It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Halloween Candy

What a lot of good ideas you all had! Turns out most of you are Rationers to one degree or another. Rationers with a side of Hoarders, Rationers who Hide some but not all.

I rather like the new option you provided me, which I’m calling the Traders. I see Anastasia and Bethany’s objection to the “Halloween Fairy” — do we really need another layer of cutesy pretense and complication? — but I do like the idea of giving kids the option of trading in all or part of their candy for a gift. Maybe your child would honestly prefer a new Lego accessory or a couple of books instead of the extra eight pounds of candy. What a good option!

Another terrific idea: Turning the chocolate into a fondu! An idea the whole family can enjoy. Heck, you could throw a party. That way, the chocolate gets shared among many, instead of consumed by one or two, it is eaten with healthy fruit, and becomes a social event for the whole family. A really good option. I suspect gummi worms would not work for this project.

Like Kristy, I’m bemused by all the children who get bored by candy. In my years of daycare and parenting, I’ve only known one child who didn’t have a sweet tooth. Every other kid I’ve known? Would happily devour the entire Halloween bag in a couple of days to a week, given the opportunity.

There’s only one true Glutton in the list, the person who lets the child eat the entire bag, at the pace of their choosing.

And me? I was of the Glutton camp. I understand — and approve of! — the value of teaching a child the skills of impulse control and moderation. However, if the result of that is candy every day? For months on end? That’s not a lesson I wanted to teach my kids, either. Candy is not something you get every day. It’s an occasional treat.

Now, I could have controlled that, too. I could have put the candy aside and let them have some a day or two a week. But that would have been our treats for the entire year. I’d rather some of our treats be a trip to the ice cream store, or dessert after dinner. (We have dessert in our home maybe once a month. Maybe. Sweets are occasional treats.) I didn’t want to be monitoring that damned bag for the entire year.

So, the combined result of principle and laziness … a total Halloween glut. My kids (as I did as a child) came home, dumped their bags out on the living room floor, and together, the three of them, sorted, traded, bartered. And yes, tossed. There were some things that all three of them agreed were gross.

Mum got her share, too, of course. (Chips! Doritos!) Some were set aside for Christmas stockings. And the rest? They took their bags to their rooms, and I ignored them. About a week later, I’d go into their rooms and clean up the wrappers, etc. And yes, for that week, we were especially diligent about pre-bed tooth-brushing!

And so, within a week, it was done. Over. Until next year.

It’s not a solution that everyone would choose, and that’s fine, of course. I’m not telling anyone how they should do it, just telling you how I did it. The result for my kids is young adults who are at a good weight for their height and build, and who eat well and healthfully… and who indulge in treats on occasion. Could you get that result with another approach? Of course! One abberant night in a year does not make a pattern. It’s the consistent lessons and patterns of the other, normal 364 days that teach and train!

November 1, 2011 Posted by | food, health and safety, holidays | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Junk food, maternal compromise, the essential skill of basking

The very smart Mir was discussing the easy Mommy points available when the otherwise nutritionally hard-assed mother slips the occasional bottle of wine cookie into her children’s lunch boxes. Said kids will be delirious with glee — and overwhelmed with gratitude for this sugar-sweetened evidence of Motherlove, natch.

When my kids were little (before the dawn of HFCS awareness and when trans-fats were just an oily smear on the horizon), I routinely passed off fruit as dessert, refused to allow pop into the house, and kept junk to the occasional (once or twice a month) treat. Breakfast was French toast or hot cereal with fruit, scrambled eggs, and, sometimes, homemade soup. Why not?

My eldest once made me Very Proud, when, at the age of three and confronted with a potluck dessert table filled with ooey-gooey sugary goodness, opted for an apple. Her choice, not mine. (Once in a while a kid will do something like that, something totally virtuous, and they’ll do it IN PUBLIC!! Don’t be all modest and self-deprecating. Don’t say “Oh my God, that NEVER happens at home!!!” Grab your moments of glory when they come to you. BASK in it woman, BASK! Because you know it’s only a matter of time until they’re caught picking their nose and eating it during storytime at the library.)

So, apples for dessert, yes, but my kids were also drawn to those magical, mystical super-sweetened glow-in-the-dark, marshmallow-studded breakfast “cereals”. Pointed at their gaudy boxes and gave me puppy-dog-eyes in the breakfast food aisle. Not that they’d ever eaten any of it, of course. This was the mother whose children didn’t eat candy of any sort before their third birthday, and certainly not for breakfast. It was just the IDEA of such ooey-gooey decadence. For BREAKFAST!

I was unmoved by puppy-dog eyes.

“That is NOT food.” And I really believe that. It is not food, no matter how many vitamins and minerals they sprinkle on the cardboard, styrofoam, sugar and chemicals after the fact. Send my kids off to school … well, okay, I was homeschooling then … Send my kids off to the livingroom with THAT in their bellies and expect them to think, never mind stay awake until lunch? I think not.

More puppy-dog-eyes. “Sorry, guys. It’s not food. That stuff is nothing but junk.” Which gave me my semi-brilliant idea. We were, after all, comfortably past the no-candy, fine-tune-their-palate years. We were into the sensible-choices-for-life training. Junk food was allowed, in moderation. The children were learning to monitor and evaluate their own intake. They were beginning to grasp the difference between junk and real food, the purposes of each.

Junk food, junk cereal… Hmmm…

“Okay, guys. Which box would you like?”

Three sets of eyeballs almost, but not quite, landed on the floor of Aisle Five. There was a lively debate before a box of Lucky Charms ended up in the cart. Three kids were beside themselves with anticipation of the gustatory bliss that awaited.

Here was the deal: one box of “junk cereal” was purchased each month, which we had (are you ready for this?) in lieu of candy!

I know. Deviously brilliant, huh?

I figure even CocoPuffs have less sugar and more fiber than, say, a Caramilk bar, and less fat than potato chips. The added vitamins and mineral in the drek, put there to convince the gullible that this is a food with actual nutrient value, give it more nutritional merit than you’d be getting in yer average package of Twizzlers. A handful of Lucky Charms eaten as finger food instead of Fuzzy Peaches. Struck me as a reasonable compromise. The point of monitoring is not to refuse yourself these nutritionally-void goodies entirely, but to ensure that they are occasional treats in an otherwise healthy diet.

Over the years they worked their way through a wide range of boxes that would never otherwise be given shelf space in my home. They got their sugar-coated ick, but they learned its appropriate place in the nutritional scheme of things. And now that they’re teens and beyond, not one of them ingests the stuff. (Yes, they eat junk, just not this junk.) The most popular breakfast around here in summer is non-fat plain yoghurt with fresh fruit stirred into it, and in winter it’s oatmeal.

And they make it themselves.

Hm? What? Sorry, can’t year you … I’m basking.

October 10, 2008 Posted by | food, health and safety, my kids | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments