Parents have a lot to answer for if kids can't even fit into their school clothes
Published 02/07/2015 | 02:30
I blame it on the mummies. Maybe it's unfair, but they are the ones I see every day driving their little darlings, boys and girls, to school and picking them up when it's over.
And when it isn't school, it's to the ballet lessons or the football matches or the summer camps.
What's with them?
There was a time when children were allowed to walk to school, or training. But not any more. The car is always at the ready to make sure they hardly have to put one foot in front of the other.
So it comes as no surprise that Irish children are growing bigger - just how big we're now starting to realise.
These same mothers have to pay adult VAT rates on school uniforms for children from about the age of 10, because they can no longer fit into child sizes.
This is a situation that cannot continue.
Ironically, we're living in a society where size matters, where kids are obsessed with body image. And yet we've forgotten the simple rules of basic fitness.
It isn't aerobics, or gym workouts, or a fad diet, although they can all play their part.
It isn't even really deliberate. Real fitness is a natural thing, it comes from walking to the shop, the school, the friend's house. It comes from being active.
It comes from running for the bus - because you can always be sure with public transport in Ireland that unless you are very lucky you will be left some distance from your destination.
Of course, Ireland is a divided society, and in that sense it is getting awfully like America.
We have plenty of food, so we have a two-tier spectrum of children. On one side are the sedentary lot, watching TV, playing video games, obsessed with their phones. They're in big trouble, because with the mammy bringing them everywhere they just don't stand a chance. Then we have the sporty set - even though the mammy still drives them to training, at least they are working off the calories on the training field.
Like a lot of things, the solution lies in the schools.
Firstly, there should be an exclusion zone around all national and secondary schools, so that kids have to walk the final quarter-of-a-mile to their destination. (It would have the added benefit of ending the early morning chaos that the mammies and daddies cause with their haphazard parking outside schools.)
Secondly, there needs to be far more physical education in our schools. At the moment, it seems to be a hit and miss part of the curriculum. We need proper physical exercise and to educate children to be more aware of the benefits of exercise.
Thirdly, nutritionists need to be brought in to sort out a proper school diet, what is and is not permitted for school lunches.
I recently saw a pizza shop opening up in an unusual location and assumed it wouldn't do much business - until I was passing one lunch time and realised it was located close to two large secondary schools and was doing a roaring trade.
Remember Garrett FitzGerald's government falling overnight (1981) on the issue of VAT on children's shoes. We've come the full circle, 21st century parents have no problem with VAT on school uniforms - because their kids have got so big.