With all the food allergies and sensibilities of kids these days, signing up to be the snack parent for team sports is a mental load that most of us parents just don’t need…
Kids are busy these days. It seems like by the time our littles are out of diapers, we are filling their days with everything from Mommy & Me Playtime and T-ball to toddler soccer and tumbling. From the preschool playdates to the end-of-year sports season parties, parents could make a full-time career out of running their children around. And although these school and extracurricular activities are healthy for their growth and development, there is one thing that can be a huge hindrance for moms and dads: being the designated snack parent. And it’s for this very reason that I say it’s time to do away with the snack parent protocol.
What’s So Bad About Being a Snack Parent?
I’m sure some of you are balking at my negative attitude toward being a snack parent. It’s a time for kids to sit together at the school lunch table and munch on Goldfish crackers and juice boxes, right? It’s a celebratory time after little Susie’s soccer game, where all the kids get to laugh about the game while gulping Capri Suns and eating chocolate chip cookies, correct? I get that eating snacks together is a time of community, but the pressure and the commitment can be overwhelming for stay-at-home and working parents alike. And I’m here to tell you: group snacks are totally overrated.
Let’s Stick to Group Snacks for the Birds, Shall We?
Group snacks for school and sports have been around for a long time. I remember when I was in high school, I loved when a certain family signed up to be snack parents because it meant we would gorge ourselves on homemade cupcakes, brownies, and cookies after the game. But I also remember that back then, there were few—if any—food allergies. So why, with anaphylactic allergies to anything from peanuts to gluten to soy, are parents still asked to bring snacks for groups of twelve to twenty kids? It seems like an accident waiting to happen and a predicament no parent wants to be a part of.
The other reason group snacks are unnecessary is due to the group at large. If you have ever been around kids, you know how picky they can be. So how on earth do we parents navigate what to bring that won’t cause little Johnny to have a fit over the snack he doesn’t like? Or better yet, cause little Ricky to break out in a horrible rash from the crackers that may or may not have been manufactured at a facility that contains nuts? It is a lot of pressure on parents to make sure to get a snack for the masses while making sure it is allergy-friendly.
The Already Stressful Process of Getting Kids Ready for Sports
Let’s think of it this way: how stress-free is getting your kiddo ready for their Saturday soccer game? In my home of twin girls who play rec soccer, here’s what game day looks like: make sure both girls have both colored jerseys: check! Ensure shin guards are on properly, soccer socks are not backwards and four shoes are on the right feet (thankfully we are past that!), and that all are double-knotted and tied: check! Then come the accessories. One year it was matching team socks and hair bows. This year (so far), it’s just matching hair bows, so I then need to make sure both bows have not been snatched by my toddler and put into his arsenal of hidden trinkets and treasures. After that it’s time to fill up both water bottles, grab snacks that I know they will like, slather on some sunscreen, make sure their hair is not disheveled (and bows are in place), teeth are brushed, and off we go. Oops, can’t forget the soccer balls (that’s happened). Now, if you add snacks and drinks for the entire team, then I’m sure I will need to book myself a silent retreat after that. I’m going to drop a little nugget of insight here: youth sports should not be so difficult or stressful.
The Questions I Shouldn’t Need to Ask Myself
Here are just some of the questions that I shouldn’t need to think about when it comes to school and team snacks, but I find myself thinking about constantly:
- What might the food allergies be? Always my number-one question and something not to take lightly.
- How many snacks do I bring? Do I bring a healthy snack and a junky snack and a drink or just a junky snack and drink or no drink at all? Can you see where your head could start spinning?
- Do I make a homemade snack? Do I need to put them in cellophane wrapping with themed bows tied around them? Or can I get away with individually-wrapped Pirates Booty and dump them on the ground for the tiny people to pillage through?
- Should I bring sugar-free apple juice or organic fruit punch? Will parents get mad if I pump their kids up with something other than water?
- Do I need to bring snacks for the younger siblings who also attended the game? Surely we can’t leave any little ones unfed.
- How many times do I need to be snack parent? A school year is nearly 9 months long: does that mean I need to be snack parent every month? Every quarter? Who sets these guidelines?
I could go on and on with the questions that run through my mind whenever snack parent sign-ups come around. It’s not that I am cheap and don’t want to provide treats for my littles and their brood of friends and teammates, but there are so many unknowns that it seems best left to each parent.
I know exactly, down to the color of grapes, what my kids will or will not eat. That’s my job. I know that one of my kiddos loves grape juice boxes, one does not like pink lemonade, and one will drink pretty much anything that has a little straw strapped to the side. So when it comes to snacks at school or snacks after extracurricular activities, I prefer to just pack my own. I am all for eating snacks together and love the idea of building comradery, but why can’t kids do that in the comfort of their own snack bag?
We don’t need to make life with kiddos any harder on ourselves, you guys. We really don’t. Let’s try and simplify our lives a little more by recommending easy solutions to our already hectic lives. And when it comes to snack parenting, let’s all opt to BYOB: bring your own bag… of snacks, of course.