Sunday, April 24, 2011

Taking Candy from a Baby

, I don’t know who originally thought taking candy from a baby was all that easy. Instead, I think talking candy from a baby should be a metaphor for something that people think will be a snap, but in reality turns out to be really, really hard.

Case in point:

It is well established with my family members, among my friends and in nursery school, that I limit my daughter’s sugar intake. I have to emphasize the word limit—I do not deny her altogether as I once did. I’m not an extremist, but I refuse to buy into our society’s obsession with sugar. I maintain that we do not have to frost the first meal of the day. We do not have to eat a dessert after dinner every night. And we do not have to celebrate every holiday—from Earth Day to Birthdays—with pounds and pounds of sugar.

All this refined sugar—whether it’s from organic beets or high fructose corn syrup is making us sick: replacing nutritious calories with empty ones; causing tooth decay; fostering insulin resistance, and possibly even leading to metabolic syndrome, which is now thought to be the culprit behind heart disease.

I am tired of being the mom who says “no” all the time: When everyone else is piling their plates high with homemade macaroons, and chocolate matzoh crunch, and jellied candies at the end of the seder. When I’ve promised my daughter a special treat after dinner, but I’ve found out that she’s already been slipped a goodie by a well-intended grandparent. When it’s a Spring Celebration in nursery school, and, right after the kids have just celebrated a birthday party with cake, juice and strawberries they return to their classroom for a second celebration—with cupcakes, chocolate, marshmallows, and lemonade.

The last episode occurred this week. I had gone into the classroom to return a book, but when I saw Sophie mainlining frosting at celebration number two, I lost it. I went to my mother, the director, and told her I was upset. My mother (who agreed with me this time) went vigilante—before I said anything, she walked into the classroom and took said candy from my baby.

Needless to say, my daughter was neither oblivious to the pilfering of her cupcake, nor was she down with it. She instantly fell to the floor screaming and crying. I hid in the adjacent classroom, debating, for a moment, whether to let her teachers work through it. But I also knew that none of this was Sophie’s fault, and she was just reacting the way any addict would if you blew the coke out from under her nose. I came in to clean up the mess. “Mommy, uppy!” she cried, when she saw me.

“What’s going on, Sophie?”

“Read me a book to calm me down!” was her response.

So I took her out of the room, read her a couple of books, explained why, grandma took her cupcake. “You had too much sugar, Soph. One slice of cake is fine, but cake AND chocolate AND a cupcake AND juice AND marshmallow peeps is way too much. All that sugar will make you sick and give you cavities.”

“I want it back!” she wailed.

“Of course you do. And its fine to have another treat another day. But we’re done for today.” Grandma came in the room. Sophie wouldn’t look at her. Grandma, after all, was responsible for the cupcake caper.

“Sophie, I wrapped up your cupcake for you to have another time.”

“After lunch?”

“No Sophie. Another day,” I jumped in.

“After dinner?” Ach. This kid.

“No Sophie. Dinner happens later on today. You can have it ANOTHER day.”

Of course, I’m lying. The truth of the matter is she will never see that cupcake, full of nasty artificial ingredients and dyes, again. I will be throwing it out. Right behind it would be the marshmallow peeps and the jelly beans.

And by the time I do, she will have forgotten all about it.

Here’s the thing. Children are not inherently sugar-crazy. We create the desire (this being the royal we—marketing, peers, the institutionalization of bad nutrition every where, from schools to hospitals). And once kids have that first lick of a lolly, that first spoonful of ice cream, it’s all over. Perhaps, before this introduction it might have been possible to take candy from our babies. But once the get a taste of the stuff, I pity the one who attempts to pry it from their grasp.


Your Name Here said...

We also constantly battle sugar intake, my daughter still does not accept that dessert doesn't come after EVERY meal. But keep in mind your ploy of secretive removal will only work for a little longer (we employed the same tactic after all major holidays). If it's important to her (as important as a cupcake is to my daughter) she will REMEMBER. Maybe not this time, but soon. I would have awoken to her standing next to my bed, staring at me. "It's tomorrow. Can I have my cupcake now?"

Melissa B said...

I know you are absolutely right about this...and dread the day I find her next to my bed, asking for the cupcake (or Halloween candy, etc. etc.). Though, to her credit today she told her teacher that she could not eat the marshmallow at snack because her mommy said so, but perhaps she could save it for after lunch. But I know that won't last either. I have had luck casting fruit as a dessert. Any other ideas? I'm open!