I can be a little (read: a shitload) neurotic when it comes to feeding my kids. We’re all as careful as we can afford to be (time-wise, money-wise, patience-wise) when it comes to nourishing our little beings. And whether it started with the first pregnant sashimi craving, the formula vs. breast milk debate, or the ice cube trays of puréed broccoli (note to my single bestie who learned the hard way: NOT mint-infused ice cubes for our girls-night-in mojito party), we all put a fair amount of thought and care into what we feed our spawn. So it came as a big surprise to me when total strangers began force-feeding candy to my unsuspecting (yet willing) little kids, and I suddenly had to run interference.
It started innocently enough. We were at the bakery grabbing the flaxiest, brownest, most gluten-devoid loaf we could find and the owner offered my older kid (the one with teeth and the ability to nod) a little shortbread cookie the size of a quarter. Seemed innocuous. And organic. And it’s not like the kid had never tasted sugar (grandma mainlining chocolate milk into his previously untainted bloodstream while I wasn’t looking at lunch one spring break took care of that, thanks). But then at the dry cleaner, when the cute old man who scrubs baby barf (among other things) out of my Isabel Marant on the regular sweetly handed my kid a sucker, I (we) graciously accepted. Next thing I knew, all hell was breaking loose. Can’t pinpoint the exact culprit – high fructose corn syrup, red dye number god-knows-what, butter from a non-grass-fed cow – but my little angel did a full 180 into crazy town. While I’d heard of threenagers in theory – I was suddenly and very publicly the abashed owner of one and it was not pretty.
I started to pay attention to all of the unsolicited treats we were offered on a typical day. I’m a pleaser and have a hard time saying no – especially to well-meaning old ladies and scrubbers of vomit (surprisingly, many people in my life fall into the latter category). And beyond just candy dishes at seemingly every place of business I frequent, there are birthday parties, play dates, the weeklong celebration leading up to Halloween… And who’s the idiot came up with the chocolate advent calendar?
I needed a strategy and quick. But one that didn’t involve completely alienating my babes (crazy mom who brings her kid his own vegan, refined-sugar-free cupcake to every birthday party, I’m looking at you…) I came up with a few tricks that have pumped the brakes on the daily piñata explosion that happens when I leave the house with two adorable little candy-magnets:
Promise them one: Before setting out on a day of trick-or-treating (aka, errands), let the kid know that there will be a treat but that you guys have to get through a few things first…
Learn to say “No thank you”: This is a hard one for me. Like I said, I don’t like to ruffle feathers, so politely declining mini Kit Kats falls somewhere between a bikini wax and being skinned alive in terms of my discomfort level. But if I can muster a “Thanks so much for offering but we’re on our way to a birthday party/ lunch/ the freaking dentist” (it really doesn’t matter), then so can you.
Bring supplies: I make this incredible banana bread (not bragging, it’s like one of three things total that I do well in the kitchen). I used to pack slices in a Ziploc and hope for the best. My kids are too smart for that. Food tastes way better when it comes from somewhere else… Enter: a stash of those white parchment papery to-go bags that your slice comes in at a café, and voila. The kid thinks it’s special and happily chows down, spelt flour, coconut oil, chia seeds and all.
I know what you’re thinking, I’m a total buzzkill who takes all of the fun out of my kids’ lives. And I get it. Plus, I’m pretty sure I subsisted on nothing but orange mac & cheese and apple juice well into my tween years, and I also had four Oreos for recess every day from kindergarten to, well, now… and I turned out okay. But the fact is, these little bodies need nourishment and it’s our job to provide it. That way, when the odd Skittle or Slurpee inevitably makes its way into their tummies, a diabetic coma doesn’t ensue.