8.01.2009

the Nonchalantdad: When A Treat Is No Longer A Treat


I was watching the older version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the other evening with the kids and I was gently reminded of something. Remember when eating sweets was really a treat? I'm thinking of the part with Charlie when he enters the candy shop and has a coin or two to drop on something special. It reminded me of when I was a child and with my mother in England. We'd be on a day trip to visit one of our many 'aunts'. We'd be given a bit of change and told to go to the corner shop for something special - probably so they could have an important natter. Or, we'd be promised something special for later in the afternoon. Just a few decades ago, treats were still something of a ..... treat. Now, it more than seems, the treat has come out of the closet and is on the full attack against us and our kids. 

I only say this because I'm a bit more than fed up with having to fight with the kids every time we go anywhere, I mean just about anywhere, and something sweet is being offered. For example, just about everywhere I went with the kids this last week either something was being offered to them or I was having to navigate a situation where sweets were practically standing in my way. There was the bank, which is to be expected considering they have been doing this kind of thing for years. But, even that is different now. I can almost guarantee that my kids will walk out with an array of lollipops whereas when I was younger just getting one was the treat!  Or, how about the doctors office, or even the damn dentist. How about at school? Kids birthday parties are not safe now either. It's almost de rigour to expect a bag of goodies for your child before you can even consider cake and ice cream. By the time the kids come home from a birthday party, it seems like they've been to Halloween and back! And, any adult party that involves having the kids along always seems to devolve into giving the kids ample amounts of sweets just to keep them busy perhaps, and out of your hair. Oh, I complain of course, but I'm becoming my own worst enemy now too. I get tired, just like you - and I give in. I look at it as winning the war perhaps, but losing a few battles. Ohhhh shame on me. 



Then there's my favourite now - the cinema. You don't only have a treat - you eat the whole damn factory that made the stuff. Order a small soda perhaps and the thing comes to you looking like what we called large just a decade or so ago - or maybe extra large. And, of course you are going to be tempted, right? It's only 25 cents more!  And juices, most of the time, unless you've remembered your own, they've got you cornered on that one too. Think water in a bottle is a safe option? Oh no, now some of them infuse sweetener. And, what the hell is up with this BIG GULP thing? Who needs that much liquid anyhow - why not just go all the way and tie a bucket around your head, much like a horse. I'm just getting started now.... what about what used to be a few strings of liqourice, now it's huge bags of the stuff. And, a small bag of popcorn can feed a family of 5 now... or is that my imagination. People, we are surrounded. I mean come on... we've had to invent new words in the English language for the new sizes.

And listen, you don't even need to go to the candy shop any more - the stuff is everywhere! I was in the hardware store with the kids, and they got racks of it. Go into the office supply shop - tons of the sweet stuff on sale and right where they know you're going to see it. I came in for sheets of printing paper and I end up needing a huge bag of sweets, how does that work? I'm surprised I don't walk into one of these shops now with the kids and someone is specifically hired just to start throwing the bags of candy at you as you enter, or teams of people shoving the stuff in your pockets as you try to scramble back to your car!  At church, at ball games, at the bank, the post office, the doctors office... it's out of control. What's so sweet about a sweet when your entire day is just one long sweet. It's entered snack time too - I've seen it slowly infiltrating under different guises at school too... I'm not fooled by that frosted covered fruit roll thingy that looks like it never met a fruit in its life! Where do the kids get this stuff, and how are we as parents enabling them.....

And then we all wonder what is happening to the average diet. Hell, why not just give up and start mashing the stuff up and serving it with some gravy and calling it dinner. Wait a minute - I think I just saw an ad for IHOP where they offered something quite similar.... oh, now, I'm feeling a bit sick from the thought of it.

It's not enough to complain any longer. But, what's a boy to do? I can't just leave you with a nasty thought, now can I. It can't all be hopeless. So, here is what I've started doing more of lately. If you can't beat them (and good luck trying to), then don't join them - get creative, try something different. And, if this means misleading the kids a bit, well.... I've got to do what I've got to do. The alternative is just to ugly.

So, I regulate. Say I go to the cinema with the kids. I agree that they can have a treat (I don't like to smuggle goods in). I just don't agree that they can consume a whole bag of sweets. I make it clear to them that I will take the bag and dole out a portion to each. And, we'll wash it down with water. Leftovers will be returned home for another occasion. As for the shops, I warn them beforehand that we might encounter a lot of sweets. I also warn them that we will not be getting any. Advanced warnings can go a long way. And, if that doesn't quite work, then I make something up like telling them how their teeth will all fall out if they go over a certain limit.... and it won't be pretty. But, I've found, it's not always the kids that are a problem. It can be hard to deny the kids a treat when someone is offering. Usually, I'll tell the kids that they can have a portion of what they are given, and then the rest can be saved for later. Which, by the time an hour or two has passed, I can safely discard the offending treat(s). And, on occasion, someone has been more than insistent that the kids take a sweet even after I've gently tried to tell them no. Then, I bring out what I call the 'big gun' and say something under my breath alluding to the fact that the kids might have some unnameable problem that means they can't consume sweets. I hate to do it. But, like I've said - you've got to fight fire with fire sometimes. It's just not fun.

The sweet thing is out of control. I'm doing the best I can. Do you have any suggestions. I'm open to persuasion. I'd love to hear it. And, while you're at it, maybe you want to share the oddest place you've seen lately that is offering sweets - a place that you just can't imagine would do such a thing. 

5 comments:

oooh & aaah said...

i have to totally agree with you. it is a tiring daily battle. when my daughter was little it seemed easier. she didn't even know the word cookie until an uncle taught her. thank you very much. my husband was cute and clever and didn't want her screaming for ice cream every time the truck came down the street so for years we called it “the music truck“. that lasted a surprisingly long time. but you are right, you can’t really shelter them from the onslaught of the rest of the world. i think you are on the right track of teaching them the good and the bad of treats, moderation, etc... though, we are at that point where my daughter thinks if it doesn't have sugar it is good for her. now, we're working on the other nutrition lessons. keep up the good work!

nath said...

Half the problem lies in the amount of additives and over sweetened food around us. I try as muh as possible to cook everything from scratch but even that is no guarantee...

emmi said...

I grew up on a lot of sweets, my father had a penchant for sugary cereals and slurpees and he let us indulge with him. I was a chubby kid and at school the kids made fun of me. I think that was what did it although not a nice way, a very influential way to decide to get healthy. At the age of 11 I voluntarily became a vegetarian and my mom made me research my diet if that was my "own" choice. I also started an exercise program with a goal to be the fastest girl in school in the mile run. I achieved that goal and lost the weight and to this day am a healthy eating and slim person in comparison to my peers. The moral is, its a tough world out there with bad options at ever turn and as someone who knows better its torture. I think its good to also do some healthy snacking in a group setting with your kids friends and parents, once its the cool thing to do you won't have to worry about what they got at the bank!

craftymama said...

the coming home with bags of candy from a birthday party drives me CRAZY- why do they need that after cake/ice cream etc? my kids know i'll usually just take it away. i don't understand some parents' ideas of sugar consumption...

Kasia (Poland) said...

The oddest place my kid (4) gets sweets is a public toilet in our town. We pay for it, and whenever she gives the cleaning lady a coin and she gets a handful of little colorful sweets.

Isn't that crazy?

I love what you wrote.