Kindie Survival 101: Birthday Bombardment

Once your child goes to school, gone are the days of simple, family gatherings celebrating your little bundle’s day of birth. Enter, you shall, the chaotic headache that is The Bombardment of Friends Sugar-filled Birthday Madness. Or something like that.

While policies and/or recommendations may vary on school and classroom, our teacher gently suggested that when handing out birthday invitations to please invite all children in the class if possible. If that wasn’t possible, hand invitations directly to parents instead of allowing your child to hand them out in class.

It sounds like a ludicrous request, I can understand where she was coming from. Feelings can easily get hurt, especially when a child doesn’t know why he or she wasn’t invited to so-and-so’s party. Their “best friends” also change on a weekly, if not daily, basis, so it’s hard to determine who’s “worthy” of that Golden Ticket.

But from the financial standpoint, it’s hard to invite nearly 20 kids to a party. For one, how does one host that many children all at once? Unless you live on a sprawling acreage, it’s nearly impossible. You could rent out a community hall, or head to a venue, but that gets costly and often has restrictions on how many people can attend. It helps on the whole “invite the whole class” issue, but what if your kid is a social butterfly and is (legitimately) friends with more kids than the cap?

Two, it’s expensive to feed that many mouths, even if you’re just planning on serving snacks and cake. You’ll doubt whether or not you’re providing enough food, but then again, are the kids going to stop socialized and playing long enough to even eat? (Answer: Most likely not unless it’s cake.)

Ultimately, who to invite to your kid’s birthday party is 100% up to you. Isla was invited to both “whole class” parties and “select few”ones and I never heard her question why she wasn’t invited to someone else’s. I’m sure this will happen one day, but I’m thankful we haven’t had to cross this bridge yet.

Another topic regarding birthdays to discuss is how to decide what to do if/when your child is invited to someone else’s party. Personally, it’s hard for me to say “No” to Isla attending someone else’s party unless there’s something else happening or she’s sick. Plus, Isla is always super sad when she finds out she can’t go to someone’s party. My solution is to try and open up her invitations and determine if she can go before she even knows what’s going on. While slightly deceitful, it saves headache and heartache down the road.

Also prepare yourself for getting more than one invite in a month. It’s up to you do decide if it’s financially and mentally worth doing. Much like hosting a party, attending multiple parties in a month is expensive if you spend $15-20 on a present per kid.

Everything about birthdays stressed me out way more than it should have, and I look forward to the day when my kids have a clear group of friends and I don’t have to worry about hurting a child’s feelings. I know there will always in inclusion and exclusion issues, but at least I will be able to pass some of that control over to my kids.

How do you think you’ll tackle birthday parties? Do you agree with the “Invite all” request?

Full disclosure: After numerous discussions and breaking down all situations, Kyle and I allowed Isla to invite her whole class plus a few close outside friends to her birthday. We hosted it at a venue and it was worth every penny because 16 kids attended and the craziness of that many 5/6 year olds was exhausting. We at least didn’t have to clean up most of the mess. Next year we’re aiming/hoping for a more intimate soirée.

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Kindie Survival 101: Lessons in Lunch

As I celebrated the end of the school year, I was asked to share my thoughts on Kindergarten. By no means am I an experts, and everyone’s experience (and child) is different, but today I shall start a series that I shall unceremoniously call “Kindie Survival 101.” Part One shall be all about the dreaded school lunch.

The novelty of the hot lunch
In the beginning, there was excitement for packing lunches. I happily remember opening my lunch box when I was a kid and seeing all the delicious goodies my mom packed for me and rolled with that feeling. Fresh fruit, healthy sandwiches … Isla ate some pretty awesome meals, IMHO. I always made an effort to pack a healthy lunch without being too ridiculous because kids have their limits. (More on those “limits” later.) But lunch making gets old and the fun wears off in a damn hurry. Enter the amazing Hot Lunch program! Our school has a great one, and by partnering with various restaurants in the city I have the option to opt out of making her a lunch once a week throughout the school year. Except it’s DAMN EXPENSIVE. As in, $7-8/week expensive, depending on what’s up for grabs that week. While I felt compelled to let Isla have a hot lunch so she didn’t feel left out, there was no way, Kyle and I both agreed that we weren’t going to cough up that much for a weekly meal.

Our solution? We sat down with Isla and let her pick one meal for each month. (We had to preorder 3 months at a time.) We rattled off her choices for the month, and she picked out of the bunch. The beauty thing was that she felt involved and she actually looked forward to her hot lunch days. (And really, I did too because all I had to do was throw a recess snack into her bag and call it a day.) I don’t know how long we’ll be able to make this system work, but for her young, easily-influences mind, it worked like a charm!

Packing it up
I honestly didn’t do anything special in regards to how I packaged up her lunch, my main goal was to just keep things cold or hot. I even used the lunch kit she had during preschool and never really ran into any issues.

The best investment I made when it came to lunch kit gear was this LunchBlox system by Rubbermaid.* It fit perfectly in Isla’s lunch kit and the sizes worked great. I will, however, be searching for an alternative for her drinks as the popular reusable drink containers by the same company have silly rubber components that are very hard to clean. That being said – I do highly recommend using some kind of reusable drink container as tiny hands sometimes can’t manage straws & drink boxes.

I also bought a little Thermos for her to put the odd hot lunch from home in. Isla’s favourite? Ichiban!  I broke a puck in half and cooked it slightly at home before transferring it to her container and she loved it.

Another note: Have your little practice opening and closing their containers at home before sending them off to school with them! While classrooms usually have helpers during lunchtime, it doesn’t hurt to check!

No nuts/dairy/kiwi/fish/fun
I understand COMPLETELY the severity of food allergies, so packing an allergy-aware is completely understandable. Thankfully, there was no school-wide ban on any kinds of foods, but the school was nut-aware this year. There was a student with a nut allergy in the school, so while other classes could have nut products parents were asked to be mindful just in case. I did my best to make sure I bought peanut-free snacks for Isla, and never sent a PB&J sandwich to school. (Much to my laziness’s dismay.) The kindergarten kids were also explicitly told that they were NOT allowed to share food just in case.

If you’re not sure what your school’s policy is – just email your kid’s teacher or principal and ask. And if you’re still not sure, err on the side of caution anyway.

When they suddenly decide to stop liking certain foods
You know what’s great? When your kid, who has liked everything under the sun, suddenly decides that lettuce is gross and mustard is nasty. Kids will, without a doubt, become picky eaters and packing lunches will become that much more difficult.

Packing for picky eaters gets a lot more difficult if coupled with allergy bans on foods too. When I was a kindergartener a girl I went to school with ate only PB&J sandwiches. In today’s world, she’d probably starve. I think the thing to remember is, just pack things so they’re at least eating. If they only want cheese & crackers, then so be it!

Other things to note

  • Don’t ever think like you’re being judged for what’s in your kid’s lunch. Remember that other parents don’t see what you pack, just other kids. Isla came home one day and told me that Jimmy** had sushi for lunch “all the time.” I was impressed, mostly, but after chatting with Jimmy’s mom I learned that his dad is a sushi chef and can make a California roll in his sleep.
  • Start off packing more than enough food. They’ll burn lots of energy during the first couple of weeks and will likely be starving. When you start to see that food isn’t being eaten, dial things back and pack less.
  • Don’t get mad if they don’t eat. Kids get distracted talking with their friends and forget to eat, especially if they’re already slow eaters. I often had Isla eat the rest of her lunch after school if she was hungry. (Cold packs are a life/food saver!)
  • Make things easy to eat. Cut up fruit if you can, pre-peel oranges, etc. They don’t have much time to eat so any time spent on unpacking/peeling food is less time they get to actually eat before being kicked outside. Isla’s class ate their recess snacks inside before going out to play.
  • Toss drinks in the freezer for a 1/2 hour before throwing it in their lunch kit. It keeps the liquids nice and cold plus helps keep everything else cool too!

That’s all the advice I can think of – Feel free to ask questions in the comments below!

*Full disclosure: Opinions on products mentioned are my own and I was not compensated in any way.
**Name has been changed

“This is just a drill”

How did your lockdown drill go today, kiddo?’
‘It was OK, but I just don’t like doing them.’

On Saturday, March 24, thousands, if not millions, of students and their supporters marched and took a stand against gun violence. I’ve been contemplating airing my thoughts on this topic for quite some time but have never been able to put everything together in a cohesive manner. So, while this post may be a bit of a jumbled mess, I think it’s still an important matter to address as a parent …

Never did I think growing up that there would be more than just fire drills at school. What has happened to society where it is required for students of all ages to practice lockdown drills as well?

The quote at the top of this post is actually an exchange between Isla and I, about a month ago when her school had their second lockdown drill of the year. I can understand why a 5-year old wouldn’t like doing the drills, and I have to give her teacher so much credit for being able to calm the imaginative minds of 20 kindergarteners during these drills. When I asked Isla what she thought of them, she said, “It makes me feel like there’s a savage animal in the school…” It’s a sad truth when it happens for real.

I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to explain to children why they need to have these drills to begin with. Once upon a time, fire drills were the only thing we were required to practice two or three times a school year “just in case.” To now have to practice being quiet and pretending your classroom is empty incase there’s a “savage animal” in the school that wants to hurt you … it’s just heartbreaking.

It hurts that society has come to a place where these drills have to happen, and so, so many things need to change before our children can go back to just practicing fire drills. There needs to be more than just finger pointing to stop these tragic events from reoccurring. How many more people need to die before the US government goes, “Okay, enough is enough?” Lives matter more than centuries-old amendments.

I hope that one day my daughter won’t have to do lockdown drills and that she can go back to not liking normal things, like roasted broccoli and cleaning her room. That one day she doesn’t have to worry about savage animals running through the halls at the school. That one day we can go back to just having fire drills.

One day needs to come soon.