We had no less than four events in the calendar for young people this weekend. We visited Santa as a family in the Phoenix Park. We attended a kids movie night in my son’s school. We went to a Netflix premiere (swit swoo) and finally, attended the local GAA club’s Christmas Party.
The first up was our official family ‘Christmas Experience’. Fun road train ride, charming Santa in a fabulous surrounding, quite pricey to attend and cheap tat for a present – all par for the course. Teddy got a penguin sponge thing which he roundly rejected and instead fought good-o for the crappy toy quad bikes Dominic got. There was a hollow chocolate Santa involved also. It was mid morning, and for the sake of avoiding arguments I just wanted them eaten (with parental help) so that they’d be gone, and then we’d have peace.
That evening, Dominic’s school held a movie night for the kids. Off we went with him in his Disney Cars onesie pyjamas and clutching his cuddly Spiderman. We paid a donation for a goody bag which contained a bag of popcorn, homemade rice krispie bun, box of raisins and a bottle of water. Totally appropriate given most kids there were just five or six years old.
The next day me and Dominic headed off to the cinema for the Netflix premiere of All Hail King Julien (best described by Sinead from Bumbles of Rice as ‘House of Cards – jungle style’). For a cinema trip, there was a hell of a lot more dancing than sitting. While grown ups scoffed pastries and drank coffee the kids had a hip-hop dance class. For a full 45 minutes they were taught moves and encouraged to freestyle dance along to the ridiculously hyper theme tune. Seriously. The noise was insane, but they deserved the cupcakes on offer given the level of activity. There was Innocent Smoothies and coconut water for rehydration (me and Dom enjoyed a mix of the two) and they also received a small cone of popcorn going into to watch the cartoon.
The Santa visit and the cinema trip: both are private enterprises that have no social responsibility to enforce any kind of healthy eating policy but neither went overboard anyway. The school has a pretty firm healthy eating policy for lunch boxes and this was clearly followed through by the Parents Association in deciding what treats were appropriate. And although my kid loves all the chocolate and biscuits and crisps and such that he can get their hands on the fact is, if there’s restrictions in place he won’t question it. Adults hold the power in this regard. If it’s not made available, then he just can’t have it.
Now, let me preface the next part by saying I have massive respect for the GAA. They are excellently run in the main by committed volunteers and well funded, providing a really good value activity for communities across the country. It’s a well oiled machine and I’m always impressed by the numbers of kids from age four up that are giving it socks week in week out. But. This is what both boys were given at the local club’s Christmas party: a small bottle of fizzy orange, a Stinger bar and a bag of Mega Meanies (delicious pickled onion corn snack).
I wasn’t there but in the midst of a puppet show and Santa visit my husband managed to get most of them back from Ted who at two years of age has never eaten anything like that. He placated his tantrum with a couple of meanies. While his dad was distracted wrenching E numbers from a toddlers iron grip, Dominic drank as much of the orange as he could and got through his bag of Meanies. He has never been allowed fizzy drinks up to this point and still isn’t. The Stinger bar was confiscated. They also went home with a small selection box each and nice jigsaws from Santa.
I get that on a local level they were well meaning in wanting to treat the kids. But I feel strongly given their remit of the GAA that a bag of chocolate buttons and some popcorn would have sufficed.
Part of the strategy on tackling childhood obesity, whose slogan is ‘One Small Step At A Time’ is treat management and staying active. The GAA is a national institution, catering to all ages and as far as I’m concerned, handing out junk like this to toddlers and young school kids is a big step in the wrong direction.