Sunday, October 22, 2006

No Breakfast Until You Finish Your Dessert! (More Syrupy Confessions of a Parent Who Bribes With Gummy Bears)

Two-year-old Pigtail Sprite just now declared, “I gonna’ check my email now, mama, k’?” That speaks to how often she’s forced to stare at the back of my blog-addicted head while I obsessively refresh and check for new comments.

When I told her to go back to sleep because she doesn’t even have email to check in the first place (as if she’d understand a word), she barked back, “Back away, mommy!” and lunged kamikaze crazy at the keyboard.

Now Pigtail Sprite’s spastically throwing around her 2-year-old, 26.5 pound weight, transforming my once peaceful blogging workspace, a serene duvet squat on my bed with my laptop conveniently perched on a wooden breakfast-in-bed tray, into her very own hellacious, bellyaching toddler mosh pit. Time to sick her on her dad. That sounds awful, doesn’t it? My aim with this blog is to tell the mom-ful truth anyway, so there!

Isn’t this supposed to be a post about Pigtail Sprite and her beloved candy, chewing gum and Tic Tacs, not her annoying night waking, blog-terrupting habits?

So, where was I in publicly copping to my 2-year-old baby girl’s full-blown sugar addiction? Oh yeah. I confessed that she begs and pleads for candy at breakfast every day without fail. And it’s mostly all my fault, even if I’m not the one feeding her sticky candy habit.

I suppose I could say "no" to the many older ladies and neighbors who can’t seem to stop themselves from showering Pigtail Sprite with Tootsie Rolls, Blow Pops and hard butterscotch candies whenever they see her pink Chuck All-Star high-tops teetering in their admiring direction.

Nary a second passes before they find themselves gushing, “Ooh … Would you just look at the big blue eyes on that one… What gorgeous blonde pig tails on her … I'd just die for hair that color ... She’s just a dear, isn’t she? Would you mind if I give her some chocolate/lollipops/peppermints … (you name it and they offer it to her) …" I’m lucky if they remember to ask me if it’s okay first. Hello? No one even sees mama with such a cutie afoot.

Even when given the opportunity to politely decline, I just can’t seem to say "no." Instead I cross my tensed fingers hoping they’ll get the hint when I goofily cluck, “Next time we come you’d better have celery sticks and sliced carrots stashed in that candy drawer!” or “Now, now, Mrs. X, I won’t hesitate to send you the dentist bill if you don’t quit spoiling her like this.”

It’s gotten so bad that when we go to almost any office setting, school, doctor or otherwise, Pigtail Sprite automatically puts out her open palm in the direction of the insta-enamored with her receptionist and sweetly asks for “canny” and “wollypops” from perfect strangers and anyone else who will listen.

Let’s get back to her morning candy begging for a moment … I suspect Pigtail Sprite’s feeble entreaty-for-treats morning ritual, which is an utter waste of her time and mine (What does she care about time? She’s a baby, for Christ’s sake!) since I refuse to submit just because she’s throwing a colossal spazz-trum, likely has something to do with the vitamins disguised as gummy bears I give her every day (and those relentless “Isn’t-she-adorable” candy-happy office ladies I must learn to to stand up to).

ENABLING SUGAR HABITS BY BRIBING WITH VITAMINS DISGUISED AS CANDY Yeah, yeah, I’m making excuses. And yes, I know bribing children with candy is as wrong as feeding it to them for breakfast. I'm also fully aware that recent clinical studies show using food for reward and punishment can lead to eating disorders. Similar studies also conclude that restricting high-sugar and high-fat content foods can lead to children binging on those very restricted foods. (I should know because I wrote an in-depth article about one of those studies a few years back when I could still handle being a journalist and a SAHM, back when I had only one child, not three.)

Am I wrong to bribe my kids with nourishing gummy goodies masquerading as vitamins/Echinacea/Vitamin C? Probably "yes" and probably "no." Do I worry way, way too much about such trivial things or what? An emphatic “yes” to that last question, for sure.

Food bribery is food bribery now matter how healthfully a mom spins it. The fact remains that my kids eagerly lap up their wholesome, mom-approved/engineered breakfast if I bait them with the promise of Gummy Vites for dessert.

Just in case you wondered, the breakfast I bribe them to eat with vitamin gummy bears usually consists of peppered broken-yolk fried eggs, whole wheat toast and/or low-sugar cereal and whatever in-season fruit they hand-pick on their own at the Sunday seaside farmer’s market. Because we are absolutely perfect (not)!!!

Pigtail Sprite and her two big brothers don’t care that their two gummy bears a day will help keep their lanky skeletons looking svelte and feeling good. They only care that they are sweet like CANDY! And they’re hooked.

“I haven’t had my one treat for the day,” my kids often whine through their stuffy noses before the inevitable begging for candy begins. When I had just one child, I had a strict NO CANDY rule, that is until I wrote that article for (the health portal/web site of the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Koop) about that darn revealing study!

By my second child I bent a bit and started the one treat a week rule. Finally, by my third child (my third in just shy of four years, mind you) I dropped my sugar standards almost altogether with inception of the ONE TREAT A DAY rule. What in the Charleston Chew was I thinking?!

That’s when the pediatric dentist stepped in. She pointed out that my eldest son had developed excessive plaque, the opaque, thick yellow kind that was noticeable even at a distance and just wouldn’t go away with regular brushing. I had to down an entire bag of peanut M&M's just to stomach the bad news ...

By now I think you’ve gathered that I’m a hyper mom-nazi (and hyper hypocrite) about way too many aspects of my children’s lives: TV intake, sweets and junk food consumption, violent games and toys, and many more nit-picky parenting-isms than I care to write about while my Pigtail Sprite sugar addict raucously burns off her ice cream birthday cake sugar high by diaper-rump-shaking and crooning the name of every single guest who attended her mini-party instead of sleeping right now, right here by my laptop, where she does not belong. (Run-on sentence alert sounding loud and clear.)

Ah, sweet compulsive helicopter parenting ... I do the best that I can one empty no-candy-for-a-week-threat and half-assed vitamin gummy bear bribe at a time.

Do you over-police your child’s diet like I do? If you do, studies show your well-intentioned junk food/sugar restrictions could come back and bite you in your sweet-ol' candy ass. Now that sounds official, doesn’t it?

Yank that Snickers bar outta' your newborn's mouth, would ya, and bite on these not so sweet kid-food facts, as parsed out by Dr. Ruth Kava of the American Council on Science and Health, while I bribe my Pigtail Sprite back to sleep without an iota of sweetness:

“Over and over, virtually inescapably, the "food police" exhort us to keep so-called junk food away from children in order to steer them toward healthy dietary habits. Recent research findings, however, suggest that attempts at policing youngsters' food choices may boomerang.

The June 1999 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition includes a report on two experiments conducted by J. O. Fisher and L. L. Birch, both of The Pennsylvania State University. The researchers examined how children aged 3 to 5 years responded to restriction of the availability to them of foods they preferred.

In the first study, a "target" food was made visible -- but inaccessible -- to 31 of the children during their regular snack periods. The children were permitted to eat a snack food they had rated equally desirable (the control).

After the 5-week experimental period, the children's positive comments about the target food were significantly more frequent than their positive comments about the control food, and they requested it more often than they had before its availability had become restricted.

In the second study, the control food was available to the subjects (37 children) throughout each 15-minute snack period, but the target food was available to them for only five minutes per snack period. Again, the children's positive comments about the target food were more frequent.

They opted for it more often than they opted for the control food, and they consumed more of the target food per snack period than of the control food.

Researchers Fisher and Birch note that, according to recent surveys, the diets of only a very small percentage of children in the United States conform to government recommendations. In efforts to improve their children's diets, parents may be contributing to this problem by limiting the availability of foods they consider harmful or merely unhealthful, such as convenience foods high in sugar and fat. Perhaps also partly to blame are nutritionists who advocate dietary regimens that center on the elimination of "bad" foods.

Findings from the Fisher and Birch studies suggest that external restrictions on children's food selections may be conducive to their preferring forbidden or "limited-access" foods, especially when such foods are commonly at hand. The researchers state that external dietary restrictions do not promote learning moderation of the intake of such foods.

"These findings suggest that children who experience restriction on a long-term basis will preferentially select and consume palatable, restricted foods when given the opportunity to make their own choices," said the researchers.

Dr. Gilbert L. Ross, medical director of the American Council on Science and Health, states: "Contrary to the simple-minded advisories issued by a few self-styled consumer interest groups, studies such as this suggest that unduly restricting all enjoyable foods merely because they're not as healthful or nutritious as some others (fruits and vegetables) may be counter-productive."

Now if you'll excuse me while I go pound a pound of almond-studded chocolate to stuff away those depressing food findings. Eating candy right before bed gives me nightmares, though, especially with Halloween drawing nearer and nearer (and sweeter and sweeter).


At 9:40 AM, Blogger sunshine scribe said...

Oh that is depressing. I must get some almond-studded chocolate myself to wash that down!

At 12:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a product of that-nice to see my own feelings in the form of a study. My parents were pseudo-hippies, with wheat germ, and homemade whole wheat bread, and NEVER any soda, candy, ice pops, twinkies, devil dogs, Kraft mac and get the picture.

Well, hello, today my favorite foods are Kraft mac and cheese (yes the scary orange stuff), oreos, twinkies-the junkier it is, the more I love it. I don't eat it too often, and I try to limit my kids' access to sweets, artificial colors, and preservatives. But it's more of an academic knowledge that it's bad for you-I still really like the junk food deep down.

I definitely think moderation is the way to go. Oh and did I mention that I used to bribe my son with chocolate to get dressed when we were in a hurry?

At 7:59 PM, Blogger Miz BoheMia said...

You know, you do what you can and the best thing about the US is the availabilit of any and all treats in as healthy a manner possible and peraps organic to boot... so if you buy candy, chocolate, chips, cookies and the like, go that route... it helps reduce the guilt!

And yeah, sometimes bribing is all that's left! Ay!

At 8:18 PM, Blogger Lucia said...

Why doesn't this bribing with candy last until adulthood? I'd like someone to entice me to eat my veggies by luring me with some nice chocolate afterward.

I enjoyed reading this post...candy aside, you have a nice way with words.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home