Orange You Glad I’m Not Another Packaged Food Product?

There have been many times over the years when I’ve reflected on the parenting practices of my grandmother’s generation. Ive perhaps questioned the philosophy behind the ideas which have now disappeared from the modern parenting landscape. A few drops of brandy in the bottle or rubbed on gums when teething? Babies need to wear hats to keep warm? Strict feeding schedules for newborns? These are all pieces of advice that are now rarely heard. And while it’s easy to snicker at how things may have once been done, I feel certain that previous generations must surely be laughing their collective pants off at how ridiculous some of our modern day parenting rituals are.

Exhibit a) Party Bags

Who on earth came up with the idea of party bags? If you know please send them my way because I’d like to have a word.

Birthday parties throughout my childhood had a recurring theme: there was no theme. Instead of the modern day “What sort of party would you like?” I seem to remember the question being more of a “Are you sure you’d like a party?” with a wince and the offer of an alternative bribe. When party day arrived there were games: pin the tail on the donkey, pass the parcel, and musical chairs. There was one prize, ONE. When things became a little hectic we were sent outside to play. We raced around the backyard, played totem tennis, pushed fell in the fish pond, and made up ridiculous rules to games which meant that no-one had any chance of winning unless you were the rule maker. This was the great thing about having a party; my house, my rules, my games, I win them.

At the end of the party when at least one person had cried (usually the party girl) and someone else had been injured (usually a relative of the party girl) a cake appeared. Candles were lit, birthday cheers were made, and the cake was cut. And as the parents of guests arrived to collect their children (smelling of alcohol and looking completely refreshed because they’d had the afternoon off) a piece of cake wrapped in a serviette/napkin was placed in your hand. You said thank you for having me, they said thanks for coming with a slightly maniacal laugh and side eye glance towards your parents. The end.

You know what didn’t happen?

You didn’t look over the host’s shoulder, tug your mother’s shirt and wail “Where’s my party bag?”

Now, obviously this is not a new dilemma for me, I’ve been on the birthday party circuit since around 2003, and I’ve experienced my fair share of shock and awe at party bag ensembles. We’ve had gifts for attending at a birthday party which were actually bigger than the birthday gift we’d arrived with. Our eldest child once arrived home with an electronic laptop, others have been given build a bears of wildlife proportions, new outfits, and enough confectionary to restock the confectionary aisle of Target after Halloween. I have come to terms with the party bag situation, and made a personal choice not to join the madness. At the end of my own children’s parties when I’ve been shirt fronted by a small child wanting to know where their party bag is I’ve explained with a nervous twitch “it’s just not something we do” and by we, I mean me, I.

I have a new twitch though. Of late I have noticed party bag behaviour appearing in the form of sports snacks on the weekend. At the beginning of the season the “snack schedule” appeared in my inbox. With four children, we have four games which means the snack roulette wheel lands on our number with great frequency. G and I are experts at loading the cooler with ice, filling it with water bottles and juice, and throwing in a few pieces of fruit to sustain the kids from the sidelines. It appears that “snacks” have now progressed to a different realm. Granola bars, brownies, oreos, twizzlers and snack packs of cheese flavoured crackers have all made their way to the children via ziplock bag. I eyed off last week’s offering and made a mental note of price and calorie count, but that wasn’t what worried me, it was the time that was needed on a Saturday morning to pack each bag. I referred to the 4 kids, 20 suitcases Facebook page for advice and was struck by how many of us had grown up with a cut up orange and a bottle of water being the only thing offered at a sports game.

So why were doing this? Why was I contemplating making it so hard? So calorific? So packaged? So stupid?

As I sliced the oranges on the cutting board the second little traveller placed six slices into each ziplock bag.

“What if they don’t like oranges?”

“I’ve got six apples and two bunches of bananas” I gestured towards the cooler box.

“You know Mum the parents might like you for this but the kids won’t”

“I can live with that” I smiled.

They ate all the oranges.

Who’s with me? Want to start a snack revolution? Let’s stop the madness.

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