Saturday, December 24, 2011

Classroom Holiday Parties (Or What Stinks?)

Lately, I find myself writing about life with diabetes in a way that sounds like Heloise Helpful Hints.  Except I am not Heloise and I sincerely doubt that Heloise even understands our kind of diabetes.  So for Heloise and anyone else interested, I am going to give you my take on the classroom party. 

First off, let me get this right out in the open. 

Most classroom parties are fun.

Mother's Day is my favorite.  I am sure you can guess why.  Who doesn't enjoy reading love sonnets about themselves and sipping tea with their child?

I also enjoy Valentine's Day for the same creativity that my girls put into their thoughtful sentiments to friends.

But one party makes my hair literally stand on edge and my head instantly pound:  The Classroom Holiday party.

Classroom holiday parties stink.

Oh, I know.  This really doesn't sound like me.  I mean, I love, love, love everything that is fun and festive. Sadly though, I have to admit...classroom holiday parties really do stink.

Let me give you some background before I give you my perspective on this one.  After my first full year with diabetes I learned a few things:

1.)  Kids first, diabetes second.
2.)  Parties can be fun.
3.)  Make happy memories to replace the not-so-happy ones.
4.)  Who eats crafts anyway?
5.)  Prepare for the unexpected. 

You may be asking yourself why I think parties stink.  That learning list doesn't seem like anything is really bad about parties. 

And that is true, mostly.  Parties are fun, EXCEPT for this one.

Classroom holiday parties are so over-the-top in a way that makes a child (and a parent) lose their mind.  While I do try to instill the belief that kids are first and diabetes is second, this isn't just a quick party.  It is a day (or three at my oldest daughter's school) packed with games, movies, sampling every religious tradition, Santa visits, singing, AND excessive eating.  Worse than Halloween, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, Easter and Fourth of July combined, holiday classroom parties are one big nightmare.  It is exhausting.

At this time of year, even the most well-behaved children easily become unglued (even my own!).  Kids are hopped up on magic, surprise and excitement.  They know a candle is going to be lit or a big guy in red is coming or maybe that Elf on a Shelf is going to drop off a secret present.  Whatever it is, kids are wired from the moment that they wake up until they literally, collapse into bed at night.

This leads to what I like to call 'The Bad Behavior Effect' or why holiday classroom parties stink.

It can strike at any moment but generally appears during the holiday classroom party.  This generally sucks the joy out of thinking that parties can be fun.  Have you ever listened to whining while driving from Michigan to Florida.  My friends, that is a 24 hour long trip and let me tell you, the classroom holiday party always have a couple of children that will relentlessly whine.  By the time you are out of the room, it will have felt like you should be entering Florida.

My favorite moment is when kids start stuffing in frosting and candy from the craft project (either decorating sugar cookies or mini gingerbread houses).  Once one child does it, the entire classroom does it.  Blood glucose immediately rises in the children with healthy pancreases and once their natural insulin kicks in, the kids find themselves in tears over who gets to sit next to Sally wearing the blinking elf hat.  This is most surely why no one should be eating their craft project. 

Ironically, this is one of my own child's most favorite memories.  She still giggles in a way that is much too old for her eight years and says, "Isn't it funny that all of that frosting made Jo go crazy?  I knew he shouldn't be doing that!  He needed some protein!"

In my own child, one without a working pancreas, because the festivities go on all day long in the classroom, her blood sugars never get a break.  Her numbers stay uncomfortably high all day long - even before eating - as the day is just packed with entertainment. 

Until Newton's Law kicks in.  What goes up must come down.

Which they do drop.

Big, ugly, drops.

Beyond the swinging blood sugars during holiday classroom parties, there is also this other effect of surprise additions to the menus.   Some overly zealous parent will bring in a sneak attack of food.  Even thought I am prepared to expect it, I am never quite prepared for exactly what will happen.  One year, a mom actually handed out full sized bags of m&m's to each child.  I am not talking about the 1 oz bag either, but the actual large bag of candy.  Another parent brought in bakery donuts AND bakery cupcakes.  Obviously that caused a stir with parents dealing with nut allergies but in general, this is what is so difficult with the classroom holiday party.  No one is ever satisfied.

Unlike any other party we attend throughout the many months of the year, this one puts us all on edge.  Maybe it is because there are 25 students, with an average of 10 extra siblings, and 15 parents hanging out in the classroom too.

With the heat on.

In a space of about 25' x 25'.

With the hallway door closed.

Yes, maybe this is the number one reason why classroom holiday parties stink.

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