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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  1. You go Kirsty!!!! I’m with you on all of the above. Party bags are my pet peeve!!!! But again I’m asking politely please get out of my head and stop stalking my family!!! 😉

  2. I love that they ate all the oranges – it was probably a pleasant surprise to their otherwise sugar clogged tastebuds. As for party bags…….don’t even get me started! 😉

  3. Heidi Brenegan says

    Ugh, I caved to party bags this past year, but I don’t think they’re as demanding in the U.S.–usually some stickers, a few pieces of candy, maybe a rubber bouncy ball. 🙂 I still hate them and usually forget/refuse to do them.

  4. ingeborg de smet says

    I couldn’t agree more. What happened to parenting these days that we as adults give in to this pressure? I’ve been living in Brisbane now for the last 3 years and have been confronted to another kind of “party bag” pressure, this time at school. It is called “secret santa”. Each year, my 3 kids come home at this time of the year with name tags, randomly given out in class by the teacher and the task to buy a “little gift” for 10-15 dollars, wrap it, put the name on it and bring it to class. On the last day, each child receives a gift from their secret santa. For 3 years now, I buy gifts, totally against the idea and feel bad about being pushed into something, by school, for crying out loud. there is nothing ‘secret’ about ‘secret santa’ as each child knows perfectly well go is their secret santa and “wishes” get whispered in ears at frequent times. We wish for Itunes cards, certain toys, certain sweets. Multiply those gifts by my number of kids and number of classes where they do secret santa and you spend a ridiculous amount of money on top of all other gifts you are supposed to buy or chip in for, thank you gifts for teachers. This year, I decided to be on top of everything and wrote a nice long mail to all teachers concerned, included head of year reps. I explained them that we were against the whole secret santa idea, that our kids could easily write a nice note, a joke, a picture, a precious moment they shared this year and wish each other all the best for next year. That would go a whole lot longer than a bar of chocolate or an itunes card. I explained all my reasons given above and I said we would be real secret santa for kids in crisis at x-mas. We have a xmas tree at school where you pick a name tag of a child and you buy a gift for 20 dollars. Kids that have nothing, australian kids living in poor conditions. That is secret santa, and they might only receive our gift. I said that if each class would do that, we would have loads of gifts to donate to our xmas tree. I told them we talked to our kids and they understood that in life it is not all about receiving but sometimes about sharing with others that have nothing. Comes on top of that that each year I put a reasonable amount of time and stress to pick a “nice gift” as secret santa but that many put hardly any time or effort in it. We had free calendars, nickers, and more freebies and a whole lot of tantrums and tears at home because the receivers were very disappointed. Much to my surprise, some teachers were really understanding, some had to give in to pressure put on them by the whole year cohort, others decided to ban secret santa and donate to the abandoned pets. Much to my disgust, my oldest son’s teachers, year 8 teacher, approached my son and said he received a funny mail from his mum about secret santa. He commented we only needed to buy a 5 dollar chocolate bar to participate. Not only was I furious he approached my son about this topic and did not mail me, he is also a teacher of christian studies, where is his christian attitude to share and not to receive? I decedid to write him another nice mail explaining some simple maths. 5 dollars multiplied by number of kids in a class , 25 would still give us 125 dollars, and that would still make 5 kids happy of the donation tree. Never received a reply but found out they ban the secret santa idea all together in class and will only have a party. which makes me happy but leaves me with another dilemma – send in food for the party, as you said, they won’t be happy with slices of orange. so it nevers stops…. society has changed into greedy needy consumption of more, more and more. It is our choice as parents to stand up and make little changes, shame for those who laugh and criticise. As for my kids who thought I was weird, I told them we need to get them some backbone and stand up for their opinion, even it that means going against a whole crowd. Halleluljah, I rest my case for this year.

  5. Marita Beard says

    I’m so with you 🙂

    • Marita Beard says

      Which is to add, I’ve got a kid with nut allergies, I’d rather a simple piece of fruit any day. While she wouldn’t eat the oranges she would devour those apples and bananas.

  6. Love this… Last weekend my daughter played in a netball final. The coach at the end of the game opened up a tupperware container filled with orange slices. My daughter’s comment to me after she had helped herself to three was ‘They are really nice Mum, we should have oranges after games more often’. Winner coach!

  7. Go you!
    Have you heard about #snacktivism? You might like this blog by a mum from the US:

  8. Water bottles! Fancy! Remember when we just had to guzzle from the tap?

    I agree with you. I’m the “embarrassing” parent with healthy snacks, backyard parties, homemade birthday cakes. All a novelty here!

  9. Agree with you, both on the party bags (which are getting more elaborate as the kids get older) and sport (where we have passively accepted the general principle that we take it in turns to bring a bag of lollies for the end of the match). Why? What’s wrong with oranges?

  10. I so agree with you! My other pet hate is sending along cupcakes for each child in the class when it’s your own child’s birthday. We are all so busy, our kids are already exposed to so much junk food – why add to the problem?

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