It's 9:42 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and he's just finished an hour-long basketball practice/game. We got him up in time to feed him at home: cereal, banana, milk to drink. Now, he's eating a bag of cheese crackers and drinking a juice pouch. And thank goodness, because it's been exactly 72 minutes since he last ate.
We live two miles from our Y, the place where my 5-year-old plays basketball every Saturday morning. It takes about three minutes, door-to-door, for us to get from the breakfast table to the game. That's 120 consecutive seconds. Can you imagine a world in which he might have to ride home in the back of our minivan without a snack? I can, and it's a world with no diabetes or childhood obesity and definitely less trash in the back of my minivan.
Yes, but, kids who've been exercising, like, say, for a whole hour -- where a whole hour of exercise constitutes 15-20 minutes of not exercising while sitting the bench or waiting for a turn to practice a particular drill -- those kids need fuel! They need nutritious foodstuffs to refill their depleted stores of cookies and high-fructose beverages.
Only a cruel and exacting taskmaster would expect the children to venture forth from their sports event without, at the very least, a tiny bag of pretzels. It's not like they haven't earned their snack, their reward for physical activity, in the form of flavor-extreme fish crackers whose single serving is equivalent to the daily sodium allowance of an entire elementary school. After all, why even come to the game if not for the food rewards?
True, parents can provide their own snacks for their own kids. But where's the one-upmanship in that? How can one parent show off to the others if not by bringing homemade trail mix in cellophane bags with each teammate's name spelled out in bubble letters?
But I'm being harsh. Providing snacks for the team is little more than a kindness, a social contract among parents to share the snack wealth. And, if we're talking about a three-hour-long baseball game or the all-day swim meet, I'm all for it. I think kids do need fuel, especially in the form of water, when they are expending significant energy. In fact, if my kids were on high school or middle school sports teams, I'd be awfully tweaked if they didn't have access to water and maybe even some food. As such, I'd be happy to send snacks and drinks with them to their practices and games.
What I object to is the need to create a network of snack suppliers for the little league T-ball game that lasts as long as a special episode of "The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse." Are our children really so desperate for food that they cannot go even an hour without the promise of a treat?
If you're like me, you feed your children daily. Yes, breakfast, lunch, dinner, even between-meal snacks and the fairly regular dessert. If you're like me, your kid can eat something when you get home. If you're like me, you're kind of sick to death of signing up to bring a snack.
Now, to make my apologies. I think it is sweet, and kind, and thoughtful of team parents to provide a snack. I think it's good-intentioned and perfectly normal and has certainly been made acceptable by our social culture. I don't think there's anything wrong with the people who bring snacks or start a snack sign-up sheet. I've been that person.
What I'm interested in, however, is bucking the trend. I'm interested in seeing "team snack" come to an abrupt end. Perhaps we can agree on a few points:
1. That a 60-minute game does not constitute a blood sugar crisis in our children, unless they are, in fact, diabetic or otherwise prone to blood sugar crises. In which case, have them pack a snack, they may need it.
2. That we are capable of providing meals to our children soon before physical activity that will give them enough energy to make it through a one-hour game, or provide food that will refuel them perfectly fine, thank you, shortly after the game's conclusion.
3. That we do enough to get ourselves and our kids where they need to be, and, therefore, when it comes to buying, prepping and providing a snack for a dozen kids -- screw that noise.
Let's take back our snack-less sporting events! Let's stand together and say, "It's OK, Junior here ate at home!" We'll rebel not because we don't want to provide well for our children, but because there's no way in hell they're gonna eat lunch after powering through a bag of mini-muffins and a Gatorade. We'll boycott not because we don't think exercise burns calories and sometimes those calories need replacing, but because these are 5-, 6-, and 7-year-olds who often spend as much energy on the field as they sometimes do cleaning their rooms. That's to say, not a whole lot. We'll say "no" to tiny bags of food because, dammit, we just don't need to eat a snack right now.
Join me, snack-less crusaders, in taking the treat out of team sports. Or burn me in effigy, whichever this essay inspires you to do. Just know I will not allow snacks at my metaphoric immolation.