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In which I rant about something that's been bugging me for a while - Elizabeth Unexplained
Lots of data but no answers
In which I rant about something that's been bugging me for a while
A month or so ago Warren linked to an article about an incident where a monitor in a cafeteria decided that the bagged lunch a child’s mother had packed for her didn’t meet the state’s requirements (even though it actually did), and forced the kid to get a cafeteria lunch instead and charged the parent for said lunch. It may seem like an isolated incident, and in this case there was some overreaching, but if things continue as they are I worry that it is more a sign of things to come.

It may interest you to know that the lunches I packed for Margaret to eat at preschool last week would not have measured up to the standards of the school in the article. I would have been in violation. What did I pack for Margaret? Last week both lunches contained a baby back rib (leftover from a Red Bones order), a generous handful of baby spinach leaves, 5 or 6 baby carrots, a clementine orange, a strawberry, and an 8 ounce bottle of water. I’m hoping that right about now you are wondering what the heck was wrong with those lunches. Obviously since I packed them I think they were just fine, and given that Margaret ate everything except the strawberry (which she shared with Duncan at home) and some of the spinach I’m guessing she was satisfied with her lunch. The “problem” with the lunches I packed for Margaret last week was that they contained neither a grain nor a dairy item. Would Margaret’s lunch have been healthier if I’d omitted some of the fruit and vegetable items and instead added in a handful of pretzels and a piece of cheese? I don’t think so, but that would have made it comply with the standards of the school in the article. Luckily for me the only constraint Margaret’s preschool puts on lunches is that they not contain anything that is allergenic to any of her classmates. It’s a bit of a pain that I can’t give her some things she loves (walnuts, cashews, grapes), but at least they’re not micro-managing what I do pack.

I know there are some bad parents out there. I know that there are some parents who no doubt send their kids off to school with a bag of chips, a can of soda, and a sandwich containing some heavily processes meat, and they consider that OK. I know that there are more and more overweight and obese children out there. I know that people want to do something when they see bad parenting. The problem is, what constitutes bad parenting is often not clear cut. If I had a child who was both lactose and gluten intolerant, being forced to include both a grain and a dairy item in each and every lunch would be bad for them in a way that most people I know can understand. I also imagine that my vegan friends would be horrified if they were required to provide their kids with both a meat and a dairy item in each and every lunch. Most of the parents I know care about what foods they give their child. Having specific regulations on what must be in a school lunch is intrusive and an unnecessary burden on the majority of parents who know their child better than anyone else and who do their best to give their child food that is reasonably nutritious and something their child is willing to eat.

While we haven’t personally had any issues with food, we have been affected by how heavily preschools are regulated in this state. Margaret’s preschool has a mandatory nap period right after lunch. This is due to state regulations for kids her age. The thing is, Margaret stopped napping on a daily basis over a year ago, and she’s down to napping maybe once a week these days. Some kids just need less sleep than other kids the same age. Duncan has consistently needed more sleep than Margaret did at a similar age, so I don't think my parenting is the only factor in how little Margaret sleeps. When Duncan’s three and a half he may well benefit from a daily nap, but right now it’s wasted time for Margaret who is bored during this time and does not want to stay on her mat. I’m assuming that since Margaret’s school is a Montessori school that if it were up to them they’d try to find some solution that met the individual needs of each child if it were not for the state regulations. State regulations are also keeping Duncan out of the preschool next year. The preschool is licensed for kids who are 2.75 years old and older. Duncan will be a few weeks shy of this in September. In theory we could ask the school to try to get a waiver and take him, but when I asked about this the director said that her inspector had previously told her that he would not give her a waiver for any child, and the child she’d been asking about then was only three weeks shy of the cut-off. Why? They’re worried about evacuating the building in case of a fire, and “toddlers” need more help walking than “preschoolers”. I’ve no idea what sort of magic they expect to happen between 2.6 years old and 2.75 years old in terms of walking. I’d also note that Duncan has been walking on his own since before he was 10 months old and currently runs, jumps, climbs ladders twice his height, and can follow instructions. I understand that having some regulations on preschools is a good thing, but there needs to be some recognition that kids are individuals who do not have uniform needs. In other word's, I'd be a lot happier with a system where the people who know and interact with the individual children have some leeway to use their judgement.

My big worry is where does this stop? It seems that the lives of kids are getting more and more regulated, and I don’t think it’s a good thing. Kids are individuals, and sweeping regulations meant to cover everyone are just going to get in the way of taking care of each individual child. We're not raising an army of clones, or at least I don't think we should be trying to.
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From: (Anonymous) Date: March 22nd, 2012 03:02 am (UTC) (Link)
There's always the view that half the point of sit down and move at the pace of the group schooling is to train enough individuality out of people to create cogs in industrial machinery.

Of course, those jobs aren't coming back ;-)
izmirian From: izmirian Date: March 22nd, 2012 07:27 am (UTC) (Link)
I was always annoyed as a kid by all the unnecessary (in my view) rules that they had in my elementary school. My favorite (i.e. least favorite) was that you had to take your bottle of medicine to the lunch lady who would was then supposed to open it and give you your pill to take with lunch. Except she couldn't open the childproof cap so she would hand the bottle to me to open, then I would hand the open bottle back to her, and then she would take out a pill and give it to me.
gryphon2k From: gryphon2k Date: March 22nd, 2012 08:14 am (UTC) (Link)
While my kids' school has not gone so far as to inspect lunches, I have had issues with specific teachers who think they should be able to dictate what I send in for "snacks". They think that my snacks of complex carb plus some sort of protein do not meet their criteria. What they want is a piece of fruit, evidently.

Now, I have suffered from hypoglycemia since I was a child. Eating *just* a piece of fruit midmorning was guaranteed to make me sick to my stomach as my blood sugar crashed afterward. With E, who also has blood sugar issues, we have noticed irritability after sugary/fruity snacks since preschool, where we usually sent in cheese sticks for him to snack on. B also prefers salty snacks with some protein in them instead of fruity/sugary snacks. His Spanish(!) teacher went so far as to try to tell me that all the salt in his pretzels wasn't good for him. I informed the gentlemen that as B has neither blood pressure nor kidney issues (as well as a cardiologist and a urologist who were more qualified to worry about both of those things), I was not concerned about his salt intake. I also mentioned that unless he had a degree in nutrition hiding somewhere in his background, that perhaps he was not qualified to comment in this area and should stick with Spanish. (Yes, I was pissed.)

With E, I finally told the teacher who was hassling him that his snacks were approved by a nutritionist (which they were) whose care he was under for a blood-sugar issue. That did mostly stop the complaints on her part.

So yes, be prepared for teachers to try to tell you that you are an inadequate parent. And then tell them exactly where they can stick it. ;)
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: March 22nd, 2012 02:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
And this is exactly why I think the schools should butt out. A piece of fruit would be fine for my kid who has no history of blood sugar issues. On the other hand, the snack you would send in for E would not be the best choice for her because we're worried about her getting my endometriosis and the evidence seems to indicate that gluten may be a factor there, so we want to limit her gluten intake. Most of the current institutional thinking around nutrition seems to completely ignore the fact that different kids do have different nutritional needs.

Oh yeah, and I am already an inadequate parent. See Duncan and his height, lack thereof.
psychohist From: psychohist Date: March 22nd, 2012 04:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Dairy protein is also implicated in endometriosis, making cheese questionable. Fruit, meat, and veggies are the things that ought to work for her.

Edited at 2012-03-22 04:01 pm (UTC)
pekmez From: pekmez Date: March 22nd, 2012 04:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
FYI, I believe that both the MA law and federal laws that are in the pipeline to affect schools in our state cover foods that are served *by* the school and/or brought in to be eaten by the whole class during school hours. Home-brought lunches and snacks are not regulated. So at least for now we are dodging this in our very own state, not that this means we should ignore others' plights...

Other states and districts do seem to be in the business of policing home brought lunches and deeming pink-slime hamburgers, ketchup packets, and packaged grapefruit cups to be better than fresh fruit and spinach and ribs that lack grain and dairy and what not. (My lunchmaking aesthetic is similar to yours, although sometimes the ribs or the chicken drumsticks do not fit in the thermos, grumble.)
countertorque From: countertorque Date: March 25th, 2012 07:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
You can't start your kid 3 weeks late after he makes the age reqt?
psychohist From: psychohist Date: March 26th, 2012 07:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Duncan will be about 8 weeks short, which is more than half the semester. It was the previous example that was 3 weeks short. We're not really willing to pay for a full semester when Duncan would be using less than half of it.
jaedian From: jaedian Date: March 30th, 2012 05:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
They won't prorate? You can also get him in the next semester?

I guess how accommodating they will be depends on if the school is filled or not. Andover seems to be having a tough time with preschools, kids in that age range are seriously down from a.few years ago! so most preschools have openings that remain unfIlled.

the regulations are the teacher to student ratios, they would have to add a teacher. And while a few weeks won't make a difference, they have to draw the line somewhere. Otherwise it would drift until babies were going to preschool.

as far as I know the school lunch regulation is only for buying lunches. And that is to boost lunches up to a certain standard and to give parents an idea of what their kids are eating since they aren't there each day to make a choice. I haven't had any comments on the snacks I send, I would be annoyed if they did! Our neighbor did have to complain about the one ice cream treat per kid rule for her underweight and failing to gain child, but that rule is probably part nutrition and part just not running out of treats for the later lunch kids!

psychohist From: psychohist Date: March 31st, 2012 12:53 am (UTC) (Link)
They will prorate if they have an opening at the time. However, as they are already taking applications for fall of 2013, I suspect they won't have a space.
jaedian From: jaedian Date: March 31st, 2012 02:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
aaah. clearly you area is not suffering as much from a lack of preschool age kids. I was curious as to whether our issue is less kids being born, or families not moving to town once they have kids because it is too expensive!

Yeah, that is kind of irritating, although in the long run I don't think it will have too much of an impact for him. And I am surprised at the 2.75 mean 2 years 9 months? A lot of the school hear call 2 years, 9 months, 2.9 years which really confused me for awhile. I actually started Juliette later than she needed to.

And I suspect the 2yr, 9mo was to placate all the parents whose not quite 3 year old missed the original cut-off. So they moved it 3 months earlier. Again, you have to put the line somewhere. And there are a lot of schools here who stick to the 3 year designation, (like ours) Although I suppose the state being more lax gives them a little wiggle room on a case by case basis for kids who are only a few weeks shy.

I have to say at this age, 6 months makes a huge difference. And a year is huge in some ways. The 3 year old class and the 4 year old classes are really different. (I volunteer 4 times a year) And probably 25% of those are really only 6 months apart. But they really are learning skills fast at this age.
psychohist From: psychohist Date: April 2nd, 2012 05:03 am (UTC) (Link)
I just note that this isn't really our area; the Montessori schools in our area appear all to offer only full time programs beyond our price range. The school is in Bedford.
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