Monday, October 22, 2007

My secret weapon. Sugar.

What a great weekend this turned out to be! The weather was beautiful, we had fun hanging out with friends, and we even managed to accomplish some things around the house.

Continuing with the "playdate" theme: On Saturday, we had a visit from some old friends. They came from a far away place known as Bay Ridge, Brooklyn - our former stomping grounds. In preparing the monkeys for the visit, I described it as a "playdate with Joe and Debbie."

One of the things I've noticed with Jordan is that he likes to know what's coming up. So, that morning, we discussed the day's events. One can never be too prepared, right? And what the hell, it makes for conversation..which, if you've ever attempted with a toddler...can be a challenge in its own right.

Me: So...first we have breakfast. Then we go upstairs and get dressed and ready for the day. Then we go to Home Depot. Then we go to Costco. Then we have lunch. Then we nap. And after nap...we have PLAYDATE with Joe and Debbie!!!

Jordan: Again...

Me: So...first we have breakfast...

And so on.

By the time Joe and Debbie were scheduled to arrive, the anticipation level had reached critical mass. Miss Mina was so excited, she had to wait at the open door for our guests. Shiny gold shoes on, of course.

Did I mention that this weekend also marked the first time in Jordan's thirty-three months on Earth that he had a lollipop? That's right. Saturday was lollipop initiation day, brought to you courtesy of Costco.

I admit, with some degree of shame and trepidation, that I unabashedly permit sugar in my kids' daily diet. Not only do I permit it, I manipulate, scheme and bribe them with sugar at every opportunity. I suck. I am a sucky parent who uses sugar to achieve all manner of actions I could not otherwise get from them on my own. Things like peace and quiet and eating a full meal.

I bribe them.

I use dessert as a bribe. I dangle the prospect of chocolate milk over Jordan's head like it was a winning lottery ticket. I tempt him with chocolate ice cream, and Trader Joe's lowfat chocolate cat cookies. Does he go along with it?


Dear God, yes. Just about every time.

Is it any wonder I continue??

The Costco lollipop was one of those freebie samples they were pushing on unsuspecting patrons that morning. The table was littered with candy samples from their oversized bulk bag of candy, bundled together to be sold for Halloween. Never mind that Halloween is still quite a number of days away. Jordan spotted the table right away. Of course he did. It was the first thing you saw when you came into the store. Along with the Christmas decorations. (WTF people?? It's October?!?!)

I settled on the lollipop, thinking it was the lesser of all the evils on the table. I also figured it would take the whole shopping trip to finish. (How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll lollipop?)

I have never had such a quiet shopping experience with the Monkey.

He was still clutching that lollipop when we got home. Things got a little tricky when Miss Mina finally noticed it and wanted in on the action. She had been blissfully unaware of the lollipop the whole time at Costco, because, of course, she was in a separate cart. Monkey Sr. and I split them up now, divide the list between us, and meet back at the checkout aisle. Such is the wisdom gained from years of Costco adventures. Learn from us.

One would think that all the sugar in Monkey's diet would inhibit his normal eating. First, let me say, that in our house, I don't know what a normal toddler eats, since I have never experienced it.

Second, Monkey eats when he wants to. Some days, it's nothing. Sometimes, it's a lot. For example, this week at cooking class, he prepared a huge baked "grilled cheese sandwich" which he consumed in its entirety. On whole wheat bread no less. I cheered as the heavens opened up and angels sang. Other kids actually turned their little button noses up at the creation and refused to eat the sandwich because the bread was brown, or the crusts were on, or the cheese was funny.

Monkey at the whole thing. Then he played. Then he came home and ate an entire lunch with a sandwich, yogurt and fruit. I was floored.

I've read just about every book on toddler nutrition, picky eating, and creative kid recipes I could get my hands on in the last two years. I really deserve some type of honorary nutritionist degree, but I digress. There's a lot of advice out there, and a lot of sanctimonious preaching about the dangers of this particular food item verses that one. In the end, I subscribe to the philosophy of Ellyn Satter, who has written quite a bit about children and their eating issues.

She has some good things to say. Some suggestions work for us, some haven't. But I wholeheartedly agree with her assessment that children have a natural ability to regulate their own internal eating needs. They usually eat when they are hungry. They stop when they are full. And they will, over the course of a week, eat the proper amount of caloric intake for their bodies.

As long as we don't mess them up with our own issues.

And I've seen this. As much as Jordan loves his dessert, if he is full, he will often just take a taste, smile in contentment, and then ask to get down from the table. I'm always amazed by this, as I will consume an entire dessert from sheer gluttony, never once listening to my own internal hunger cues.

But for Jordan..he just knows. Sometimes he eats a ton. Sometimes he eats nothing at all. But it balances out. I've finally figured this out, and basically stopped stressing out about his eating. Hard to believe. I know.

Believe it or not, it's gotten much more pleasant at our dining table at mealtimes.

This is what they really think of my nonsense.
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