Bad Parent: Gimme Sugar
My kid loves junk food, and I’m not ashamed. by Nan Mooney
June 11, 2009
Last month, I took my fifteen-month-old son Leo to his friend Elliot’s first birthday party. It was a mostly adult gathering and as we sat around the table the mother of a seven-month old offered him a taste of ice cream from her spoon.
“I’m only giving him a taste,” she explained, cheeks flushed. “I almost never give him sugar.”
Across the table, the mom of the birthday boy was feeding him the slimmest sliver of carrot cake.
“It is his birthday,” she apologized. “This is practically his first sugar. We haven’t even given him meat yet.”
Standing in the kitchen doorway where I was letting Leo demolish an entire adult-sized piece of cake, I – as per usual when then conversation turns to baby diets – kept my mouth shut.
Because if I opened it, I’d have to admit that the first food Leo ever tasted was ice cream, straight from the plastic spoon at Molly Moon’s ice cream parlor after a trip to the zoo. Then I’d have to admit that on his first birthday he didn’t get some paper-thin slice but a full-sized piece of banana cake with plenty of frosting, and he downed every last crumb. That not only has he eaten meat of pretty much every persuasion, he’s also delved into pizza, fish sticks, and enough homemade cookies and cake to win me the June Cleaver award.
As someone who’s tired of getting the fish-eye from people who seem to think feeding your child a donut is the equivalent to feeding him crack. I’m just going to come clean and say it.
My kid eats junk.
Part of it is practicality – or maybe just laziness. As a working single parent, I learned early on that I can’t keep every last ball in the air, not matter how ostensibly good it is for my child. Already, there have been plenty of nights when the home-cooked well-balanced meal of my intentions morphed into french toast.
But there’s a value system at play here too. I want eating – and life – to be fun for Leo, not something full of rules and shoulds. And let’s face it, junk food is fun. I don’t want to raise a child who’s a Puritan, who can’t kick loose and enjoy life’s pleasures. Maybe I’m waltzing him down the road towards obesity and heavy recreational drug use, but I’m willing to take that chance.
For me, this love affair with junk food is also personal. As a teenager I struggled with food. I had eating disorders and played pretty heavily into the shoulds and won’ts and endless rules. I feel lucky I have a boy, who won’t have to face the same kind of love/hate relationship with his size and shape. But if I came away from all that having learned anything, it’s that denial is a dangerous tool and that too little of anything can be as damaging as too much.
I wasn’t always the junk food cheerleader. While Leo was still nursing, I had visions of being one of those moms who raised her kid the Super Baby Food way. I planned to reform both our eating habits to be full of whole grains and leafy greens and sugar only on birthdays and special occasions. It sounded like the right thing to do.
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