For Your Own Good

There’s a lot for a preschooler to learn – shapes, colors, how to play nicely with other kids.

Now, it seems, they also have to learn how to please the Lunch Inspectors.

I take you now to beautiful Raeford, N.C., home of West Hoke Elementary School. It’s at that school where a young girl arrived with a seemingly innocuous lunch from home: turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips and apple juice.

Not bad. Sounds pretty good, actually.

But not good enough to satisfy the Lunch Inspectors. A USDA worker at the school said the lunch lacked the full two servings of fruit and vegetables and that she’d have to have a school lunch instead – at Mom’s expense.

And at Mom’s outrage.

“I pack her lunchbox according to what she eats,” the girl’s mother told the Carolina Journal. “It always consists of a fruit. It never consists of a vegetable. She eats vegetables at home because I have to watch her because she doesn’t really care for vegetables.”

As a side note, the girl ate exactly three chicken nuggets from that school lunch.

Lot of vegetables consumed there, huh?

Now, I do understand that not every home situation is a good one. There are parents out there who’ll send their kids to school with two saltines and a can of pop – or who can’t send the kids out with anything at all. Situations like that need to be noticed and even helped, if they can.

But this was hardly abusive or neglectful. This was someone coloring outside the lines. No, I take that back – this was someone coloring with an unapproved crayon.

A higher-level state worker later said the lunch should have been passed. But to me, that misses the point. Passing the lunch, short of an obvious problem, shouldn’t have even been an issue. All it did was offend the parent and embarrass the school, without even solving the supposed problem.

But then, I really shouldn’t be surprised. There’s a lot of people today who seem to know what’s best for us. Everyone except us, apparently.

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive,” C.S. Lewis once wrote. “It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

I’m not saying it’s wrong to care. I’m not saying that no one can ever be corrected, or that a helping hand can’t ever be extended. But anything, taken to extremes, can cross the line. Just as too much insistence on self-reliance can become an excuse for neglect, too much insistence on “let me help you” can become a burden.

It doesn’t even need to be the state doing it. We’ve all seen the “helicopter parents,” hovering close lest their child’s foot hit a stone. A recent NPR story found that now many of those parents are now invading the workplace, calling employers to push for their children. One Michigan State study of 700 employers found that a third had received resumes by a parent and that four percent had even seen parents show up at the job interview.

But why not? It’s for their own good, right?

Maybe, just maybe, our society needs a cooling-off period. A chance to remember those preschool lessons about keeping your hands to yourself and doing your own work. A chance to land all the helicopters, official and unofficial, and just let kids have a normal school day.

Don’t act like a turkey.

Save it for the sandwiches.


One Reply to “For Your Own Good”

  1. Monitoring lunch bags! How over-reachingly ludicrous. Maybe her kids are—well actually the article alludes they are not—like mine, and sometimes request salad for breakfast. Or eat salad for mid-day or evening snack. Yes, it’s so true—they love to put salad greens, black olives and whatever veggies in—this is the secret, and makes it fun—a Tupperware. Add a little Redmond sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, olive oil and raw apple cider vinegar (a natural strep-throat fighter; in all our 27 years so far of kids, we’ve had ONE incident of strep), secure the lid, shake vigorously, and wa la—instant good for you breakfast or snack! The other day my 8-year-old boy was just about was crying because all the cucumbers were gone!

    They (regulators) do need to chill and give it a rest. Maybe our kids are eating better than what some tyrannical-overreaching-busybody-dare I say crackerbrained-lunch-inspector thinks he or she is seeing in that lunch bag. It’s none of their business anyhow. Tell ‘em to keep their hands out of our cupcakes, out of our lunch bags and off our kids!

    I’d like to turn this into a letter to the Editor, but I already have so many things I want to say. Maybe later. Maybe next. We’ll see. Yeah, I think I’ll do it. I like your columns. Keep up the good work and this investigating and exposing of ridiculous but very scary, freedom-threatening, subversive and oppressive operations.

    Katherin Engelhard (I wrote this Sunday, Feb. 19, and posted it here Feb. 27, 8:42 pm., because I did take my own “advice” or “talked myself into it” and turned it into a letter to the Editor, an expanded version, which I did submit last Friday Feb. 24. It was fun to write. You’ve certainly given me things to write about. Thanks. 🙂 )

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