Recently, my 10 year old had his birthday party at an indoor trampoline park: a dozen friends, an hour of bouncing, and a party room for 40 minutes. Frankly, I’m usually too cheap to shell out for parties like this, but we figured we’d go big to ring in those double digits. Plus, any arrangement that doesn’t involve cleaning the house or a pack of rowdy 10 year olds running through my living room is a good deal in my book.

The party was during the dinner hour, and the package included pizza and soda (and even teenagers to serve everything!). I thought about how I wanted to handle this, but I didn’t stress about it. I also didn’t want to make a big deal about it with my son and turn his much-anticipated party into a fight with mom about soda. So I made a few tweaks behind the scenes. Here’s what we did:

*Pizza: Yep.

*Drinks: The package included two kinds of soda. Instead, I (quietly) requested water and one kind of soda–and (quietly) requested that when the soda was finished, there were no refills. Nobody cared when the soda ran out. The kids were hot and sweaty and drank water.

*Fruit salad: I brought this from home and it was served with the pizza. And devoured. Some kids had multiple helpings.

*Cake: We baked homemade vanilla cupcakes with dark chocolate frosting and the recipe made enough for one cupcake per kid or parent.

*Goodie bags: Didn’t do them. My son never mentioned it, only one party guest seemed to notice their absence.

I know some people may have done things differently. But this felt like a good balance for us, between my son’s desire to have a regular party with pizza and soda and my own concerns about sugar overkill. Every parent has to do what feels right for them.

But what I’ve learned from hosting (and attending) an awful lot of kids’ parties is this: The real star attraction is never the food. It’s the fun, whether it’s bouncing on trampolines, roller skating, playing games, or just running around the backyard being silly. Food is often a distant third (or tenth) to everything else they’re doing and enjoying.

How do you handle food at your child’s birthday parties?


Ambushed by Big Soda on the Soccer Field

by Sally on April 19, 2013

Something happened on the soccer fields last weekend that made cupcakes seem tame by comparison: A rep from 7 Up worked the crowd, offering free diet soda to parents and kids.

When I found out about this through some friends–and confirmed it with a call to our rec center–I felt my blood pressure rise about 50 points.

What’s the big deal? After all, it was diet soda, not regular. And parents and kids could simply say no if they didn’t want it.

It’s a big deal because it was wrong. Because the soda industry is smart and dangerous and knows where to find kids. Because there’s a predatory nature to their marketing  that gives me the creeps.  Their goal is to make a connection with people and establish brand loyalty–the earlier (and younger) the better.

If you think I’m being dramatic, consider the words from former Coca-Cola  exec Todd Putman, who revealed last year that they specifically targeted children in their marketing:

“…Magically, when they would turn 12, we’d suddenly attack them like a bunch of wolves. I would say 90 percent of all soft drink marketing is targeted at 12- to 24-year-olds. . . .It was how we spent all of our time…It represented a lifetime of opportunity.”

And this warning, from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity:

“Sugary drinks are the most unhealthy food product marketed to children and are relentlessly and aggressively targeted toward them…Food and beverage companies spent more to market sugary drinks to children and adolescents than they spent marketing any other food or beverage category to that group.”

The fact that is was diet soda on our soccer fields makes it worse to me. The soda companies are currently using low-calorie drinks in a campaign to distract from soda’s probable link to overweight, obesity, and diseases like diabetes. They hold up these beverages as proof that they care about our health–and to reassure us that we don’t have to stop drinking soda if we want to be healthy.

But in reality, diet soda is linked to conditions such as metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. See the real truth about what soda is doing to health in this video here from the Center for Science in the Public Interest and this parody of a Coke commercial here.

In his defense, the man in charge of our soccer league didn’t actually know about the soda incident until after the fact. I was told that 7-Up (or likely Pepsico) has a city-wide contract to provide vending, so it’s possible that giveaways like this one are just part of the deal. I shared my concerns with him, and he said he understood. I hope he thinks of those concerns if he has the choice to refuse these giveaways in the future.

Soda companies claim they don’t market to very young kids. So why did Pepsico come to our soccer fields on a Saturday morning, where the average age of the players is roughly seven? And does this kind of insidious marketing–an attempt to hook young people onto something that’s bad for their health–remind you of anything else?

It’s no wonder health activists are calling the soft drink industry Big Soda. Because they seem an awful lot like Big Tobacco. And we certainly wouldn’t allow them on the Saturday morning soccer fields, would we?


Lines in the Sand

November 23, 2009

Cloth or disposable, breast or bottle, attachment parenting or cry-it-out. When you become a mother, they’re some of the Big Choices you’re faced with right off the bat. But even when you’re past the baby stage—when your Diaper Champ can no longer contain the stinkiness and everyone is (kind of, sort of, almost) sleeping through […]

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