At about 9pm on the night before Halloween I receive a call from BBC Five Live. Would I be available to come on the show in the morning?
Sure, I say. What’s the story?
Well, it’s about Halloween.
Good. Very topical. Go on.
Well, says the researcher, clearly warming up for something jaw-droppingly irritating and preparing himself for my subsequent outburst, the World Cancer Research Fund people are advising parents to shun sweets and chocolate at Halloween, and instead to give their kids – wait for it now, it’s good….. – celery claws, ghost toast and Frankenstein fingers made of carrot sticks instead. So, what do I think about that?
What do I think? What do I think??! People. Good, kind, celery-eating people. What I think is this: please, oh pretty please, can we all stop being such complete ninnies?? Can we all stop pretending that kids are really really stupid and can’t see past a piece of healthy food cunningly disguised as something groovy? In short, can we please, please please, get a sense of realism, normality and sense back into parenting? That’s pretty much what I think, mate.
Needless to say, they got me on the programme.
Of course, the underlying point made by World Cancer Research Fund is a very important one: eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables is extremely important for our general health, and has been shown to reduce our chances of getting cancer. So it’s a no-brainer really: eat fruit and veg we all shall. And shovel as much as we can into our offspring we shall too. (Where possible, and unless we’ve had a really bad day and just cannot be bothered to fight over a few peas, yet again. On those days we wave our hands in the air and say ‘Fine! I give up! I’m only human!’ But on all other days, apples, bananas, broccoli and peas should form part of every child’s daily diet. Like, duh.)
So we’re all agreed that fruit and veg are important, and we should be encouraging our kids to eat it as much as possible, so that they can all fart their way into good health. Excellent. But where things get just a teeny weeny bit totally enormously astoundingly dumb-ass, is when folk try to take their message too far, and substitute Goodness and Sensibleness for all the things that are naughty, and bad for you and therefore FUN in life.
According to the WCRF’s children’s education manager, it is possible to have healthier alternatives “without losing any of the fun.” To which I say ‘What, none of it? Are you sure? You want to tell that to a normal nine-year-old and see what he thinks about that?’ No. Exactly. A teeny bit of the fun is indeed lost, the moment the carrot peeler comes out.
Good grief, you should have seen the look on my 6-year-old son’s face when I did the test on him and suggested carrot sticks instead of a bowl of Haribos. It wasn’t sadness, nor disappointment, nor anger. It was pity. Pity that I could be so pathetic as not to allow them to let their well-brushed hair down once in a while and go ape. Pity that anyone could have lost their sense of fun to such a degree.
And he was right, of course. That was kind of my point to begin with. Kids are kids, and more fool the parent who forgets this and plays the Holier-than Thou, Rules-based Parent card 365 days a year. Because sometimes you need to lighten up dudes!! Sure, there are more and more ‘special days’ when a saccharine-fest is called for, and we have to keep a tab on all of this, and say ‘no’ sometimes. Crikey, I am constantly having to say ‘no’ to one or other of my children’s requests. Buying a Halloween costume, for example, was given the thumbs down, because I just cannot let myself be so wholly taken in by the hideous commercialism of the whole event now. So we make our own witches hats and ghost costumes. But a bit of trick-or-treating at friends’ houses and a giggly, girlie sleepover was approved. (Note to self: sleepovers are a nightmare!! Think twice next time….)
But there are other times – important, sanity-saving times – when we should say ‘Oh what the hell – off you go and have fun with your friends.’ Tomorrow they can eat celery and tomatoes. Today is a day for fun.
And having fun is a VERY important part of being a child. Please keep them healthy; please feed them fruit and veg; but please let them have some unadulterated (or should that be ‘adultified…..?) fun too. Thank you.
On Halloween itself I get a call from BBC News 24, to ask if I could come on the show to give my views again. Here’s the link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_CFo_y_QrY It’s a little ‘sweet’ for my liking, but if you bear in mind that I’m looking at a camera, not person, I’m expecting a 2-header with another guest who never appears and my ear piece is falling out, it’s not bad. Feedback, as ever, welcome. Cheers all.