I grew up with ice cream nearly every night for dessert, candy here and there, and once I was a teenager with some money to burn, I was regularly drinking soda.
With my kids, I didn’t want to have quite so much sugar around. I didn’t tend to have candy on hand very often, although I filled Easter baskets with candy and have always taken my kids trick-or-treating. While I am not thrilled about the volume of candy on Halloween, I thoroughly enjoy this occasion when I see almost everyone in the neighborhood in one night and ooh and ah over the kids’ costumes. To be perfectly honest, we go through phases when we have ice cream around pretty regularly, then go for a period of time without it.
I also like to bake occasional treats at home. I enjoy the process of baking cookies or some other goody together with my children and enjoying the fruits of our labor.
If we could keep it at the level of occasional treat, I would be okay with it. I quickly found, though, that sugar was being offered to my kids pretty much everywhere they turned. Rewards from teachers, birthday parties, treats from friends and neighbors, donuts at church, the “snacks” offered at activities, fundraiser items being sold by neighborhood kids, grandparents…
Before long, I felt that the sweets from everyone else had crowded out our own baking at home. It made me sad. I felt that I couldn’t be the one to share treats with my own children. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by saying my kids could not accept the treats they were offered. Even when limiting what we had at home, I still felt that the sweets had gotten way out of hand. I regret letting it get to that point, but it is hard to change what we’re already accustomed to.
I’ve talked to my children about some of the concerns of eating sugar, especially eating a lot of sugar. I wanted them to understand that there are reasons why I try to limit sweets, but I never did require them not to eat the candy from teachers, teddy grahams from friends, and so on, and so on.
I was thrilled when my son announced in late January that he was going to go the entire month of February with no junk. Eager to encourage him, I told him I would join him. In the end, our entire family took on this challenge together.
1 Timothy 4:12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
I am so proud that my ten year old son set this positive goal all on his own and that he inspired the rest of us to follow his lead. It is so true that the young can set a good example.
A little more about the February challenge. I realize that “junk” is a subjective term. Since this was my son’s plan, I followed his rules. No pop. No desserts. No chips. No cereal. Not much bread or crackers. Check the label and avoid anything that has a bunch of unrecognizable ingredients. This meant that he was willing to eat a serving of Triscuits (wheat, oil and salt), but he would not eat Wheat Thins, which have a much longer list of ingredients. He would eat a Larabar but not a granola bar (we didn’t find any granola bar that met his approval).
How did a junk free month affect us? Personally, I had gotten back into the soda habit (after giving it up for 2 1/2 years at one point), and I haven’t had any since sometime in January. Making homemade pizza sauce, pasta sauces and the like has become more routine. I’m getting used to using plain yogurt instead of flavored. I even lost a few pounds.
My son decided to have dessert on his birthday in March, but not to have sweets regularly. He has said that he will probably have a dessert again in May. Again, this is his thing. I am not an enforcer. I am, however, an encourager and an enabler. I am ready and willing to support him in his goal to eat better. I think that this will go far better as his choice than it ever would have had I forced it.
You know how else he has set an example? He owns his choice and makes no apologies. He doesn’t eat the thing he has decided not to eat just to be polite. He simply tells them that he has decided not to eat sweets at this time. No thank you. And it has not been a big deal. Why was I so worried about hurting feelings?
What about the candy-themed holidays? As I am stashing away items to put in Easter baskets, there are no sweets involved. Something that will be going into the baskets this year are packets of seeds, so we can plant and grow food and flowers together. I don’t know about Halloween. We will have to talk about it as a family and decide how to handle it.
If you see us, please don’t be surprised or offended if we decline an offer of food that doesn’t meet his criteria. It is nothing personal. It is just a boy trying to stand up for his health and a mom who supports him.