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no sugar Archives - A Familia Adventure

S-U-G-A-R – How Getting it ‘Right’ turned out to be Wrong

By | Musings | One Comment

Emotional outbursts and grumpy children are not my thing. Really, if I could avoid them entirely I would. Through arduous documentation and testing, I have established that sugar highs and their rivalling lows, cause far more of these than I would like. This has caused certain rules to be put in place in our house:

Rule # 1 – No sugary breakfast cereals! There is an exception to this rule however… Sundays. The day the rulebook is tossed out the window and the children can eat what their hearts desire most. Thankfully their hearts generally desire Frosties and not frosted doughnuts, but this morning their hearts desired possibly the worst breakfast I could think of.

Candy-floss!

This incredibly nutrient deficient substance made an appearance in our house after a carnival-style sand castle competition on our local beach. Under much duress, and the incredible manipulative powers of a 5 and 6 year old, I was convinced to buy the aforementioned pink junk, the remainder of which was thrown into the pantry with the hopes of it being forgotten so I could toss it into the trash. Much to my dismay, the only thing they wanted this particular morning, was the emotional outburst in a bag, disguised cleverly, as strands of spun sugar.

Being the push over that I am, I decided the faster they could eat it and be done with it the better, so we grabbed the pink awesomeness and hit the road. Possibly the only thing worse than eating this stuff at home is going out and doing it in public, but dad needed a sleep in, so they were shopping with me. Oh the joys.

About 20 minutes later, well into their sugar high, when they were sliding under clothing rails and swinging from the hangers, I realised what I must look like to other parents. I’m ‘that’ mom, the one who gives her children whatever they yearn for (like candyfloss for breakfast) and then let them run amok in the shops, all but ruining the calm and serenity of everyone else’s Sunday morning.

Now although this may be true of this particular day, it is not my normal MO. You see, I am a bit of a sugar warrior. After being off-the-hook addicted to sugar for most of my life, I now consider myself in ‘recovery’. This ‘recovery’ process has had rather large repercussions for not only myself, but my family too. For example, hubby’s after dinner chocolate stash has somewhat diminished due to my refusal to ‘feed’ this habit, as has my children’s afternoon treat selection (but clearly not their Sunday morning breakfast binge).

When I went off sugar last year, I was committed, possibly a little over the top. I planned low GI meals, refused to buy any processed carbs and made my kids start eating things like lentils and cauliflower rice. I knew they were looking at me like I was crazy, I knew it because they were also saying it, but I soldiered on. Both of them are dairy and wheat intolerant so meals have always been a little bit different, taking out processed foods took this craziness to the next level. No more refined maize pastas or gluten free muffin mixes. I was full throttle.

I started baking health muffins with almond and coconut flour, taking out all sugar and replacing it in much smaller quantities with honey, maple syrup and xylitol. I kept telling them that banana was a natural sweetener and if we added dates and raisins it meant they didn’t need sugar. They were incredibly good natured about it all. They sampled batters and professed how delicious it all was, they even smiled the first few times they got the muffins in their lunch boxes.

But then reality set in – other children don’t eat like this.

They started bringing their food home from school and saying it wasn’t so nice anymore. They were tired of these ‘other’ muffins, can’t they just have a sandwich? That was when I knew the wheels had fallen off. My kids were asking for a sandwich in their lunch box! They wanted marmite or peanut butter for heaven’s sake. The expensive, life-sustaining, hunger-busting, muffins I spent my Sunday afternoons baking for them were being given the boot. Rule # 2 in our house being: You will finish all the food in your lunch box before I make you another meal, meant that I was in a battle of wills with the kids every afternoon to get them to eat their healthy, low GI, no sugar, almond flour muffins. There was coercing, negotiating, stubbornness, and the occasional story about starving children in Africa who have no food at all (I know I know, I tried not to go there but I was running out of options).

Then on one particularly ‘emotionally grey’ evening in our house, Shaun broke the news to me. I had gone a little too far with our family’s eating plan. We are not banters. We are not ‘no-carb nazis’. We pride ourselves on being exceptionally level-headed people. Yet in my attempt to get us all eating healthily I had gone a little wayward. My best attempts at cleaning out the junk and finding low GI recipes had, without my realising it, set me down a path I had not intended on travelling. Yes the kids need to eat healthy meals and not a diet based around sugar, but they also need balance. They need to be kids.

Many of my favourite childhood memories revolve around treats; the ones I baked, the ones I bought, the ones I was given (and the ones I snuck out of my grannies sweetie tin). I wouldn’t change any of those memories for the world, but I don’t want my kids to be as addicted to sugar as I was. I thought last year when I was getting myself off sugar, that if I got them off it too, they wouldn’t have the same needy relationship with it that I had.

But that’s not how it works.

Our children don’t live in isolation. They go to school, they spend time with other kids, they go to parties. It takes a very special kind of child to go to a party and not be seduced by the brightly coloured sugary bursts-of-awesomeness in every shape and size. I was not that special kind of child. I’m afraid I don’t have those children either. Treat temptation runs heavy in this house. I don’t think it’s a failure to admit that either. I’m trying to be a realistic parent and set realistic habits for my family; sustainable habits that can carry our children healthily into their future.

What I realised through all of this is that removing sugar from their diet and creating this ‘healthy way of eating’, was going to cause more long term damage to their relationship with sugar than just letting them have it (in moderation of course). Making such a big deal about something leaves a lasting impression on children, the last thing I want to create a hype about is sugar!

So if you see me in the shops on a Sunday morning and the children are swinging from the light fittings or leopard crawling under the trolley, please don’t judge me. I promise it’s not everyday they are allowed to behave like this.

 

Rapunzel-the-dentist dress rehearsal in progress.

Parenting 101: The Ultimatum

By | Cape Town, Musings | 4 Comments

For two long weeks I have been waiting for this moment, when I could sit down and pour my heart onto paper, or the keyboard, whatever. The big sticky mess of frustration, anger, sadness and heartbreak has to be released. Who knew sugar could be the cause of something more than fat or diabetes. I have just spent two weeks saying no to my daughter. No, you can’t eat that. No you can’t have that, or that, or that. It was no, no, no. And it was hard!
Let me lay it out for you.

Act 1. I make an appointment for the kids at the dentist (they have never been). I very dramatically act out what happens to teeth if children eat sugar and don’t go to the dentist. I think I am very clever.

Act 2. We take Lola and Lincoln to their appointment. As is customary, Lincoln goes first. He’s generally happy to be the guinea pig. After having his teeth counted, he has some x-rays taken of his fingers, his teeth, and his shoes, and hops off the chair to collect his well-done gift from the dentist.

Act 3. Lola’s turn. After her normal warm up period we were expecting a little hesitation, we were not expecting wide eyes and head shaking. We were certainly not expecting frantic kicking, a blatant refusal to sit in the ‘space-rocket’ chair and then a hasty departure into the waiting room. I took it calmly, sat next to her and reiterated what I had said before, that children who don’t go to the dentist can’t eat sugar because sugar is bad for your teeth. Now at this point I was convinced I was on a winning streak, there is just no way Lola would choose to not eat sugar! Lola loves sugar more than life itself. If you ask her how her day was, she will reply with gushingly positive adjectives relating to the treats she received that day. If she had an incredible adventure but no treats, it will receive mediocre reviews. She lives for her food, for sweet food. To understand her decision you have to understand that.
So back to the scene, Lola asks me if she can still have milk, to which I replied with my first flutter of uncertainty with the direction I was heading, yes. She agrees to the terms and signs up for no sugar. I was paralysed. I knew what she was doing even if she didn’t. All she could think about was how much she didn’t want to sit in the dentists chair. All I could think about was how on earth I was going to stick to my guns.

Lesson 1 in parenting: Don’t make a threat unless you intend to follow through with it. This is vital. Any parent can tell you if you don’t follow through you are as good as a movie in a foreign language with no subtitles. They stop hearing you because what you say doesn’t matter. No follow through, no respect.

With this crushing weight of what I had just begun, I hastily made another appointment for her for that Friday, she had 4 days to rethink her decision. I was sure I would win. No way she could keep it up. I was wrong. She started drinking banana ‘milkshakes’ (consisting of frozen banana, milk and cinnamon) and told me they were the most delicious things she had ever eaten. She turned her head when anything sugary was produced and requested dates and raisins as her treat. That was when I knew she was making a point. She hates raisins.

4 days of pig-headedness, of her sullen, joyless face every time her brother ate anything sweet, and still she refused to go. At this point I insisted she tell me when she was prepared to go, cracks were beginning to form in her resolve and I’d be damned if I let that glimmer of hope slip me by. She agreed to go in a week. With the appointment I could get that would take us to exactly 2 weeks after our first attempt. Let me reiterate, it was a long 2 weeks. This path is not for everybody, there were times I simply couldn’t bare her desolate face any longer and had to wrestle myself away from caving. The only thought that kept me going was the knowledge that if I caved, there was absolutely no way I would get her to open her mouth at the dentist. That much I knew. So I soldiered on. No treats, biscuits or ice-lollies. No chutney with her dinner, no sugar or honey with her tea and no juice of any kind.

There was nagging, sulking, complaints of it not being fair, but at no point did she get sneaky and help herself to treats out the pantry. What I realised through these trying 2 weeks, was how incredibly stubborn, but also how extraordinarily proud my 5 year old could be. She would arrive home from school with her baking wrapped up and hand it over for safekeeping. She froze her slices of birthday cake she received at parties and packed her sweets she was given away in the pantry. I hoped that if I let her hoard all of her treats it would eventually be enough of a temptation to get her into the blasted dentists chair so she could then devour it all. My intention was never to wean her off sugar, I don’t need that kind of misery in my life.

During this time we didn’t make a point of keeping sugar out of sight because the whole objective was to tempt her to go, keep life normal, but in so doing I was forced to keep pointing out what was already a hard decision for her. It was constantly reminding her, rubbing it in, and even though it was hard for me, it was worse for her. It meant that instead of having a fight with your child, going to bed that night and waking up with a fresh start to a new day, we were waking up and fighting the same fight everyday. It was probably annoying and infuriating for her but it was heart breaking for us. No parent enjoys making their child sad, especially when it is purposefully done to try and get them to do something they are refusing to do. I felt like such a terrible mother.

By the end of the 2 weeks I was begging her to go to the dentist. I couldn’t take feeling like such a horrid parent and I couldn’t take her sadness, her hiding away in her room when her brother and his friends were eating lollies, or her waking up at night, every night, being sad. On the day of her final appointment, I arrived at school to fetch her with all the treats she had been amassing. I wanted every little bit of temptation to be there so she didn’t back out at the last moment. She was still hesitant, but she was prepared to lie on the chair, on top of me, as long as I opened my mouth when she did. After our tandem dentist appointment I was ready to go home and pop open a bottle of champagne. Finally, it was over!

I learned that there is nothing I can be so sure of when it comes to my children. I might know them better than anybody else, but they still surprise me, everyday, sometimes in the biggest ways. You learn early as a parent to pick your battles, sometimes you pick them but you just don’t see the size or the strength of the army you are choosing to fight. This couldn’t have been truer of this battle. I had, without a doubt, underestimated the strength of the fight in this one. Luckily, through sheer gritting my teeth, Lola learned that refusing to do something has consequences. This lesson came at a good time as ‘no’s’ have been flowing fast and heavy in this house. I’m hoping that winning ‘the dentist’ battle will set a good precedent for the rest. I’m not sure I’m equipped emotionally to push through another battle like that one.

On arriving the next day at school, I mouthed to her teacher that she had done it. There was a squeal of excitement and the classroom erupted in chatter and applause, Lola even tolerated a few hugs (not common). That evening I got a message from one of her classmates parents saying her son had reported back, with much relief, that Lola had now been to the dentist. All was right in the world… Until the next time.

The first nibbling of sugar after 2 weeks!.. in the car post dentist visit.

The first nibbling of sugar after 2 weeks!.. in the car post dentist visit.