Ugh. The candy. The mountains and mountains of candy. Candy they collected, candy that I stocked up on for trick-or-treaters who didn’t come (scared off by H1N1, or busy with a Saturday night party), candy I bought, all for myself, in a moment among many moments of weakness.
I love this part and I hate this part. All those teeny tiny bars seem terribly innocuous – how can something so small be so evil? I pop ’em like popcorn, that’s how. I grab a handful without thinking about the calorie count. I hide stashes in the basement store-room and tuck the wrappers under balls of lint in my laundry garbage. Nobody’s the wiser…
Except me, of course, but I’m a grown woman; I can deal with it (someday).
The kids, on the other hand. Not so sure how to handle the kids. Once again, my memory deceives me (or does it?) about how things were when we were kids. I remember going out with a pillow case and coming home with it half-full. I remember gorging on candy for days, or, more accurately, I remember my sisters gorging on their candy for days: I was a saver. I liked to hoard it, in the back of my closet, ready to use as a bargaining chip in the dark days of winter, long after my sisters had finished their stash, but long before the Easter Bunny would refill it.
I don’t remember my parents telling me to stop. I don’t remember it being rationed. Surely it was. It must have been. Or maybe these memories came later, after I was old enough to look after my own oral hygiene. Surely when I was 5 years old, or 6, my parents didn’t let me have at my bounty without limit. Or maybe they did. It was a different time.
With my own kids, we set limits. Because if we didn’t, they wouldn’t either. I so wanted to be that parent who let their children make their own food choices. I so wanted my kids to know the difference between healthy and not healthy, and to opt for healthy all by themselves. I do believe that the best way to raise nutritionally responsible people is to set a good example. I do believe (to some extent) that if you withhold treats you will create dependencies and cravings.
But here’s another one of those things where the ideal collides head-on with real-world parenting. When I leave it to my kids to choose, they always choose the junk. We encourage healthy, we talk about the purpose of vitamins, proteins and minerals, we read labels, we eat fresh foods. We don’t ban candy and chips, but we try to make it a part of an overall responsible diet.
By contrast, my nephews were raised on snack foods and treats. They would walk away from their still-full dinner plate, straight into the pantry to pull out a box of goldfish crackers. They were sucking on suckers before they had given up their pacifiers. My husband and I shook our heads. Just what were their parents thinking??!
Well, today, 3 guesses whose kids lick the icing off the birthday plates, and whose ask for strawberries instead of cake? By no design whatsoever, those boys seem to choose healthy stuff more than my kids, despite my best efforts.
So where does that leave me? Sitting among my mountains and mountains of candy, I wonder if I should just let them have at it. Is it too late? Would they see this authorized bingeing as a new way of life, and NEVER return, even reluctantly to the land of moderation? Or do I really need to relinquish some control (oh, control, my best friend, my partner, my love) and see if they are able to control themselves?
I think I might need to eat a kit-kat and think about.