The Battle of the Birthday Cake

Now that’s a cake!

I love birthday cake. My favorite is the Carvel ice cream cake, when you get chocolate and vanilla with the little crunchy bits in the middle. I hesitate to call it ice cream because it is more like cold chemicals, but I still love it. I don’t discriminate, though. I am equally happy with “traditional” birthday cake as well. I love frosting. And strange colors that don’t belong in nature. Pretty much if there is a birthday party and cake involved, I am first on line.(After the kids get served, of course!) So, it is with a heavy heart that I have made the decision to not bring cake into school to celebrate my kids’ birthdays.

I did not come to this decision lightly; I asked the director of my son’s preschool what the policy was. No to cupcakes but yes to yogurt or muffins. I queried as to why no cupcakes. The frosting has too much sugar I was told. Befuddled by this, I politely told them that muffins and yogurt have equal amount of sugar. But, the frosting was still banned. I then moved onto my daughter’s elementary school for their food policy. Basically there isn’t one. I am free to bring in whatever treat I want to celebrate her birthday

I spoke to my friends, clients and other parents around school. The number one complaint I hear is that there are too many parties. Parties for the holidays, for birthdays, for the day before spring break, for Valentine’s day, for Halloween, the list goes on and on. But the parties never stop.

Too much cake, too much frosting, too much sugar = not a good thing (image from Martha Stewart Living)

And so, I have made a decision. I, the great lover of cake and all its accoutrements, have chosen to NOT bring in cake for my children’s birthdays. This decision saddens me. As I have already stated, I love the pomp and circumstance of birthdays and birthday cake. But, I looked at it from a different perspective. Both my kids have birthday dinners. Those dinners involve cake and/or ice cream. They each have a party. Again, with either cake or ice cream. Do they really need a third party with friends at school? And, again I believe, the answer is no.

I wish the answer was different. I wish that birthday parties were the only times kids got extra sugar in the day. But it isn’t. Along with the aforementioned parties, there are numerous fundraisers each week that sell candy, plus the ice cream man, who hovers, directly outside the school gates every day. It is a veritable monster wave of sugar, and I’m desperately trying to keep myself and my kids close to the surface of the ocean of sugar, so we don’t drown as the waves of parties with treats come crashing over us.

Please don’t think me an ogre or awful parent for making this choice. I do plan on bringing some sort of special treat for my daughter, a little trinket she can give out to her friends, or a donation of books to her class. But, I realize that just sitting around complaining on the playground with other moms isn’t going to change the current party culture in school. It is up to individuals to stop the insanity. To NOT let them eat cake. We need to get over the guilt that our kids won’t feel special. They feel special because we love them and care for them, not because we bring them sugary frosted cake as a treat. Perhaps it will be a ripple effect and other parents will do the same. Maybe it will be such a change that we will need an extra room to house all the books that get donated. Wouldn’t that be great?

How do you deal with the Battle of Birthday Cake? Do you bring it to school? Is that their only party? Do you refrain and do a treat or toy instead? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.



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About the Author: Courtney Abrams is a Health Coach and Founder of Roslyn Wellness. Trained at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, she helps clients work within the realities of their day to day lives to find ways to make small and manageable changes to their health that can maintained over time. Her clients include people trying to lose weight, beat sugar, increase their energy, cook simple healthful food and reduce stress to name a few. She also shares a passion for food policy and educating people about the foods they are eating and the governmental role behind much of it. You can learn more about Courtney and Roslyn Wellness at

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