Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween candy and a paper castle

The boys have been on-and-off grumpy the past two days. I know a lot of folks would blame that on the large quantities of Halloween candy they've been eating, and that's partly true. They also have been going to bed late and waking up early, having recently decided they like seeing Daddy Honey off to work. And, the days after a big holiday are always a bit of a let-down, and young kids sometimes have a hard time sorting out feelings when there's a general mood of ennui.

But I wanted to share some about the candy, specifically.

Some people disavow the link between large quantities of sugar and moodiness. I don't. I see and feel it plain as day in myself, and I suspect it might be at play in my kids, too. But, I think it's a bad idea to base a family's food culture on that link. In fact, I think it's counterproductive to make much of that link at all.

Controlling food or coercing kids into making the food choices that you'd like them to make has the effect of 1) creating an artificial premium on the forbidden foods, 2) deteriorating kids' trust that their adults will help them fulfill requests to experience the world, 3) setting up a situation where they cannot help but judge others who consume the foods you've labelled as bad (or judge you, if you slip up and eat a "bad" food, or if they come to disagree with your assessments), and 4) depriving them of the opportunity to learn to listen to their bodies, something they can only do by trying new and different things (including stuff that may make them feel ill, jumpy, jittery, or grumpy).

I don't want it to be like that between my kids and me, or between my kids and their food.

So, I notice what they eat without judgment, comment, or look; I share with them happily; and continue to offer a variety of foods that they like, ask for, or may have never tried before. This morning's breakfast was a good example: mint tea, sliced oranges, cranberries, Greek yogurt with honey, small sausage patties, and Whoppers. (Fox reached in the candy bowl, pulled out a few packs of Whoppers, and set one next to each of our plates; their willingness--eagerness, even!--to share their Halloween candy this year has astonished me. I was NOT like that as a kid.) I skipped the Whoppers, myself. Woody went light on the sausage and ate only two of the three Whoppers in the package. Fox didn't touch the yogurt or cranberries, but ate the rest.

Yesterday I cleaned up more opened-but-uneaten or partially eaten candy than actual emptied candy wrappers. (But don't misunderstand me--there was a bunch of both!) For lunch today, we played restaurant with a real meal of rice and beans and dried papaya dessert, and nobody cared that the candy bowl was empty.

We found Woody's piggy bank this afternoon after months of it being lost, and in it was $22 worth of coins. He's been asking for a pair of hand cuffs, so we went to Wal-Mart to buy them. While we were there, I offered to buy a package of candy to refill our bowl. Woody said, "Nah, I'm good on candy." And Fox said, "No, but I do want a lollipop." He sucked on it for five minutes on the way home, then handed it to me and told me he was going to take a rest, and promptly fell asleep. I put him down when we got home, and Woody and I together read this article from Mark Bittman, Daddy Honey's favorite chef, entitled "101 Simple Salads." We chose the mushroom/onion/parsley salad to make together, and we split it.

That was our experience with Halloween candy this year. A hot flash of novelty and chocolate, then a refusal of more, two days later. For adults who didn't grow up with food issues, maybe this looks like not a big deal. But it's a big deal to me, that my kids can recognize the feeling of satiation and turn down a sweet.

Earlier, I started a project that I'd been thinking about a long time:


I envisioned this as a collaborative endeavor, a co-created paper mache castle made from saved cardboard boxes, cardboard tubes, and egg cartons. But, they boys weren't really that interested. Woody wanted to give me ideas for the design. Fox wanted to draw "guys" to go in the castle when it was finished. But neither wanted an actual hand in the mess, and their total involvement was probably less than 10 minutes.

Fair enough. I finished it up solo while they played Wii, built with Duplo Legos, drew with markers, and played knights outside. 

There's value in doing things alone, too, which may be a post for another day...