Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Gimme some sugar, baby!

Caitlin went to school without breakfast today.

That's right. You've heard it here first: I'm not feeding my child. I'm bad. Very bad. Awful. Mean. Totally heartless. Uh huh.

I blame it on the sugar. Not my intake, hers.

She woke up on time, but then wouldn't get out of bed and get her day started. Instead she ignored us and read a book. We started off asking nicely and then began hollering. I really don't like to yell at my kid, but she knows how to push my buttons like nobody else! I told her she needed to get a move on or there wouldn't be any time for breakfast. She slowly ambled to the bathroom. I asked her again to brush her teeth, because there wouldn't be any breakfast until she did so and fed the cats. She kept on humming. Apparently it's impossible to hum and do things like brush your teeth, get dressed to respond to parental requests. Heaven forefend she should ever have to chew gum and try walking at the same time!

Maybe she brushed her teeth and maybe she didn't. I was too busy trying to pack her stuff up for the day, including the G is for Grammy photo essay for Show and Tell. Yet another warning that if she didn't feed the cats she wasn't going to get fed herself and that time was running out. She has to be at school at 8am. We woke her up at 6:40am. If you think I'm planning on waking up even earlier to "give her more time", you're crazy. She fills the time she has with screwing around and getting yelled at. I'm done with that. Finally, at 2 minutes before we needed to leave the house I got her dressed, brushed her hair and shipped her off to the car.

Without breakfast.

You know what? She never whined about missing breakfast at all. I suspect that she'd had plenty to eat last night and wasn't even hungry. Don't worry that she won't have enough to eat: she gets snack time as well as lunch time and has a separate container for snack. You've seen her lunches: she'll be fine.

Upon returning home with my fury set on "rolling boil" I calmed down with my own breakfast and some chai. When Eric felt it was safe to approach we talked about what went on this morning and then extrapolated out from there.

Yesterday was a crazy day, it's true, but here are the things that stuck out the most for me:
  • Class Halloween party: candy, soda/sugary drinks, rootbeer floats, heavily iced cupcakes
  • Lunch: Caitlin barely ate her lunch since there was a whole lot of grazing going on in class and between class on whatever party favors they'd been given.
  • Kinder care party: yet more candy
  • Daisy meeting: I was responsible for snack so I baked strawberry muffins and brought water. Originally I considered chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting, but decided against it since masses would be consumed that night. The group leader had a platter of strawberries and pineapple. This was possibly the healthiest food ingested all day. During the meeting I watched 9 little girls go completely crazy and was told later that their behavior was "pretty good" compared to what had been expected, hopped up on sugar like that. They were climbing on the tables, running around the room, talking non-stop, not listening to the leader, not paying attention, unable to focus. Including Caitlin. I had to ask her repeatedly to sit down and pay attention. She was not the worst behaved among them. They looked like they all had ADD. It set my nerves completely on edge.
  • Pizza party: pizza and a bit of fruit
  • Trick or treating: running around at top speed from house to house collecting sugary tribute from complete strangers (Uh yeah. Doesn't that strike anyone else as bizarre?)
  • Return home: Caitlin ate a few pieces of her night's spoils and went to bed.
  • Morning: unusually horrible behavior ensues
To me, there is a very clear connection between what was ingested and what behavior took place. Maybe I'm not blowing your mind here, but think about this: how much sugar are American kids ingesting on a "normal" daily basis? Do we really think they can eat like that all the time and not have behavioral problems? Yes, Halloween is a giant sugar spike all by itself, but what are kids eating on a daily basis? GoGurts, fruit leathers, Lunchables, boxed drinks, boxed chocolate milk, chips, crap crap crap. And that's just what I've seen casually around. I haven't actually stuck around for lunch to see what everyone else is eating regularly at lunch time.

On a normal day, Caitlin has Cheerios with strawberries or bananas with juice (diluted) for breakfast. You've seen her lunches on the sidebar. Whatever we're having for dinner (spaghetti, steak, green beans, pizza, salad, chicken, whatever) with milk or water and a random dessert (fruit, ice cream, homemade muffins, cookies or cake [I don't buy what I can bake]). When she remembers she might ask for a piece of her candy (last year's Halloween or Easter candy) for dessert instead of whatever we're having. Ordinarily she's a pretty even tempered kid and tractable. She's not a push button kid, don't get me wrong, but will do what you ask within a reasonable time frame. And she can focus on the world around her. Yesterday? It was like having a whole different kid.

Not a very nice one, either.

She has received two separate commendations for her lunch time behavior since starting school. The older kids walk around the lunchroom and give out slips of paper that say "My compliments!" to the best behaved children there. Getting one at all is considered unusual since the older kids are very tough to impress. I've received numerous compliments from the teachers on her lunches and snacks and from teachers and fellow parents alike on her behavior.

Are you seeing the connection I'm seeing now?

When she's hanging out with friends and family members, I have requested that if they want to give her a treat make it fruit or baked goods rather than straight candy. I'm sticking to that. I think it works.

Just for grins, here are a few links (Google search on the words "sugar kids") including a challenge from Dr. to cut refined sugar out of your child's diet to see if you notice a change in behavior.,1510,4126,00.html

Ooh, I like this quote:
Many children get on average 20 percent of their daily calories from sugar, according to a study published last year in the same journal. In real terms, that means children average 29 teaspoons of added refined sugar per day.

By the way, did I mention that Caitlin hasn't had any cavities yet? I had lots of cavities as a kid. I hated the dentist. I never brushed as often as I should have. I really don't want the same to happen to Caitlin.

Before you get all riled up at me and call me a hypocrite because I eat sugar at all, let me tell you this: I'm not telling you how to live your life or what's right for you and your children. What I'm suggesting is that if you haven't been paying attention to what your kid is eating and yet their behavior is pissing you off regularly, take a look. Do you like what they're eating? I understand that the kids like it. That doesn't mean that they are in charge. We only have a short time to take care of them and an even shorter time where we can pretty seriously control what they do, where they go, what they eat and who they play with. Take advantage of that time. Establish good eating habits now.

Do what's best for your child, even if it's hard. Hell, especially if it's hard! Parents have to be even more stubborn than the children they raise. I know it's not easy - Caitlin has my stubborn chin, after all!



Missy said...

Well said! (I am a friend of Val's and linked to your blog from her. I have enjoyed reading your posts and love the photography!)

I really admire your commitment and follow through with healthy eating habits. I am the mother of two girls ages 5 and 8, and we have been working on improving our own eating habits. It is HARD, those bad habits are tough to break. It is unfortunate that healthy food is so often more expensive and more time consuming to prepare making it easy to get in to the less than stellar habits my family has developed.

I really applaud your thoughts about parents needing to make the tough choices. Parents absolutely need to run the show and while hard choices may cause loud and massive unhappiness.. it is generally short lived and once the kiddies understand that you will make those choices and will follow through....the less often you must engage in the battle.

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Hey there Missy! Welcome to my tiny corner of webville!

I hear what you're saying about battles. Observing the grocery store ones horrified me before I had Caitlin and I promised myself that I wouldn't give in to requests for anything that wasn't a fruit or vegetable. Saved us a lot of heartache, I swear. Occasionally she'll ask for something and I'll respond with the No of Finality and then she's off looking at other things.

Scylla said...

It is hard to get them to eat healthy foods. However, our kiddos are better than they could be, Marlena regularly turns down baked goods and sweets if there is fruit available. I do let her have a marshmallow in her lunch each day, her school friends buy their lunches, and they always get a sugary treat, so I figured one lone marshmellow a day would be better than a cake, or jello, etc.

She is a candy hound, but we don't normally have it in the house. I throw out the Halloween stuff after about a week, I just can't stand it anymore.

As for our grocery store time, our experience improved greatly when I took the advice of another blogger and started giving her choices. She explained how frustrating the store must be for children, all these bright colors and yummy things, and no ability to choose them! She suggested letting your child pick one thing each row. "Honey, we need green beans, please pick out a few cans." "Sweetie, you can pick between these three cereals." Etc.

It works really well. Marlena helps me pick out the groceries every week. She helps pick the fresh fruit and veggies, which gives me a chance to teach her how, and she helps pick the rest as well. We enjoy grocery shopping!

I hope I am also teaching her healthy habits, whenever one of her choices is not so healthy, I will explain why another choice is better for her.

It is hard to avoid all the madness in our culture. I look at the school lunch menu and cringe. There is nothing remotely resembling anything healthy available. They have hot dogs, pizza, grilled cheese, the stuff I normally serve as a special treat, and they eat it every day!!

How can we expect our children to function in school when we feed them empty calories every day?

Woman with a Hatchet said...

I think the schools are giving in to what is cheap and what the kids will actually eat on a regular basis. As we know, junk/party food is always yummy!

You know my strawberry muffins? The other Daisy girls didn't want to even TRY them! Do you have any idea how insulting that feels? I baked those suckers myself and they didn't even want to do a test bite because they were different. I bet if they'd be chocolate cupcakes, they'd have inhaled tham and hollered for more.


Caitlin, knowing what they were snarfed hers right down.

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