Sweeter than sugar

We have always been a low-sweets household, but we’ve not wanted to be the parents who say their kids can never have sweets.  We all know how those kids turn out.  I have tried to ferret out the hidden sugar in breads and processed foods so that we can surreptitiously cut back on the kids’ intake of partially hydrogenated corn syrup and sugar without them recognizing our tight fist of authority.

Recently, we came to the conclusion that Benjamin has a bit of an issue with refined sugar.  Namely, he cannot seem to control himself.  I don’t mean he cannot control himself around sweets.  I mean he is totally insane.  I often suspect he misbehaves not because he wants to but because he simply cannot help himself.  We decided to limit his sugar intake even further to see if that would allow him to remain in control.

But, not wanting to be those parents, we figured there should be exceptions for birthday cakes and occasional nights out for ice cream.  Both of which he had last week.  And after both of which we found him pissing all over the bathroom floor, cackling with glee.

OK, maybe no sugar at all for awhile.  Cutting sugar from my diet has made a huge difference in my mood swings, so we think he may have similar trouble processing it.  I informed his teachers, since he gets most of his sugar at school.

Let’s pause for a minute and review that statement.  Does anyone see anything wrong with that?  His school is giving him sweets.

Whenever I have brought it up, albeit tentatively, the response has been, “You have to give kids treats now and again.”  To which, sure.  But shouldn’t the right to hand out sweets be reserved for the person who is also doling out the broccoli?  Why does the school get to give out all the treats and Mommy has to be in charge of vegetables?  That hardly seems fair.  I think teachers should hand out sugared stuff in a one-to-ten proportion to nutritious food.  If all the snacks are asparagus and fava beans, sure, go for it, pour the kid some grape juice now and again.  If, however, snacks are regularly Goldfish and graham crackers?  Well, you’ve kind of already used up your allotted portion of empty calories and partially hydrogenated anything.  You don’t get to hand out sugared sweets.

Between the birthday celebrations (and why are parents encouraged to bring in cupcakes for that?), classroom parties for Grand Day and the umpteen Jewish holidays the children must celebrate, and the regular use of Cheerios as snacks, there is a hell of a lot more sugar flowing out of that preschool than there ought to be.

Hence my comment to the teachers last week.  “We’re trying to severely limit his sugar intake,” I told them as Benjamin attempted to climb the built-in cubbies.  “For obvious reasons.”  I reminded them on Friday, when I was in the class for Shabbat, another “special occasion” that falls every week and seems to call for cup after cup of grape juice.

So, imagine my surprise when I walked into the classroom yesterday and saw packs of Oreo cookies on the table.  (And why is a Jewish preschool using Oreos instead of Hydrox?)  “Are you feeding those to him?” I asked.

“We’re making edible dirt today!” the teachers gushed.  “Crumbled up Oreos in chocolate pudding with gummy worms.”  Oh.  Because that’s so much better.

“I told you we’re trying to keep him away from sugar.”

“Well, we won’t let him have much.”  OK, that is so not the point.  The point is that we are trying to see if completely cutting out sugar helps him to control himself.  We are doing an experiment here.

And so, when I picked him up at school and was handed a cup of “edible dirt,” it took all my self-control to keep from flinging it at the teachers.  Now, I can either be unfair to my kid by telling him he cannot eat it or by putting him in a position where he cannot control his behavior and then gets punished for it.

For the record, I chose Option A.  I’m OK with being Mean Mommy.

Halloween is coming, and we’re going to have to get creative.  We’re also skipping as many birthday parties as possible.  But, ultimately, it won’t matter, since clearly the teachers plan to keep slipping him the stuff on the side.

23 responses to “Sweeter than sugar

  1. You’d like our elementary school. Parties have to have a 4/5 ratio — 4 healthy items to 1 sugary one.

  2. I was amazed, shocked rather, at the amount of junk the school puts out for hot lunches. Including “ice cream Fridays.” I thought my child would freak at being the only one NOT having ice cream in the middle of the day, but so far she hasn’t mentioned it. And she still eats the lunch that I pack for her. At least, for today.

  3. vigorousanonymity

    That’s really unbelievable. You know, if he had a peanut allergy, they would bend over backwards including not allowing any other kids to bring in peanut butter in any form, but this, they completely circumvent you on. I’d go to a higher authority.

  4. This is a hard battle and a slippery slope in my opinion, my mother was VERY strict with our diet, no pop, no juice, it was rare to get a sugary treat. She didnt want us to turn out fat (because nearly everyone on her side of the family was)…. I was the kid who threw up at every childs b-day party because cake and/or ice cream was just way too much sweets, we would go on camping trips with relatives, they would crack open the smores, my parents would give my sisters and I pails to puke in. When I was of the age to go to sleepovers, often there would be pop, if I had so much as ONE I would be laying awake all night (I had no tolerance for caffeine) ….. I appreciate the healthy lifestyle my Mom provided for us, but when I was driving age, I feel like in many ways I rebelled… I ate crap, I drank too much diet pop.

    My preschool encourages healthy treats, and we take turns providing them for the class, often my son picks grapes, cheese cubes, or carrot and celery sticks and we are asked to bring a 1/2 gallon of low fat milk (NO JUICE)…. since there is a gluten allergy at the school, we are saved from many of the sugary/carb-y treats.

    I do feel your pain, because it has to be hard, but I wonder, the more you restrict the sugar, wont the reaction when he gets sugar be that much more severe??

  5. I could go on and on. My oldest really can’t have sugar, and we’ve ended up cutting back for everyone else as well. When I do let the littler ones have it, they get excited, but then they push it away with a glazed look. And no, they’re not throwing up.

    Im sort of in the middle of this right now with my children’s school. Is it really inappropriate for me to question selling donuts for breakfast at a school function?

  6. I’m surprised at the stuff that is considered a daily food for many little kids.

  7. Oh, I forgot to finish. Anyway we eat well for the most part, but occasionally we’ll make a strawberry pie or have ice cream or whatever, and sometimes even candy, and she’s very reasonable about not overdoing it. I was an overdoer due to too much restriction as a little kid. Her behavior, though, is not all that poor on sugar, though you can tell she’s excited, so we don’t have the same issue you have with it. If my kid peed all over the place after eating sugar I’d cut it out, too!

  8. When my boys started at a new charter school last year, I raised my eyebrows at the no-sugar policy. The sort of strict PCness gets on my nerves, but I am so grateful for it, now. I get peace of mind knowing that they have no sugar or junk all day at school so that a cookie or something sweet after school or dinner seems just fine. Funny, but I wrote about this same thing over at LA Moms Blog last week!

  9. Is this an American thing? No school my kids have ever gone to gives them any food (because Almighty God, it might have been within marathon distance of a peanut at some point), and we’re constantly bombarded with memos about how important it is to send healthy food (which can verge on the obnoxious at times, but in my opinion is preferable to having them feeding my kids ice cream). And even if they do, the fact that they would undermine you, as the –what’s the word? — parent, is outrageous.

    My kids tend to self-limit pretty well on junk food, but we have friends’ kids who will literally eat until they puke. Sometimes kids need to be saved from themselves.

  10. She Started It

    My kids had hardly ever had candy or sugar until they started elementary school. (My oldest acts like a lunatic with sugar, too.) Last year I approached the principal about cracking down in sugar. Things have really changed, thank goodness. I’m fine with treats, but I’d rather be the one doling them out.

  11. That’s so tough! Rock and a hard place of course as you can’t ask Benjamin to self-regulate his sugar intake at school (to abstain while the other kids all gorge) so the school would have to change its policy on snacks for the whole class (or school) which they obviously can’t/won’t do. So frustrating. I still remember when I toured my kids new middle school for the first time and realized that the lunch options were all supplied (or appeared to be) by fast food chains! There were burgers, pizza, tacos, all with logos on. When I asked my kids it turned out they could find salads if they wanted but, come on now folks, let’s be reasonable about the ability of middle-schoolers to opt for healthy stuff when the junk is so enticing?

  12. Our school has completely cut out all sugary snacks and birthday treats. Now if only they could get the hot lunches to resemble actual food. I’m curious to see how the school food in Switzerland is. I think I have this idea that it will all be perfectly healthy. I bet I’m in for a surprise.

    Can’t wait to hear how you handle Halloween.

  13. Our preschool seems to go the other direction – they are pushing healthy snacks and many parents don’t comply. I feel for you. Yes, the ‘occasional treat’ is fine, but occasional shouldn’t be every day, or most days, you know?

  14. Good luck with Halloween.

    Both the school my fellas attend do alternative birthday celebrations. In one, the kids bring in a photo of themselves when they were younger which they display in their room & get to share something they can do now that they couldn’t do when they were that age (in the photo). Then their classmates make each make a page for a birthday book– a drawing/writing of something they like about this person or something they like to do with this person. The kids feel so celebrated– even without cupcakes & those birthday books are total keepers. And for summer birthdays like my guys’, the school does half-birthday celebrations.

  15. Perhaps you should let Benjamin pee on the classroom floor one day. That might get the message across.

    Nah, I kid. Sort of.

    Seriously, I feel for you.

  16. Oh my gosh, what a story!! You had me laughing and fuming at the same time! I would love to share your dilemma/story with my blog readers because i think it’s more common than not to have this issue.
    I think it is extremely unfair to place the “healthy” responsibility on the parents. Then they are always the bad guys.
    Schools are TERRIBLE about offering/promoting sugar to kids. I think innately teachers must feel that it’s an easy way to control kids….in that kids will do anything for a sweet treat.
    I find it dispicable that your son’s teacher is not willing to help you out more, and in fact is doing pretty much nothing to help.
    I know of a woman who has a program for schools….she basically goes into the schools and teaches kids/teachers how to eat healthier AND have fun. It’s been a while since I looked at her website but I think it’s something like foodstudies.org.
    Anyway, I really feel for you in your situation and would LOVE to help be an advocate. Is there anything I can do, as a sugar-free blogger, to help out?
    Would you ever be interested in a Q&A, say, for my blog, where we hash out this problem of sugar in the schools? I could see this being a win-win for both of us.

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading this post.

  17. Are the teachers parents themselves? I didn’t start questioning my own habit of passing out candy to my students until I became a parent.

    Maybe he can have a special box of non-sugar snacks for when the other kids have sugary treats. Just like the allergic kids have their own “safe” snack box.

  18. That is hard and I absolutely agree that you should be the one to dole out treats when treats are to be doled. Perhaps you can tell the school that the doctor has required sugar to be limited? Re Halloween, I know someone who offers a much wished for toy in exchange for the halloween treats. That wouldn’t work with my kids, but it does with hers.

  19. I would absolutely do my na na at them for ignoring your request!

  20. planningdoesntwork

    Similar to a previous commenter, I’ve known of people who deal with the candy at Hallowe’en by allowing the kids to each have 2 or 3 pieces that night (or none if the sugar is a huge issue), then the rest goes in a bowl and the “Candy Elf” or some such creation replaces the candy with a desirable toy over night.

  21. Teachers have to make exceptions all the time, like if a kid has diabetes or whatever. Maybe if you provide the school with an acceptable snack for him to have when the other kids are eating the crap? It always bothered me that the school was giving kids cookies as snacks.

  22. OMG sister you have no idea how I could have written that post myself. The sweets at school thing is ridiculous!!! I am so with you on this one, it’s nuts.

  23. That sounds like such a difficult situation… its weird how sugar is so ingrained into our culture that kids are basically thought to NEED it, even at school! It will be hard for him to have to watch other kids eat sugary treats all the time at school when he cannot have them. It would be much easier if the school just didn’t give kids a lot of candy or sugar… and on special occasions when sugary things were going to be served, you can know ahead of time so you can send a treat with much less sugar!