Ever since she started eating solid food, my 4-year-old loves eating vegetables. Carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, asparagus, kale you name it, she will eat it; and without any bribe or prodding, because she genuinely loves fresh fruits and vegetables. This kid will take a salad over a happy meal, well sometimes; she has a mind of her own and I always encourage her to use it. She also likes icicle, ice-cream, Doritos, Cheetos, popcorn and all the other cheesy, salty snacks that fill our supermarket shelves; but everything is given in moderation.
Last Thursday, as we rode the bus to school she checked her lunch bag; something I noticed she recently started doing before we left the house. During her previous checks, she would say ‘I’m not going to eat that’ or ‘please give me this instead of that.’ This morning we were running late, so unfortunately for me, her check was conducted on a crowded Brooklyn bus. I had packed a juice, a water, a tangerine, some Goldfish and a Cheetos. Lunch is provided at school and I always ensure that she has a solid breakfast.
A she rummaged through the bag, she pulled out the Cheetos and exclaimed, ‘do not put this in my lunch bag anymore.’ Why, I asked, (by this time persons close to us were listening to the conversation and she rarely uses her inside voice); my teacher says its garbage and I am not going to eat it. Shocked, I said ok, I will take it and eat it at work. That day she opted to go without a snack for fear of being criticized by her teacher. In my hurry to take her to school and get to work, I don’t think I understood the gravity of the conversation until I got to work and unpacked my own lunch and the Cheetos. It was then that I felt pained, angry, disappointed and frustrated.
I became overwhelmed with emotions and all these questions kept swimming in my head. When was she told this? What has she been doing with all her snacks? Do you know my financial situation? Was she told in front of all the other children? But the one thought that angered me, was the nerve of the teacher to tell my child that her snack was garbage.
I would like to think that our teachers have our children’s best interest at the forefront always. So maybe she was against salty snacks but why didn’t she speak to me?, I consider myself approachable. There were so many ways that she could have approached me. Tell me that the school encourages healthy or organic food and recommend other snacks, I would have listened. But to say this snack is garbage and to tell my child, now that’s some nerve.
My four, soon to be five-year-old was previously enrolled in a private school, she knew her alphabet, numbers, shapes and colors. She had started doing math, spelling and learning little words the next step was reading. Cost, more than anything else, contributed to my decision to move her and enroll her in Universal Pre-K (UPK). There is a Jamaican adage that says ‘the cheapest always becomes the dearest’ this choice proved to be just that, a year of regression and unlimited play and now to add insult to injury, ridicule.