The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 28, 2007


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The tribe has voted — and they all disagree with me about snack-free soccer

"You're going straight to that special circle of Hades reserved for bad soccer moms," I muttered to myself as I clicked on "Send." "See that long branch? That's a limb. Hear that buzzing sound? That's a chainsaw, cutting it off behind you."

I was feeling reckless on that late evening last week, as I sat at my computer. I had just sent off an e-mail to all the parents whose kids are on my son's fall soccer team, suggesting that maybe we could skip the seasonal ritual of making up a schedule to provide group snacks for each game.

By the next morning, I was almost hyperventilating as I turned on my computer. Had I been voted off the island? Drummed out of the CSA? Would I find "BAD MOM" written on my car in shaving cream when I went outside?

No. None of those. Perhaps I was the only parent on the team — maybe even in the league — who did not feel that a snack schedule was necessary, but

I was being treated kindly. There were no repercussions, other than my own lingering questions about why I'm the only one who feels this way.

Actually, I'm not quite the only one. My friend Terry sent me an essay from the New York Times several months ago about this very thing. So there's one parent in New York with the same sentiments. But New York feels very far away right now, if it's just the two of us.

Ever since my son started playing soccer at the age of four, the season has always begun with a parent circulating a snack sign-up list. It seems to be a given that kids need their halftime snacks. And although I'm not advocating for undernourishing our children, I just want to make a case for the fact that the average soccer game for this age group is about 75 minutes long. As long as the kids bring their water bottles and stay hydrated, do we really have to assume that they cannot go 75 minutes without graham crackers and apple slices?

Or might it in fact be the case that learning to go an hour and a quarter without eating is yet another step in acquiring the self-discipline required for sports?

By contrast, we just finished two consecutive seasons of snack-free baseball — spring and summer. The subject simply never came up. Occasionally, kids would arrive at a game straight from another activity, hungry, and would pull out their own snack to eat before play began. I never heard any other kid express jealousy or demand to know where his portion of the snack was. The kids understood.

Of course, I respect the fact that there are some children who really should have snacks in the midst of a game, either for reasons of metabolism, blood-sugar imbalances or personal preference. But if that's the case, then having parents take turns providing for the team deprives us all of a teaching opportunity. It seems to me that the process of choosing a sensible snack, finding the right way to package it and remembering to bring it along is a fine skill to include among the benefits of organized sports. It's yet another way of learning responsibility. Kids who forget a snack once and regret it are likely to remember the next time.

My daughter's kindergarten teacher sent home a summary last week describing what had happened in the first ten days of school. She had surveyed the kids about what they liked best so far — and what they liked least. Somewhat to my surprise, the single entry that came up most in the "like least" category was, in the kindergartners' words, "trying to remember everything we need to bring to school every day!" Backpacks, bus tags, lunch money for long days, snacks for short days, library books, sneakers for gym.

The kindergarteners are right — it is difficult to remember all of life's details. I still forget things I need for work when I leave in the morning. And yet I believe that these simple organizational processes are among the most important skills that children learn in grade school. Kids who have to remember a snack for soccer are having yet another chance each week to make sure they are well prepared for the event at hand.

As for the response to my suggestion, a couple of parents eventually wrote back to say "I think snacks are important;" others simply signed up to bring snacks, without comment. And I should mention that in my initial e-mail, I also signed up to provide snacks on the first available game day myself, not wanting anyone to misconstrue my point and respond along the lines of "Well then, you don't have to do it!"

But it turned out there was a different moral to the story of the snack e-mail. No one has banished me from the soccer field or crossed me off the CSA membership list. My parenting peers are more patient, more understanding and more flexible than I had given them credit for. The lesson to me, ultimately, is a reminder that intelligent minds can disagree but friendships need not be lost over it. That's a good lesson, at my age.

Meanwhile, I guess the kids get a few more years before they'll be required to meet their own midgame nutritional needs.

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito