My husband and I have failed as parents. It hasn't been a spectacular fall from grace--just a quick slide down a sugarcoated slope.
Our lives took a turn last Halloween, a day that marked our son's first expedition into the world of sweets. We should have known then that there would be no turning back. To his delight and our chagrin, our little Caped Crusader ingested more candy in one 24-hour period than he had in the previous 24 months. He went to sleep with a Tootsie Pop clutched in his sticky little mitt and woke up the next morning demanding another. Life hasn't been the same since.
Okay, I'm exaggerating slightly. But gone are the days when Sam chomped on steamed broccoli spears as if they were candy bars. This was a child who was meant to be a healthy eater. My husband and I prided ourselves on making our own baby food. No junk food passed his lips.
But on Halloween, we caved. Since then, not a day--no, not an hour--has gone by without his angling for a piece of cake, candy, or fruit leather. Sam can spot a crinkled ice-cream wrapper from ten yards away. If he's desperate enough, even a sugary multivitamin will do.
Our son is a pint-size addict, and he's bad-tempered when denied his fix. In the dog days of his "terrific" twos, he would collapse regularly into a writhing lump whenever we wouldn't give him a treat. He has since honed his technique and now goes at us with the tenacity and skill of a master labor negotiator.
How could we have let this happen? Quite simply, our resolve weakened under the constant strain of a determined toddler's demands. Battle-weary, we began asking ourselves, What's so wrong with a little sugar anyway? Why not let him eat cake?
Now that we have a sugar junkie on our hands, though, we've come to our senses. My husband and I are conducting our own child-friendly 12-step program to break Sam of his addiction. We've read everything we could find on helping kids develop healthy eating habits and are trying all the tactics the experts advise.
We're making some progress, but the battle isn't over yet. Sam still gets frequent cravings for cake. Just last week, he begged for some every day. We didn't give in--but he didn't give out.
He's still disgruntled whenever his craving is denied, whether it's just before dinner, in the checkout line at the grocery store, or--our personal favorite--the instant he wakes up.
Progress is slow and not quite as steady as we'd like. However, we're getting better at finding that elusive balance between total abstinence and total overload. This week, things seem to be going a bit better. We're not there yet--but we're taking it one day at a time.