play in the dirt, in the sun, in the mud. It’s good for them. The doctor said so 😉

  84. Vanessa January 30, 2010 at 11:00 am #

    “Wow. I’m not coming out and saying I’m healthy, but it annoys me when vegetarians assume vegetarianism is healthy. It can be, but you CAN be vegetarian and less healthy than average.”

    Sure you can, and I’ve known some vegetarians who were like that. But when I say I’m packing healthy lunches, I mean I’m packing fruit and vegetables and high-protein pasta and yogurt, not throwing in two Twinkies, a juice box and a bag of chips and calling it “healthy” because there’s no meat. I’d rather send my kid to school with a turkey leg than do that.

  85. Memoirgirl January 30, 2010 at 12:30 pm #

    Please don’t blame the stay-at-home mothers. I am one and I don’t look down on mothers who work. Maybe those few aren’t respectful of your choice to work (or situation where you don’t have a choice) to work, but not all of us feel that way.

    Keep up the apples and salami!

  86. ebohlman January 30, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    Unpeeled apples can be kept from browning by packing them in an aqueous solution of (5R)-[(1S)-1,2-dihydroxyethyl]-3,4-dihydroxyfuran-2(5H)-one, a chemical primarily made by Chinese manufacturers.

    Kimberly: I think we finally have the answer to the mysterious results from the Easter Seals study comparing the beliefs of parents of autistic vs. typically-developing kids. One of the questions involved whether parents believed their kids would be able to live independently as adults; only 66% of the parents of typically-developing kids believed they would. If the raw data are still available, it would be interesting to run a logit model with pre/post 9/11 birth as a covariate.

  87. Alex January 30, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    Apple skins do indeed pose a choking hazard! I almost choked on my dinner reading about apple skins being a choking hazard!

  88. Sarah K January 30, 2010 at 3:26 pm #

    The PTA at my kids’ school sticks to raising funds for library books and playground equipment and stays out of my kids’ lunch boxes. I think the lady in the original post and anyone else who’s kids are being harassed by the “other kind” of PTA moms should get a printed copy of the school’s lunch policy and then pack a note in her kids’ lunches that says,

    “What I pack for my children’s lunch is none of your business. Nothing in this lunch violates official school policy. Stop harassing my children or I will report you for bullying.” (lawsuits, and federal laws have schools running scared of the word bullying.)

    The next time they start hassling one of your kids, he or she can simply hand over the note without comment and continue eating.

    If the PTA mom actually has the nerve to call you, then you can ask her what makes her think she has the right to make your parenting decisions for you and to criticize your parenting choices to your children. It would be interesting to hear her response. She will probably try to tell you she is simply enforcing school policy, but since you have your own copy of that policy, you can easily refute that (you can even quote the policy directly!), and repeat your question. Be very calm and don’t let her get you off subject. l guarantee she will leave you alone after that, bullies avoid people who can stand up to them. That is why those women are harassing your kids, not you.

    Nothing aggravates me more than know-it-all bullies/parents who not only think they can tell others how they should be parenting, but tell the kids how their parents are doing it wrong. If you see a true danger (abuse, etc.) speak up! Otherwise, butt out! Maybe Lenore’s next book should be “Free Range Parenting: Giving Other Parents the Freedom Their parents Had to parent and Not Be Driven Nuts with Interference!”

  89. SKL January 30, 2010 at 3:48 pm #

    When we talk about “it’s OK to ban (or nag a child about) something that is REALLY unhealthy,” we are on a slippery slope. The premise is faulty. Parents decide what their children will eat. Not schools. Not school lunch volunteers. Not nosy neighbors.

    If there is evidence that a child is being criminally neglected, the teachers have a duty to report this to the authorities. Beyond that, it is none of their business.

    There’s a good reason why nobody ought to meddle in this way (aside from basic freedom). Nobody knows a given kid as well as his parents do. What might be unhealthy for an average kid on an average diet might be healthy for my kid – and vice versa. I’m very careful about nutrition, yet I get crap from meddlers all the time. It’s hard enough helping my kids, who both have eating issues (one has no shutoff valve, the other can’t tolerate most foods), to develop healthy attitudes toward food. The last thing they need is to feel critical scrutiny from outsiders. Especially since it’s not going to change the way I parent anyway.

  90. Kimberly January 31, 2010 at 12:42 am #

    Bob Davis,

    Increase of allergies – people like me are living instead of dieing in childhood. The only reason I survived the 1st exposure to peanuts was my Mom and neighbor were both medical people. They recognized what was happening, reacted from their training not fear, and were able to keep my airway open till we got to the ER.

    My niece, nephew, and my younger cousins were given a blood test to rule out peanut allergy because of the family history. (My Dad and Grandfather had histories of physical discomfort after eating peanuts that would now be called intolerance)

    The docs speculate that peanut allergy is more common in the US and Canada because we roast peanuts and other parts of the world boil them. The roasting changes the protein enough that some of us react to the protein.

    There have been 2 announcements of cures.

    1. people are exposed to micro amounts of peanuts over a long length of time. Must be started with a very young child so the immune system can adapt more easily. Once the cure is achieved the person must eat a handful of peanuts a day to maintain the cure.

    2. A shot that must be taken once a month. Was developed for hayfever allergies and hasn’t been fully tested on food allergies. It does something to the white blood cells that misfire releasing histamine in response to the peanut protein. My doctor is worried about compromising the whole immune system.

    Honestly I will NEVER eat peanuts voluntarily. They repulse me. I would like some protection from the touch thing. In the meantime I can do without comments calling me a germaphobe. I am cautious about what I touch in public places — especially places with lots of kids, sports venues, and airplanes.

    While I’ve landed in the ER 20+ times mostly for touch exposure, my parents only hit the roof 4 times

    1. Preschool forced to make peanut butter and pinecone bird feeder

    2. Elementary school bully smeared peanut butter on me. The school called my mom to come calm me down because I was hysterical. I couldn’t breathe – so I was hysterical. (I strongly recommend that parents call the cops and press attempted murder charges against bullies that do this type of thing. No different than putting poison in food. )

    3. HS – District had a no peanut oil* policy. I ate popcorn at game and ended up in ER. I had asked about peanut oil when I purchased the popcorn, and was lied to.

    4. University. Long story short. They had in their housing contract no peanut oil. I found out they were using peanut oil after landing in ER. I had given my parents a heads up because I had to use my emergency credit card to pay for the ER trip. I was handling it with the Dean of Students. It just happened that about an hour after I gave Dad a heads up about the ER visit – the school’s fundraising department called him. He kind of came unglued and let them have it.

    *With one exception I don’t eat at restaurants that use peanut oil. It is to easy for things to get mixed up. If restaurant has dishes with peanuts I just tell my waiter I’m allergic. Independent restaurants are great. 99% of the time they put this info on my ticket and often a manager or chef will come out to double check that how they are preparing my food is safe.

  91. Laura January 31, 2010 at 1:04 am #

    I am a SAHM of 4 and involved in the PTA and I can’t envision a situation in which I would ever criticize another child’s lunch. It is simply none of my business. At our school, volunteers are only allowed to help with fundraising, make copies, host teacher appreciation events, etc and not anything that involves the children directly. I didn’t like that policy at first, but having seen what some parents find acceptable, I’m glad for it. As for PTA involvement, we hold meetings at 6:00 in the evenings about once per month and free child care is provided with fun activities for the kids so that everyone has the opportunity to attend. Cliques still exist, but the school and most of the parents find a way around them.

  92. Elizabeth Fuller January 31, 2010 at 1:21 am #

    At my son’s school last fall, the school sent out a request for parents to supply items for a fundraising bake sale. It sparked a huge debate over whether or not the school should become sugar-free. The principal finally quashed it by declaring that she had better things to do than being the “sugar police.” But since then, I’ve heard that the parent volunteers at lunch have given “tickets” (like speeding tickets) to kids who bring cookies in their lunch. Insane.

  93. pentamom January 31, 2010 at 1:29 am #

    “When we talk about “it’s OK to ban (or nag a child about) something that is REALLY unhealthy,” we are on a slippery slope. The premise is faulty. Parents decide what their children will eat. Not schools. Not school lunch volunteers. Not nosy neighbors.

    If there is evidence that a child is being criminally neglected, the teachers have a duty to report this to the authorities. Beyond that, it is none of their business.”

    Bingo and applause. I’d stand up and clap at my computer if my family wouldn’t have me committed. That’s EXACTLY the point. It’s not that these ladies have absolutely no legitimate ideas about what food is good for kids it’s that that have an illegitimate idea about what they should do about it when it comes to OTHER PEOPLE’s kids.

  94. pentamom January 31, 2010 at 1:31 am #

    “But since then, I’ve heard that the parent volunteers at lunch have given “tickets” (like speeding tickets) to kids who bring cookies in their lunch. Insane.”

    If I had kids in school and someone did that, I’d be really tempted to tell them what to do with their tickets, and would insist that any sanctions anyone tried to put on my kids would be reversed or made good if they lost out on something because of it. Who do they THINK they are???????

  95. MinivanNinja January 31, 2010 at 1:58 am #

    @Jeanette – My 6th grader was reprimaneded because she brought in Farenheit 451 to read during independent reading time. She is an excellent reader and chooses not to read the bulk of vapid young adult novels out there. She had just finished Animal Farm and loved it. Not only that, but I had taken her to our local independent bookstore and with the help of one of the employees, took great care in choosing books that were challenging (but not too) and appropriate. And I think having a child that WANTS to read MacBeth in graphic novel form is fantastic. What a great way to introduce kids to Shakespeare (who can be difficult to read).

    As far as the food issues I’ve been having some minor problems with the snack my daughter (3rd grade) brings every day. They are not allowed anything with chocolate (so chocolate chip granola bars aren’t allowed). They can’t bring in anything that resembles a cookie (which includes lots of graham snacks). Most fresh fruit doesn’t work because the teacher wants her to bring something that doesn’t require disposal (like the peel or core – wrappers can go back in the lunch bag). And if I remember correctly, fruit snacks were discouraged because they are mostly sugar. I find the restrictions rather ridiculous. My daughter winds up bringing in cheerios most days. Sometimes she’ll bring in Goldfish crackers. However, if there were a student with a dairy allergy, I wouldn’t send them, because they eat in their classroom. Oh, and because of that nothing can contain nuts – which I totally get because her sister is allergic. Still, it’s kind of crazy. It’s not like I’m sending her with a chocolate bar for snack every day.

  96. RadiantLux January 31, 2010 at 3:07 am #

    This really burns me up. Everyone has their own idea of what nutrition is best for their family. We should almost lump it in with religion and politics, these days.

    I don’t think the child should have to be involved in this argument. SaraK has it right.

    Pack a business card with every lunch that he can hand out when faced with criticism. The card simply says, “Please allow my son to eat his food in peace. You may direct all your concerns to me” and the phone number.
    (even better would be “my lawyer”)

    In fact, I would write the same letter to the principal, the teacher, the PTA and anyone else that needed to hear it.

  97. Kimberly January 31, 2010 at 5:16 am #

    I have called parents several times about what their child is eating at lunch.

    1) A girl who was on the low side of healthy weight was refusing to eat lunch because she didn’t want to get fat. They took her to the family doctor and got her some help. Mom and Dad also loosened up allowing her to prepare meals that were healthy and giving her some control. Doctor told them that their need to make her safe could lead to a full blown eating disorder and death.

    2) Kids who were only eating junk – then complaining of head aches, tummy aches in the afternoons.

    3) Boy with low weight that couldn’t eat lunch. If he tried he would be sick later. When he doesn’t eat at our lunch time he is hungry later. Now he brings a lunch kit and eats about an hour after we do in the classroom. The problem is some meds he is on for a chronic illness. Rather than mess with their timing we treat him like a diabetic child and have him eat when he needs to.

    4) Student who walked in as white a sheet each morning and threw up like clockwork because the foster home wasn’t giving him food before he took his meds.

  98. Brenda January 31, 2010 at 5:46 am #

    Possible thread hijack – Apologies

    Re: being reprimanded for reading Farenheit 451: What!!! As the kid who had more books taken away by teachers and then returned after my parents informed them that I should be able to read whatever I choose and they approved of. I still fail to comprehend a school taking away a book from a someone who wants to and is able to read it.

  99. Michelle The Uber F****n Haus Frau January 31, 2010 at 5:58 am #

    Oh holy Lucifer in hell, don’t tell me I will have to look forward to all that BS when when my son goes to kindergarten!?

    PTA and volunteering is one thing, but sounds to me those women are just control freaks who want to feel important.

  100. Karli January 31, 2010 at 7:10 am #

    While I agree that the rules (or pseudo-rules) are ridiculous, I’m a little bit wary of the sentiments this post sets up as an “Us v. Them” scenario with stay-at-home moms against work-outside-the-home moms. While this particular PTA may be comprised of SAHM’s, that alone is not the cause of their judgments or helicopter attitudes. I know many SAHMs who are Free-Range, and I know many WOHMs who hover. As Free-Rangers, we should be trying to create broader support and acceptance of everyone’s parenting choices, and not judging others that we may be not judged as well. I’m not saying that this group should not be questioned on their practices, but let’s not make the irresponsible jump to it being about their decision to stay home or not.

  101. Katya January 31, 2010 at 8:02 am #

    One of my good friends got in trouble for sending low fat cheese, crackers, and grapes for her daughter’s snack because cheese and crackers was considered an unhealthy snack!

  102. animallover7100 January 31, 2010 at 8:30 am #

    That’s what my grandmother has been eating to stay on her diet and loose weight.

  103. Rob January 31, 2010 at 10:59 am #

    “Kids with severe allergies can accidentally ingest trace amounts of allergens in precisely the same manner. Only instead of a cold, the consequences can be life-threatening.”

    I went to school in the early 70’s and dont recall any bans on peanuts etc. I also dont recall any medical emergencies. Have kids now days become intolerant to a greater extent?

  104. Kimberly January 31, 2010 at 11:36 am #

    If a book is way above the emotional level of a child, I will check with the parent. The only time I have done it is when the book “A Child Called It” was circulating my classroom. I had students who borrowed the book from other students bring me a note saying their parents knew they were reading it.

    I had books taken from me in JH. In one case it was comical. 1st period teacher took the book, called mom, and gave it back the next day. 2nd period teacher took book, called mom, and gave it back the next day. After my 3rd period teacher took the book – mom called the principal and told them that a) my grandmother gave me the book b) the sex parts went right over my head.

    In HS it didn’t even get to my parents. My English teacher was screaming at me for ruining her curriculum, because I had already read “The Count of Monte Cristo”. I was called into the councilor’s office the next period, and my schedule was changed to a more challenging literature class. They were trying to get rid of the teacher, but it took a couple more years before the drug dog alerted to her.

  105. Wyngdlyon January 31, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    The USA is a hot zone for severe food allergies for a reason. Eggs, peanut butter, milk, etc. allergies are much worse problems here than anywhere else. Because we avoid any potential allergens.

    I really think that it has less to do with the actual food item itself and more with the chemical processing that companies do to food these days, that and the overuse of anti-bacterial stuff.

    jeanette, I’m fully expecting that kind of feed back with my kids, especially when they tell the teach the true story of things like Thanksgiving.

  106. B. Durbin January 31, 2010 at 1:57 pm #

    In regards to allergies:

    1. Allergies seem to be the over-reaction of a specific trait of the body designed to resist parasites. In fact, a common treatment for major allergies (the type that make day-to-day living impossible, not just a 10+ peanut allergy) is ingestion of a tapeworm. Yes, really. I saw a quote from somebody taking one of those “pills” that went something like “I try very hard to not think about what I’m swallowing.”

    The US is mostly parasite-free. Stands to reason that would be a contributing factor to the increase in allergies.

    2. Recent studies in Europe and the US suggest that specific food allergies develop because of pollens common to the area. You get sensitized to the specific protein through your lungs, then it transfers over to what you eat. This explains the eastern European celery allergy, and the northern European allergy to apple skins (caused by beech trees, IIRC.) The US peanut allergy— I’m not sure what causes that one. Liquid amber / sweetgum trees? Elm? I don’t know.

    3. Not all allergies develop in children. I had a friend in her early thirties who recently developed a nut allergy— and then developed a quinoa allergy when she started using that as an alternative cooking substance. (Her reaction was pretty hilarious— she apparently shoveled a few more bites into her mouth since she ‘never got to say goodbye to peanut butter.’)

    In regards to books:

    Thank God I never had any teacher get mad at me for reading high. Though I will admit that I never went to the first school on my parents’ list because an inquiry showed they didn’t know what to do with a kindergardener who could read.

  107. Raven January 31, 2010 at 6:41 pm #

    The lunch box police are at my daughters school as well.. I just ignore anything she brings home telling me what she is allowed in her lunch, and send her in to school with the food I choose for her.. No one is gooing to tell me what I can feed my children!!!!

  108. Dee Hall January 31, 2010 at 11:10 pm #

    “In HS it didn’t even get to my parents. My English teacher was screaming at me for ruining her curriculum, because I had already read “The Count of Monte Cristo”.”

    At least you got to wait until high school for that one. 😛

    My third grade reading teacher did this to me. That’s when you get into readers that have many excerpts from longer works–and I’d read probably 80% of what was in our reader. I remember verbally answering a question with info from a story that was elsewhere in the text (not included in the reader) and getting put in the hallway. Then yelled at for a while . . . and given a very long letter to take home to my mother (seriously, the letter was like 5-6 handwritten pages long).

    I’m not sure what the letter said, but I remember my mom and dad being both hysterically amused and completely angered by it and handing it over to the principal. That teacher barely spoke to me for the rest of the school year.

  109. gramomster January 31, 2010 at 11:40 pm #

    We fortunately never had too many problems with our kids lunches during the times they went to school. They were in and out, based on academic programs, and my irritation level with administrators. Spent 2 and a half years at home before we moved to our current state, then it was up and down, and neither kid finished high school. By the by, I am an educator, my in-laws are all educators, my husband (their dad) is an educator, and for many kids, though certainly not all, I find high-school pointless, and for many kids I find elementary and especially middle school emotionally dangerous. I can socialize my kids just fine without the crap that school kids can dish out, thankyouverymuch. For instance, the writer above who noted the ‘no talking at lunch’ rule at school. And the no free play on playgrounds at recess if they still get that… when exactly is this whole ‘socialization’ component of school supposed to take place? Not at lunch, not at recess, not in the classroom…

    On another point brought up… the times my kids were school attendees, I generally worked 2nd shift. Evening PTA is out for parents who don’t work ‘normal’ hours. Not that I would have gone in the morning, just sayin’. Fact is, if I showed up at school, the other moms who were there assumed I was a SAHM, and would talk trash about those ‘other moms’, the ones who, you know, didn’t ‘care’ about their kids. When they found out I went to work at 2pm, the kids took the bus to afterschool care, and Daddy picked them up at 5:30 for dinner, they freaked! I guess I ‘cared’ even less! I wasn’t supervising dinner, or baths, or tucking in. Daddy was much more fun for that stuff. Like, bubble wars were cool, lots of mac and cheese, frequent ice cream, and he acted out the stories, he didn’t just read them. Oh horrors. Parents sharing duties. Like dads know what the hell to do with their kids. I think some of those moms thought Dad was a babysitter that paid for the privilege of GETTING to hang out with the kiddos. Ack.

    Oh how I wish I’d known what to ask a school about dealing with a kindergartener who could read. Kindy set my son on quite the path. He could read the directions on his worksheet to himself, and then do the work. Then he got to sit with his hands in his lap until the next activity, sometimes 20 minutes! Ack! We did change schools a few times, but really to no avail. He finally skipped 6th grade, then ended up dropping out the end of his 10th grade year. He’s about to be 18, and he’ll be getting his AA 5 days after. Yup. Stayed home unschooling for a year, and went to college. At 16. He’s got a 3.97.

    He actually quit after the school took the liberty of enrolling him in remedial reading after he failed English in 10th grade. He was bored out of his mind, and reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Riech. The kid read Michael Crichton’s entire library to date in 5th grade. Also Asimov, some Heinlein… yeah. He did have a great 5th grade teacher, who let him read whatever he wanted to, as he always got his work done early, and never caused any problems in class.

    So glad my kids are grown. NO freaking idea what’s going to happen with the grandson we’re raising….

  110. Party Piper February 1, 2010 at 12:44 am #

    I think all these parents who cat around acting like they’re the “good” ones and anyone who doesn’t do exactly like them are the bad ones are just like the coworkers who act like if you don’t do exactly like them, you’re bad, ect. They are so damned unsure of themselves that they compensate by labeling everything else as bad. I’ve always wondered how H.S. would be different if I got another crack at those snotty little girls, and now I realize if I have kids, I’ll have just such an opportunity.

    Also, to the comment about how homeschoolers at 30 would fare, I would expect that after 10 or so years, there would be no statistical advantage if you took a big enough sample from all three groups (home, private, public). Kids can be inattentively and carelessly educated in all three settings, and that’s enough time that any kid would have had to deal with deficiences on their own, or wouldn’t; that’s more dependent upon personality. Also, quantifying this information would be tricky; a few years ago, a bank executive would be considered successful…maybe not so much today. Networking and luck can land you at a white shoe lawfirm, hard work and digging yourself out of a hole with a teaspoon might only land you somewhere where you fix your past mistakes and are able to put away for a nest egg. Who’s more successful?

  111. Tony Everett February 1, 2010 at 4:41 am #

    As a first time reader to this blog, it certainly seems that you bring up some topics that has everyone wanting to write about it. Great! I love this type of thine and think that on the whole there is to much adult involvement in kids lives. When I was growing up it was a case of being told to get out and play, have some fun, and explore. Is the over protection from parents and schools taking away the exploration nature of kids and therefore pushing them to explore later in life with things that are not so good for them? Has the world got that bad or has the media found that fear sells and therefore produces more of that material?
    Thanks for all the good work.

  112. Mark February 1, 2010 at 5:15 am #

    In the school my kids go, no food is forbidden, they play outside when it is 25 F and those with allergies sure know what not to eat. When they are too small to know, the teacher will keep an eye out for them, as well.

    The majority of mothers (and fathers) work full time and they play with balls, play tag during recess.

    I pity the children that are missing this…

    Mark from Belgium

  113. wellcraftedtoo February 1, 2010 at 6:18 am #

    Sounds like parents in this school really need to start talking–to each other, to teachers, and to administrators. “Not being able to make PTO meetings” because they are during the day shouldn’t be an insurmountable obstacle. Many people work during the day, but find time to get involved in issues in their communities. It’s not necessarily easy, but it can be done.

    First, find other parents who share your views. Meet with them and come up with a plan as to what you want changed.

    Next, contact the school administration and the PTO and ask that a meeting be scheduled in the evening to address the issues. Don’t back down–PTO’s are organizations that are created to foster parent involvement in the school. You’re a parent. You can’t get involved with PTO activities and policies if meetings are held ONLY during the day. Many PTO’s try to schedule meetings at various times to maximize how many parents can attend.

    Consult with one or two ‘experts’, like a pediatrician, who will be sympathetic to your views and concerns.

    Try hard to find one who is a parent at the school.

    Ask him or her if they’d be willing to address your group, or at least send a letter to the school, or point you in the direction of material that supports your view.

    Build your case, ask for reviews of the policies, spread the word, write letters, continue to disregard the ‘rules’–eventually, assuming your position is grounded in common sense (and it sounds like it is), your view will prevail.

    But it won’t if you think that you can’t change things because you work during the day.

    Nonsense.

    It seems to me that more and more people in our country are losing sight of how much power people can wield when they organize themselves, present cogent views, be persistent, and work to effect changes. Things often (usually!) don’t fall into our laps; sometimes we have to work–long and hard–to achieve what seems like obvious, commonsensical change.

  114. Catherine Scott February 1, 2010 at 7:48 am #

    Usually I have my say at lenght but this has reduced me to being only able to mutter ‘For Pete’s sake!’

    Coincidentally I penned a little piece last week for elsewhere about the tyranny of the PTA and how aminority of parents can make rules for the majority that are at best a right pain in the . . . .

  115. Susan2 February 1, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    My son doesn’t eat anything at lunch, so I stopped packing him anything. When I got a notice that he had been approved for free lunch, I discovered that he had been packing a book in his lunch box so that the teachers thought he had a lunch. I then sent in a note saying I knew he had no lunch, and it was OK with me. This whole episode made me realize that it can be a good thing for the teachers to be concerned with kids’ lunches. “It takes a village” and all that. I don’t agree with the hardliners here who say “What I pack for my kid’s lunch is nobody’s business.” The original post is an extreme situation, but these are kids, and they need others to look out for them, especially if no one at home is willing/able to.

    @rachel – At my daughter’s middle school, the students aren’t allowed up to throw away their lunches because of fights that were erupting. It is a kind of rough school, so maybe the precautions are a good idea. I don’t know. My daugher still packs a “no trash” lunch like your kids do, and it hasn’t been a problem. Someone wheels a big trashcan behind all the benches, and kids throw their trash in. Maybe your child’s school just need to come up with better logistics.

    As for the timing of PTA meetings, one of my kid’s schools recently switched to having some meetings right after school so more teachers could attend. The “T” in PTA, after all. Maybe that’s the reason for the timing of this PTA. How about suggesting what our school does – alternating between after school (or before school) and evening? This has allowed a greater mix of teachers and parents to attend. Not everyone can make every meeting, but more inclusiveness overall.

  116. Gail February 1, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

    “But since then, I’ve heard that the parent volunteers at lunch have given “tickets” (like speeding tickets) to kids who bring cookies in their lunch.”

    Anyone who tried that would face my wrath. Sugar is nearly verboten in my house since I (not my husband or kids) had to give it up last year, and all my baking is done without it. Woe betide the interfering nincompoop who would dare take away my child’s whole wheat flour, honey-sweetened, oatmeal cookie that I’m packing tomorrow specifically to help with the digestive issues he’s still having after a bout of norovirus last week.

    Even if I were sending something with sugar though, that’s my right. I have every right as the parent to decide when it’s okay to pack a treat in the lunch/snack, and my children have every right to enjoy it without consequences or interference.

  117. crystalblue February 1, 2010 at 8:34 pm #

    @ minivaninja — your kid got in trouble for reading “Fahrenheit 451″?!? Aaaaaa!! That is so scary. I think that book should be required reading. Get rid of “The Lottery” and “Lord of the Flies” (I hated those stories) and have them read F.451 instead. Sad, just so sad.

  118. Jen Connelly February 1, 2010 at 10:58 pm #

    When my oldest was in 1st grade she was on the free lunch program so got her lunch at school every day. I remember she was so excited to find apples on the menu and she told me that morning what she was going to choose for lunch.
    When she got home I asked her how she liked her apple and she almost burst into tears because she wasn’t “allowed” to have the apple or the orange. The apples were against the rules for the little kids because they could choke and no oranges because they were hard to peel. That left no fruit for my kid to eat at lunch. Yet they allowed her to use up the little money in her account (from kindergarten) to buy snacks a la carte. She was buying cupcakes and cookies and chips and crap like that since they wouldn’t let her have the apples. Screwy school.

    As far as I know, the school they go to now does not outlaw anything. There aren’t any kids with life threatening allergies so nothing is banned. I believe in a couple of grades they have kids with slight allergies and they have separate rules for those grades.

  119. sonya February 1, 2010 at 11:01 pm #

    I’m glad to say that there’s isn’t much of an “us-v-them” at my daughter’s elementary school. The year I actually went to the PTA the two co-chairs were one mom who worked, another who stayed home, and they rotated the meeting time, during the morning one month, evening another. Parent-teacher conferences are also held both during the day and evening. Similarly in my daughter’s girl scout troop, everyone volunteers according to their ability/schedule, it’s not a case of the SAHMs doing it all while the working moms do nothing at all. In fact some of the SAH moms find it harder to help out because they are busy looking after younger siblings and their husbands work long hours/weekends.

  120. BMS February 2, 2010 at 12:59 am #

    I’ve got the best and worst of both worlds. I work part time. My schedule is very flexible, except when it is not, because I have to teach a class (adjunct professor). I’ve decided that I will help my kids’ individual classes as much as I can. I volunteer for the cub scouts because I like it, my kids like it, and I’m a pretty good den leader. But the PTC can take a flying leap. Oh I tried to help out when my oldest was in kindergarten. But there is a definite ‘ruling caste’ at our school. If you are not part of that, you don’t get called. I volunteered to help with the school garden, with the diversity committee, with various hands on activities – and either I never got called, or the committees stopped meeting and disappeared. So I gave up.

  121. Wilma February 2, 2010 at 4:24 am #

    I’m truly shocked I’m not dead from all of the major nutritional mistakes made by my mother!
    Food isn’t the enemy. There are no winners when specific foods are “bad” and skinned fruit is preferred over it’s whole fruit version. Kids need to learn to make informed nutritional decisions- moderation, variety, portion control.
    As for the helicopter moms, I would nominate them for gym day parents. Throw a few in a dodgeball game or on an obstacle course. Serve sliced oranges for snack. Horrors!!

  122. Catherine February 2, 2010 at 7:38 am #

    I think our only food rules are no food sharing (because of allergies) and no candy in lunchboxes (presumably because the teachers don’t want to deal with 25 kids on sugar highs). They also ask that birthday treats take the form of cupcakes or donuts or something else that doesn’t involve the teacher cutting and serving but that is a purely practical thing.

  123. Layne February 3, 2010 at 12:59 am #

    Seriously, how does the PTA mom expect to enforce her “rules?” Take food away from a child because it’s not to her standards? “Sorry little Tiffany, but your parent doesn’t care enough about your nutritional needs, so you get nothing and get to go without lunch.”

    Not to be too vulgar, but I’ve come across moms like that, and always think “She needs to get a job or get laid.”

  124. DirtyHooker February 3, 2010 at 3:25 am #

    All of this is really depressing. Part of what makes me so nervous about having kids is that I don’t want the kind of obnoxious, constant interference from other people. It seems exhausting.

    I remember when I was in grade school and my father made my lunch. (He was older and retired.) I ate PB&J, a chocolate snack and Hi-C just about every day for three years. At 31, I am the healthiest person I know.

    A friend of mine has instructed her son not to draw pictures of monsters in school. He can draw them at home, but she just doesn’t want to deal with the school administrators. I don’t blame her.

    The thing is, when I hear all these stories, it’s usually people complaining about them, which leads me to believe that all this fuss is being caused by a handful of crazy people, and everyone else is going along because they don’t want to deal with the hassle. I wonder what an organized demonstration of disobedience would accomplish — say, if 80% of the class brought apples with skins for lunch. But I understand parents not wanting to put their kids in that position.

  125. Josh R. February 3, 2010 at 6:13 am #

    @DirtyHooker: there was a high school near my house that, back in the 90s, a student was suspended for wearing a kilt to school. I believe it was national heritage day and he was of Scottish descent (or he was doing a report on Scotland, I forget which). Anyway, he was suspended for three days and, in solidarity, for the rest of the week all the male students wore skirts. I don’t remember if the suspension was repealed or not, but these days schools are more likely to throw all the kids into suspension than actually listen to reason.

  126. Iowamom February 4, 2010 at 2:59 am #

    I am de-lurking to comment on these absurd “rules”. The one that got me is that the kids can’t go outside if it’s under 50degreesF. UNBELIEVABLE! It was 4degreesF (yes, 4) today when I dropped my kids off and they had outside recess and will all day long. The high will be 12F today. There is NO reason why children can’t bundle up and run around in the fresh air. Our kids get a thrill when they are able to climb on the huge snow piles, slide on the ice (oh, just think of the injuries!) and roll in the snow. I wish some of these moms would bring their kids to our real playground and see how it’s done. We let them play tag, dodgeball (oh, again the horror!), ride their bikes all over town and play in the river. I can’t stand the wimpy, crap fluff that’s coming out of some of our country’s schools these days.

  127. Ellen February 11, 2010 at 3:38 am #

    I just want to make a comment about food allergies. No one knows what causes it. There are a lot of theories and the only thing they an agree upon is that its the mom’s fault. In the 7 years since my daughter has been diagnosed I have read possible causes:
    – moms not solely breastfeeding
    – breasfeeding moms who eat peanuts
    – breastfeeding moms who have allergies, thereby passing on the allergy antibodies.
    — pregnant women who eat peanuts
    — feeding your child peanuts before age 3
    — wait, now you are supposed to feed your child nuts/peanuts when they are very young to prevent allergies

    So basically, you are told its your fault, but no ones is really sure what you did. That can get any mom pretty freaked out. & can make anyone a helicopter parent. I have tried to be reasonable about the allergies — never asked for a ban on peanut butter in the cafeteria but did insist it not be used in the classroom. (e.g. no peanut butter pine cone birdfeeer projects because that much PB being used by 25 kids would be life threatening.)

    Letters have gone home asking parents not to bring in PB snacks. These have not been at my request, but at the teacher’s request, more so that the teacher has less to worry about then because I am worried about it. So it is not always the parent who is worried. But I am sure the teachers are worried because of a lot that has been written in the media. My daughter’s teacher was terrified because of a girl in Canada who died when her boyfriend kissed her after he ate PB. It made media headlines. What didn’t make such big headlines is that no DOCTOR ever said that was the cause and coroner eventually determined she died from an asthma attack & she & her friends had been smoking pot.

    So not all allergy parents are so crazy with the rules, though I do ask for some changes when necessary. (& when possible, I look for an alternative such as a pine code bird feeder that doesn’t use PB. The kids loved making it and never realized the difference.)

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  130. Aky January 17, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    What I want to know is why the parent can’t tell the kid to stand up for herself! How hard can it be to tell your kid that they have the right to stand up to adult bullies? Isn’t part of the free-range movement about teaching your kids about dealing with the real world by themselves, instead of having parents always protecting them?

    Tell the kid to memorize this speech: “I’m sorry, Mrs PTA mom, but what goes into my mouth is nobody’s business but me and my parents. As you obviously have too much time on your hands, instead of spending it harassing children for your own amusement, why not take a few classes on manners? I’m sure you could learn a lot about basic civility there, since your parents apparently didn’t teach you anything.”

    And don’t you dare tell me that it’s “too rude”- seriously, the reason busybodies get away with shit like this is because we’ve all been conditioned to be polite at all costs! It’s time to undo that programming!

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