Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Healthy Holiday Celebrations: We never leave the schoolyard, do we?

For SH and JA who share my passion.

It's holiday time and it's a stressful time for many parents and families.  In December alone, I think we had over 10 invites to various parties and activities, more than half of which we had to decline.  Personally, it's always a hectic time for me because of my work (college applications are due after all) and the intense pressure of that plus celebration has made things hectic.

And someone, please remind me, that if I ever want to have another child (I do, but not realistic) NOT to have the birthdate in December.   The pressure of dealing with that on TOP OF the regular intensity of the holidays isn't fun either.  So yes, it's a stressful time.  It's a stressful time for all involved.

And if you have school age children, then there are additional pressures of holiday teacher shopping (or making of presents), classroom holiday parties and celebrations as well as preparing for activities to occupy the natives, once they are out of school, occupying the home territories.

After Son's enjoyment of sharing muffins with his friends during Thanksgiving party, I decided to do two things that he would be able to pass out to his friends at school.  I made vegan banana muffins as well as these snowflake crayons.  After printing out 20 of the cards, I realized I didn't really like EXACTLY what I had written (wasn't being a good wordsmith at 2 AM) but decided to let it go and save some trees.  If you ever want to do it, I'd go with a phrase something like this: "I am thankful for all my wonderful friends, as different as all the snowflakes that fall from the sky."  I had a few other ideas as well, but you get idea.

These are simple to make.  I simply bought this mold and followed instructions on Sillie Smile's blog.

In addition to Son's party planning, I was asked for some advice for Daughter #1's holiday party by one of the room moms.  I simply asked if we could not do a party that involved a ton of sugary treats, especially since the classroom has been focused on healthy eating since the beginning of the school year, and instead make it more interactive and craft like. She immediately agreed with the idea and with the teacher planned really wonderful activities.

There would be a couple of crafts to do, and in addition, there would be a "gently used" book exchange, where each child brought in a book, appropriate to 2nd and 3rd grade reading, and exchange and trade with classmates.  I LOVED this, and I thought it a wonderful addition to the holiday party.

But it turns out, not all did so.  One father questioned the meaning of the term "holiday party" and demanded to know WHY the party wasn't called "Christmas Party" to the room mom.  The room mom calmly explained that there were many different cultures at our school and not everyone celebrates Christmas.  He wanted to know WHY there were no treats, no sugar, no candy, no fun things to eat.  She also calmly had to explain that the party was going in a different direction, one more interactive and more fun for the kids (beyond eating sugary treats.)  His parting comment was something to the effect that "they" were going to take America back and restore it to "America."

Now I'm not sure what he meant by THAT comment, but I am pretty sure I'm supposed to be insulted.  This father has his child at a school that is ethnically 75% people of color.  Our school is blessed with an amazingly rich diverse environment, so if he's planning to take America back from all of us,  I'd like to see him try.  And to that father, I'd just like to say, open up your eyes, and see this is not the playground of your childhood.  There are more people from different places than there were when you were growing up, and although this may be at times, like the holidays, a slightly awkward thing, it is a good thing.  And if you really can't figure it out, then your child is going to be working for mine and not the other way around.  (Ooops.  I didn't really mean that.  Okay maybe a little. )

And I'm brought back to a time, growing up, when two mean kids came up to me on the schoolyard (I was one of TWO Asian kids at this school) and said to me, "Are you Chinese?
"No," I replied.
"Are you Japanese?"
"NO," I said.
"Then WHAT are you?"
"I'm Korean.  I'm American," I replied tentatively.
"You're WHAT?"

I'm brought right back there with this father's comments.  I have a few more zingers to send his way (already I have yelled them into the air to no one in particular) but I'll restrain on this blog.  But I'm still going to insist on a non-sugar, non-Christmas, healthy, holiday school celebration. And I'm proud to do so.  And I'm happy to be one of the different snowflakes that fall from the sky.


Sandy said...

I love the idea of avoiding the sguary treat party and the book exchange. In fact I love it so much I'm going to suggest it next year for my kids' parties. And so sorry for the bad attitude the room mom had to deal with. We all need patience with each other.

maureen said...

That last comment about being a Korean is hilarious! I had that same conversation with a kid at school back in the early 80's before the 88 Olympics. I guess Americans didn't know that we existed?

Jeannie said...

Those are some great party ideas (which I hope will be the norm, and not the alternative one day!). And boo to that bad apple (aka the dad). Seems like it was handled well though.

cindy said...

That sounds like such a fun party! Healthy and and educational for the kids. I think there will always be that person that hates change.. but he was wrong. What is really American? I mean, seriously... the English came here and took land from the Native Americans... So we are all really immigrants in the same boat. Maybe he needs a history refresher. :) I just get heated up about this race thing!

B's mommy said...

thanks for sharing! so, you mentioned work so I'm wondering whether you have another "profession" besides everything else you do already. are you a teacher?

Aye Wollam said...

This touched a core in me. There had never been a question about my kids' race or ethnicity (they are half Asian) all throughout their elementary and middle school. But this year, my daughter started High School, and it seemed like the kids in HS constantly asked her if what she is. "WHAT are you?" they always ask, to which she calmly answers, "I am human." I hate when people say we are bringing America back. America has never gone anywhere, nor has it been lost. Now if you are a native American, and saying that, it has more meaning than a white dude claiming to bring back America.

Joanne Choi said...

B's Mommy - I used to be a high school English teacher, and now I just teach privately from my home. I also edit papers and help young writers. Nothing that exotic. :)

Amy K. said...

oh yes...there will always be ignorant jackholes. and the older i get, the less patience i have for stupid comments.

Take back America? Is this father Native American? Every American in this country is here because their families at some point trekked here from another country. Some families have been here for generations including some Chinese families who have been here for 4 or 5 generations.

Argh...I'll stop there....

thanks for the post...i'm sure the class will have an awesome party!

Sarah (Snippets of Thyme) said...

I really enjoyed reading your comments about the holiday party at your school. I am a "caucasian" (whatever that means) woman who has been raised strict Catholic all her life (until I turned...ahem...18). I hear these comments all the time "take America back" and "protect OUR American rights". I am with you. How difficult is it to look around and see all of the wonderful ethnicities, cultures, and celebrations that all interact in this incredible country? In our family, we've certainly alienated many of our relatives with our challenge to them "Why do we think America belongs to one race?" We've made it uncomfortable for certain family members at Thanksgiving we try to gently but firmly challenge their comments. So, I'm sorry to leave such a long comment on your blog. But do know, that I would stand up for you and your culture and your beliefs any day. This teaparty business just needs to be "called out" so to speak. Its covert racism is our family's opinion. Good for you and your school!

Shelby B. said...

I just came across your blog, and I love it! I'm a college student who has recently discovered how wonderful it is to cook my own food, and your site makes delicious recipes understandable. Thank you!


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