Cookie Monster

Sometimes a story shows up in the media that sends me into a fury—your basic throw-your-shoe-at-the-TV-set fury.  So I didn’t write about it immediately.  Instead, I put myself into a blogger’s time-out.  “Give it some time,” I told myself.  “See if your still mad about it then.”

So I gave myself a couple of weeks to think about it.  Besides, for those couple of weeks I had other things to write about—a new book coming out in paperback (Remains of Innocence has been on the NYTimes top ten list for THREE weeks now, thank you.) as well as chasing after a new puppy.  (JoJo is currently curled up asleep in Bella’s bed with Bella.)  So this morning, seeing as how it’s Wednesday, I checked my potential blog index and guess what.  I’m still mad.  So here goes.

From what was reported, I understand that a woman, somewhere in the wilds of Colorado, was packing her daughter’s lunch a couple of weeks back.  She’s a mom.  She probably has a job.  Maybe a couple of pets to worry about.  Maybe—probably—her life is complicated, and grocery shopping is one of those things that has to be scheduled.  So that morning, while packing a lunch, the mother looked in her fridge only to find that the vegetable bin was bare.  (Ever had celery sticks go bad or have a package of those cute little sweet carrots turn slimy and sour?  Believe me, I know how that can happen!)

So this particular mom shut the fridge door and looked in her cupboard which, it turns out, was NOT bare.  On one of the shelves she found a container of  individually wrapped packets of Oreo Cookies.  Perfect!!!  So that’s what she put in her daughter’s lunch along with her sandwich—a packet containing not one but two whole Oreo Cookies.  (Back when I was packing school lunches—on those days when I couldn’t scrape together enough change out of the bottom of my purse for my kids to buy their lunch—I would have LOVED to have had packets of Oreo Cookies available during those hectic let’s-get-everybody-to-school-and-work moments in the middle of my kitchen!)

So the girl took the lunch her mom had packed, and off she went to school.  At lunch, a member of the Lunch Room Police, spotted that illicit packet of forbidden Oreos.  The eagle-eyed LRP promptly confiscated same, gave the girl something “appropriate,” (carrots, I believe!).  Then the school sent the poor harried mom a pre-printed letter pointing out the error of her ways and listing what ingredients were appropriate for home-made lunches.  As far as I’m concerned, this whole ordeal puts a brand new spin on the name Cookie Monster!!!

First let me say that in the world of lunchroom bartering (which is also no longer allowed, by the way) no kid on the planet would ever consider a carrot a fair trade for Oreo Cookies.  And speaking of lunch rooms in the old days, did anyone reading this ever show up at lunch with say, a packet of Twinkies, and have the school bully take it away, no questions asked?  Except now it’s the adults, not the kids, who are doing the bullying.  The way the world is currently constituted, what a parent chooses to feed his or her child is susceptible to being judged by people in the school world and deemed to be “appropriate” or not. Shame, shame, shame!!!

By the way, it turns out that at that particular school sweets are evil only if they’re being given out by the parental units involved, because the school itself uses JELLY BEANS!!!! as a reward for good behavior!!  Excuse me.  How do you spell institutionalized HYPOCRISY??!!!

I’m sure there will be plenty of folks out there who will go to the mat and tell me that I have the facts all wrong, and maybe that’s true.  After all, how much can you trust the media these days?

The girl in the above case was attending a private school on the school district’s nickel due to overcrowding in her local public school.  That meant she was a scholarship student at a high-priced school—an exclusive school, and that made her ripe for bullying, not only by her fellow students, but by the faculty as well.

Unfortunately, I know a little too much about this.  I know, for example, that if a scholarship student is being bullied by a kid whose parents pay the full-fare, the school’s faculty is likely to turn a blind eye.  In the instance I’m thinking of, the administration refused for TWO YEARS, to honor the parent’s request to put her son in a different classroom to separate him from the bully, even though the bully—the full fare kid– was drawing pictures of her son hanging on the end of a rope or being cut up with knives or shot with guns.  Not only was the son being bullied, so was the mother.

The only solution, in that case, was for her to remove her son from that situation and place him in a public school where, I’m happy to report, he is thriving.

But here’s my question.  Who gave the people in the schools the right to stand in loco parentis?  What makes school systems decide to come between the parent and child, thus eroding the rights and responsibilities of parenthood.  In the case of physical or sexual abuse, yes, we do need someone to step in and defend children (I have some first hand knowledge about that, too, by the way)! But Oreo Cookies?  Give me a break.

If I were packing lunches these days and received one of those pre-printed “what-you-should-do-is notes, I suspect the next day’s lunch box would be full to the brim of Jelly Beans, and let the chips (potato, of course) fall where they may!

Down with Cookie Monsters everywhere!

29 thoughts on “Cookie Monster

  1. Schools are not the only places where those in authority insert themselves between parents and children. Think about the requirement that a parent or guardian must authorize medical procedures … except when it comes to a minor female seeking an examination to determine pregnancy. It seems that within our culture we are once again seeing a move to extreme rather an effort to find a proper middle ground. We need to reclaim our parental rights. Rant on, Ms. Jance.

  2. This nonsense is repeated over and over again across this country. For instance ust this week a 5th grader accidentally brings a nerf gun bullet to school in Alabama and is suspended. Until parents…all parents who have students in these schools stand up together and say “enough”, this craziness will continue. Standing on the sidelines because it is not my child is not helping the situation. These situations are in the headlines every week now .

    Thank you for blogging about this. You are not alone in your feelings

    • Suspended for a Nerf Gun bullet?!
      When will the start to suspend students that have pens and books with them?
      A pen can be a deadly weapon too, I think.

      Time for this Swede to go and sleep.

      Have a nice weekend everyone and enjoy good books etc. 🙂

  3. Jelly Beans vs Oreo Cookies?
    Oreo’s all the way!
    Any bets that the person who took the cookies ate them too?
    They should give out cherry tomatoes, instead of Jelly Beans.

    2 months until the Novella comes out and 3,5months until the Book.

    Could you pat Bella and JoJo from me?

  4. If the people in charge at school would spend as much time teaching, reading and math and science, as they do being the society police, we would have a well educated generation of children.

  5. You can put the blame directly on the shoulders of Michelle Obama. She is the person who has decided what can be, or cannot be, served for school lunches. Parents seem to have lost most rights.
    Thank you for posting. I knew the Oreo fact; did not know private school fact. Keep blogging and writing your marvelous books.

  6. I remember reading about this. Totally ridiculous! I remember way back when in junior high we always had to eat lunch with our home room students. One girl had 4 Oreos, chips and a bologna sandwich every day for a year. Can you imagine? 4 Oreos!

  7. Very well said. I too was furious when I heard this news report. I know I sent cookies, chips and other “offensive” foods in my children’s lunches and they are great kids who thrived growing up. There is too much interference with parents trying to raise their children these days. Parents have to be aware of so many things such as cookies in their kids lunches, letting your children play unsupervised outdoors “Gasp”

  8. I read about this and thought it was really crazy. Who cares what a child brings for school lunch as long as they have something to eat. The schools should be concerned about those who don’t.

    I was more bothered by the proposed rules about foods allowed in the food stamp program in Wisconsin. The government has no business telling us what we can buy and eat.

  9. My son is a very picky eater, I was working the book fair in his middle school, I went out and got him some chicken nuggets and fries for his lunch. I was told he could not eat them in the lunch room but could hide with me in a corner and eat.

    My friend is a lunchroom manager in Blount Co. TN, there was a march in Washington D.C. against the new lunch regulations (she said almost all the states were represented). It was not in the media here. Why?

  10. Good da*n grief. Once upon a morning bleary, I was running late, and so was my 4-year-old. I handed her 2 of my homemade oatmeal-raisin cookies (they were a generous size) and told her to ask the daycare mom for a glass of milk, thus giving her a good breakfast. I was reprimanded that evening when I arrived to pick up my daughter, along the line of “cookies for breakfast?”. I recited the list of ingredients in my cookies, asked the “concerned” daycare worker to compare that to a list of ingredients in Froot Loops, and let me know how she felt. Never had a problem with them again. Then my daughter started public school…but that’s another story.

  11. i agree with you. It is a good thing I don’t have school age children or my name might end up in the headlines. Just keep writing so I can immerse myself in your wonderful books and forget about all the craziness in our screwed up world.

  12. Teachers (I was one for 29 years) – schools – have always had the in loco parentis function…you leave your kid at the front gate and he is ours until you claim him again. That being said, there are several things going on in schools that are nutty – and it extends much farther back than our First Lady. For instance, the ‘no tolerance’ policy on drugs…I can understand the illegal drug ban, but a child has to go to the nurse for their inhaler, seizure medication, etc…can’t even carry an aspirin – even at the high school level. Can be expelled or shipped off to an alternative school for having an aspirin.

    I can understand encouraging parents to pack good lunches, but beyond that, the lunches should be up to the parents. I can even see sending home a note to the parents cause kids have a wonderful way of acquiring things for lunch that even Mom doesn’t want them to have. But confiscating food items….embarrasing the child? No…that goes beyond the ridiculous. That is part of the nuttiness going on…and it extends to public as well as private school.

  13. A sad commentary on life today. Parents are so stressed as it is that they have to be given a break every one in a while. This is not the end of the world. As a former teacher, I can say that I never inspected lunch boxes to see the contents.

  14. I agree with the article and all the comments. I’m sure many of the parents in the school would, too, if they had all the facts. Correcting someone’s parenting is like correcting someone’s grammar or someone’s religion. Help only helps when it’s invited.

  15. Several years ago, I worked as a teaching assistant at a small elementary school in Oregon. The principal was one of those “only healthy snacks” people. He asked me to make and fill a pinata for a special school party. When I asked him is I had to fill it with carrot and celery sticks, I got “the look.” I never heard him say another word to me about healthy snacks.

  16. You ask when you gave the schools permission to act “en loco parentis?” The day you registered your kids for their first day of school. From the beginning of the school day until the time they step foot on your front porch, they are the school’s responsibility. So yes, if your kid heads down to the creek on the way home from school to smoke some pot, he can be suspended.
    As for the cookie ban, that was going on way before Michelle Obama. I remember them not allowing birthday treats from home when I first became a teacher under Bush the elder, because they didn’t fit the school’s nutritional plan.

  17. You asked ” How do you spell institutionalized HYPOCRISY??!!!”
    I believe it is spelled M-I-C-H-E-L-L-E–O-B-A-M-A.
    She has been on a real kick for the last few years about making lunchrooms a dictatorship!

  18. Oh PLEEEZE! Stop blaming Michelle Obama for everything! She’s just trying to get people to THINK about what they feed their children.

  19. For a person as old as I am, I have a very good memory. I can remember when I was in third grade and told my mother I only wanted cheese sandwiches for lunch as my “entree”. She probably was relieved that she knew exactly what to make. Every lunch for every school year, a piece of fresh fruit was included in my lunch. Now my good friend on the other hand had a mom that was a school nurse. This friend always had a Tastykake in her lunch as part of a “well – balanced” meal. Go figure. But I did not feel deprived because I had plenty of healthy home-baked goodies available when I got home.
    I always included fresh fruit in my kids lunches years later. My kids had allergies so Oreo cookies were never in their lunches. I am probably one of the few people who did not like Oreos anyway; home baked tasted so much better to me.
    I read this story but did not know about the jellybeans as a reward. I would have been furious.
    But you have to realize that some parents put soda in their kids’ thermos. Some parents really are clueless about nutrition and good food choices.
    While I was in high school my mother ran the school lunch program in another school system. I never at school lunches. They looked like pig swill to me and sucked up way too much time to stand in line to get.
    This whole story runs along the same lines as the “concerned” parent who reported a little girl walking home from the school bus drop-off and started grilling the kid about her name and address, etc. Of course we tell our kids to never give out this information but the concerned parent demanded it. In the meantime the real mom was walking to meet her daughter and was within sight. The concerned parent called the police about the child being “all alone”.
    I believe in schools but I would probably opt to home school my kids. I would let them play in a fenced in yard with a wooden fence so the neighbors could not see them playing in the yard while I was in the house washing clothes, washing dishes, preparing meals rather and sitting on a chaise lounge watching them play.

    • Thank you!! It needed to be said. It’s a big leap from encouraging to dictating…
      But, JA’s article was not about politics, so how about if we all stay on topic? It’s the Lunch Room Nazi we can all agree needs to have her wings clipped.
      I feel bad that the child felt embarrassed by being singled out!

  20. As a former teacher, I heard my colleagues complain for years that some parents blame schools for everything that is imperfect in their children. Whatever parents have neglected, schools are expected to provide, everything from study habits to respect and discipline. Apparently times have changed! Do children now require a notarized statement listing everything a parent packed in a lunch? This is a ridiculous situation.

    And how has Michelle Obama caused this? By involving children in planting gardens and encouraging everyone to pursue a healthful diet? Some folks have strange ideas about how school systems operate. And while Oreos aren’t my favorite, they are certainly better than jelly beans!

  21. Suzanne, “By involving children in planting gardens and encouraging everyone to pursue a healthful diet?”
    That sounds quite nice actually.

    Nancy, that “concerned parent” sounded more as harassing than conserned.
    Soda everyday, not so good. But once a while, should be ok.

  22. Everything should be done in moderation! There is nothing wrong with a child having cookies once in awhile. I would be furious if I was that Mother and the school would definitely hear about it! I am sure part of this is because she was a scholarship student. Adults bullying children is unforgivable!

  23. I would not wish the little girl the unpleasantness of throwing up, but it would have served the LRP right if she had, preferably in her lap. My first grade teacher instructed me to “just try one bite” of raw carrot (a practice of which my mother, who was the other first grade teacher was aware and which she had warned my teacher would not be a good idea in my case), whereupon, I immediately threw up all over the table, my teacher and myself. My mother took me home for a bath and clean clothes while my teacher cleaned up the mess and watched both classes of first graders for the remainder of the lunch and recess period. Yes, this was a very long time ago, 1957, to be exact.

    I was also an elementary level teacher for over 30 years, and I did teach nutrition, but to the best of my recollection, I never told a child they must or couldn’t eat anything, especially not anything their parent had packed in their lunch! Most teachers I’ve known are not anxious to fill the “in loco parentis” role. In fact, most devoutly wish more parents would be more active in their children’s parenting, and leave less of it to the teachers. The necessity of it is to protect and educate the children in the absence of the parents, not to usurp the function of the parents. This incident is outrageous. One can only hope it is an isolated event perpetrated by an overzealous lunchroom supervisor who meant well, but carried it too far.

  24. I would pack two lunches at take one of them to the lunch room police myself.
    my daughters or sons would contain what they considered a healthy lunch. The other would contain what I had as a child. A Bologna sandwich, A piece of fruit. a thermos of milk, and a half of candy bar (snickers). Of course we then ran and played and burned off calories, so we needed them. What we had for lunch. I grew up to be a healthy adult. Shame on the school.

  25. I have a couple of additional thoughts. The same school most likely does little to stop bullying by other students, either verbal or physical. Start thinking about that, and limiting cell phone use to after school use. Now it is all too common for not only students, but teachers to be distracted by surfing on their phones. The other main point is that the lunch room police do not know the dietary needs of students, there are actually students for whom caloric control is contraindicated. There are kids who actually have trouble putting on weight. A little treat is not necessarily bad. The last point is that this regimentation will also contribute to some eating disorders. Schools should take a huge step back of several decades and cease the one size fits all, and testing concentration.

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