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Editor’s blog: Gummy worms and Shakespeare

I pulled my raincoat hood over my head as my daughter dangled a sugar-coated, multi-colored, chemical-laden gummy worm in front of her mouth as we sat down for her first ever outdoor Shakespeare experience at the University of Colorado’s Mary Rippon Theatre.

The shame of it.  Here I am, a mother who edits a website that, in part, focuses on the importance of healthy children and healthy schools. A mother who holds up the national childhood obesity epidemic and urges her readers to take aim at it. This very same mother allowing her darling daughter to eat a “food” that lists corn syrup as its first ingredient to coerce her to embrace the bard.

The problem with all those excuses

The moment made me think of all the other times this summer I have heard parents say – and, in fact, thought to myself, “Well, it’s summer” as we sent little Jimmy or Ella off to buy an ice cream bar or toxic blue candy ring at the poolside snack shack.  It’s no different than the, “Oh well, it’s the holidays” junk food excuse. Or, in this pitiable example, the use of gummy worms to instill a deep appreciation of Shakespeare. All the excuses we use to give a nod and a wink to junky sweets and snacks.

This will, indeed, be a hard cycle to break.

I suppose it’s only appropriate that we were seeing the preview performance of the Comedy of Errors, which could be another title for this blog. My embarrassment was only amplified by the woman sitting to our right eating – as her pre-performance snack – a nice, fat cucumber from a paper bag. (Yes, this is Boulder).

My daughter made it through half the performance, and we considered this a success. We left when the rain picked up, and the hour was too late for any more worms.

To eat, or not to eat

Would she have stayed that long without whining or wincing with no gummy worm to fortify her through many minutes of incomprehensible (to her, anyway) olde English? Maybe. Shakespeare – and his interpreters – have some good fun with plays on the word “ass” and a few loud bodily function jokes that would appeal to any 8-year-old.  And I could see her eyes light up as some actors, dressed as magical fish creatures, crept to the stage under the glowing lights as the mist fell. Later, I caught her reading the program and spotting a young actor who attended her elementary school, which added greatly to her interest.

I will try it again, and while it might be a stretch to imagine my daughter nibbling on garden vegetables at a theater performance, I could at least establish a ban on snacks or sweets with zero nutritional value. As for that dark and frothy, locally brewed Bard’s Ale or the chocolate brownie my husband and I shared…isn’t there some research about the health benefits of chocolate and dark beer? Actually, there is. But if we do this again, we’ll have to forfeit something, too. You know, that role model thing.

Alas, no dark beer. No worms.


About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.