Weekly Column: Health Week

©Stephenie Freeman

Last week was “Health Week” at the Cheese’s school. There were a plethora of fun and fit activities planned by the PTA for the kids to participate in, but I believe the activities were secretly geared toward the parents. I think a better title perhaps might have been “Hey Parents, Get Off the Couch and Be a Healthy Example for Your Kid Week.”

Yeah, that title would have made more sense.

One of the activities planned was something called “Stay and Play” where parents were invited to come and play with your student during recess. Personally, I was looking forward to a good game of kick ball or Red Rover. Instead, I got to participate in school’s new running club, Turbo Tigers, where the kids get special tokens for each mile they run. There’s nothing that will make you feel more out of shape than a 7-year-old running laps around you…literally.

This whole Health Week was a new one for me. Even though I’d never heard of anything like it before, I was thrilled that his school would focus on instilling healthy habits. When I was growing up, there wasn’t much about elementary school that was considered healthy other than learning how to square dance in P.E.

One of my favorite school memories were the days when cinnamon rolls would appear on the cafeteria menu. This was back in the day when the school lunches were actually cooked on the school’s grounds and the smell of the enormous sweet rolls that were as big as my head would fill my little, one-hallway school.

Those days were blissful. The smell of cinnamon and sugar seemed to make everything about the school day easier and more pleasant. No one seemed to care that they were feeding us a dessert with a kabillion calories that would send us crashing from a sugar high during the middle of math.

My children will never get to experience the joy of the school cafeteria cinnamon roll. Sweets are all but banned at elementary schools nowadays. No sweets or candy allowed of any kind, not even a mini candy bar leftover from the Halloween candy stash. That $24 cupcake carrier that I bought from the Tupperware kiosk at the mall? It’s collecting twenty-four dollars worth of dust in my pantry. Seems that surprising your child’s class with cupcakes on his birthdays is a huge taboo and forbidden by school rules. Instead, they suggest you donate a book to the school’s library in your child’s name to celebrate his or her birthday.

Nothing quite says “Happy Birthday” like a brand-new copy of “Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants.”

There was also “Walk to School Daily” during Health Week. I see lots of kids walking to school every day. I know this because I see them walking hand-in-hand with their parents as I am driving the 500 yards in my car to drop my kids off. I guess this activity should have been called “Hey Stephenie, Quit Driving Your Kids to School in Your Robe and Walk to School” instead.

Naturally, there was “Get Caught Eating Healthy” in the cafeteria. Throughout the week, students who were caught eating healthy would be praised and given stickers to encourage them to continue their healthy eating habits. Great idea, but packing the Cheese’s lunch, I suddenly felt pressure—the pressure not to look like the bad parent who packs her child’s lunchbox full of junk.

What could I pack my child that was considered healthy and still be considered edible by my first grader? Was peanut butter okay or had that been outlawed due to allergies? I couldn’t remember. Would he enjoy turkey and cheese on wheat? Probably not. How about a small green salad? Definitely not.

So I ended up making a lovely lunch filled with cheese sticks, wheat crackers, carrots, celery and a little tub of hummus and after a moment of clarity and thinking better of it, kept the lovely lunch for myself.

“So were you caught eating healthy today?” I asked my son that afternoon.

He mumbled through his answer with a smile on his lips, telling me that no, he didn’t get a sticker.

I’m not sure, but I think that maybe it was the cinnamon roll that I stuck in his lunch that did it.

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