To Keep Children Sweet—Limit Their Sweets
One of the joys of being a grandparent is introducing the kid—slowly and conservatively—to forbidden sweets.
He put the bite in his mouth, and you could see the rhapsody spread over his little face.
Neither of my grandsons had any sweets at all until their first birthdays, when they were suddenly and ingloriously not only introduced to a nibble of cake, but also expected to paint themselves, their high chairs, and the whole dining room floor with brightly colored supersweet frosting and rich crumbs.
They both sat there amazed and a little dumbfounded. What is this cake and why am I suddenly allowed to make a huge mess? Who are these parents anyway? Are they mine? And why are my grandparents laughing so hard at me?
No wonder toddlerhood has them jerking around to find their identity.
So, sweets are suddenly permitted in small doses. I do not indulge my grandkids with an abundance of sweets—but at least now they can have an “approved” cookie (graham crackers or animal cookies) now and then, or anything without much sugar. Got to keep the good habits going as long as we can.
At coffee break the other day, when my coworkers and I do indulge in sweets, especially if someone is “treating,” we were remembering sugar overloads with our own children, and the disasters that ensued.
One woman remembered when her husband accidentally left out a whole plate of cupcakes—I think she was away from home. Their one-year-old, you guessed it, decided to explore and gorge on the cupcakes. (I’m guessing that he had also recently explored his own birthday cake as just discussed above.) And of course momma wasn’t very happy when she got home.
Another coworker, Cindy, remembered a time when her father took her daughters out for an excursion of some kind. The little girls were not that old, but apparently Grandpa didn’t really think about the fact that they weren’t used to drinking greatly sugared, gassed-up soda pop. He bought his granddaughter an orange bottle of pop (as we say in the Midwest), and of course, eventually it came back up—to the surprise of all. Except it didn’t surprise Cindy when she heard Grandpa’s sad tale.
I could identify with that, because my father was the one to introduce my firstborn, at eight months, to pumpkin pie and whipped cream. He never even asked. He sat at one end of the Thanksgiving table with a spoonful of pumpkin pie and whipped cream in one hand and Michelle in the other. He looked a little guiltily at me as he sneaked her the first bite. Of course I scowled, but I later laughed about it. I too reveled in introducing her to cotton candy at the county fair and watching her face screw up in wonder and amazement.
My oldest grandson has learned to say about foods he enjoys, “I like it.” Normally this is about the ham or mashed potatoes or strawberries his parents offer and are happy when he eats. On a recent visit to our house, after he’d enjoyed a good meal, I asked his mom and dad if he could have a little bit of my ice cream sandwich. He put the bite in his mouth, and you could see the rhapsody spread over his little face. “I like it,” he said, his eyes ablaze as if he just had his first kiss or something. Apparently there’s a difference between mashed potatoes and ice cream sandwich.
So, yes, sweets. Good in small doses, and carefully controlled around little ones.
Why limit sweets? Well, it seems obvious, but:
- Teeth and cavities. One daughter says, “Don’t even get me started on the difficulty of brushing teeth at age two!” And if they’ve had sugar, it just makes it that much more important to brush thoroughly.
- Lifelong struggles with weight.
- If children develop too strong of a sweet tooth early, they will have a hard time developing an appreciation for other flavors.
- Hyperactivity or behavior problems from sugar highs.
- Children won’t eat healthier things if filled up on sweets.
- Diabetes, kidney disease, kidney failure.
- Diabetic neuropathy—numbness and pain and inability to walk.
- Loss of limbs from diabetes.
And yes, these things do happen. My father experienced numbers 6 and 7.
I enjoy the tradition my mother followed: instead of buying candy as a treat from the grocery store, she would frequently buy a small container of whatever fruit was in season—early strawberries, sweet cherries, apricots, blueberries, or some other fruit. Of course there is sugar in these fruits too, but it is more wholesome, natural sugar, and fruits provide some nutritional value. The other thing she bought us in the grocery store was either a $0.39 book or a $0.79 small record with a story on it. All of which are much better than candy!
I would be remiss not to add that Mother also did indulge in some of her favorite sweets—chocolate-covered peanuts, for instance, but never to excess. I can usually still find a bag of something chocolate in her kitchen; she’s almost 92. She deserves it at this age, don’t you think?
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!
How do you manage sweets at your house or with your grandchildren? Send your comments to MelodieD@MennoMedia.org or Another Way, 1251 Virginia Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22802.