It only took me a few months of being a parent of a child who understood the meaning of "ice cream" to change my mind. Long enchanted with the idea of mobile musical sweet frozen treats, sometime in the summer of 2003 I converted to a quietly glowering group of mothers who would cheerfully sign a petition for a global ban on ice cream trucks. It's not even that we're worried about pedophiles behind the wheel (much though re-runs of that Law & Order episode give us the shivers). It is this: we see the sinister-cheer of the music of the ice cream truck as an insidious and unfairly omnipresent, exploitative bit of marketing to our children.
And, judging from today's New York Times, we're mad, and we're not going to take it any more.
As I read the story of moms who have stood up in protest against ice cream carts in Brooklyn playgrounds and ice cream trucks in Las Vegas streets, it was all I could do to stop from raising my fist in solidarity (my husband looks at me strangely when I do that). Says one parent of a three-year-old: "I feel kind of bad about having developed this attitude. I want Katherine to have the full childhood experience and all. But it's really predatory for them ... to be right inside the playground like this."
In the article, some parents bring up the worries about "creepy" sellers or the exhaust from idling trucks. Living in a city where I'm frequently faced with the siren "ding" of the bell on the Icicle Tricycle -- most of which are driven by a trim and un-creepy young woman -- these aren't my concerns. It's the unavoidable fact that the sound of the trucks inspire the begging.
We can avoid fairs and festivals where sweet treats are sold in carts; or prepare our kids with advance instructions ("there will be no Popsicles until after I do my farmer's market shopping!" is my warning to my three boys every summer Saturday). We can call the truck the "music truck" for a while (as other moms have mentioned in that piece, it only lasts until the kid gets old enough to understand cause and effect). We can skip the ice cream aisle when we're grocery shopping.
But we can't lock out the music. And our kids have figured out the work-around to all our best defenses. With all due respect to childhood joy and tradition and our mobile consumer culture, ban ice cream trucks! Who's with me?
Ice cream trucks unfair marketing to kids?