Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sugar High, Sugar Bye...

We have established that I am addicted to sugar. But I have not opened up about my son, Ben, much at all. All kids like sugar, right? But do they all know exactly where every piece of sugar sweetened food in the house is? Do they all keep their copies of "My First Word Board Book" not out of nostalgia, but because the counting pages are pictures of gradually larger groups of different delicious looking foil wrapped and sugar encrusted sweets? Are the first words out of their mouths in the morning "What do I get to have for dessert after lunch?" I finally got so sick of this question that I threatened to throw out the (leftover Christmas) candy if he asked it one more time. Then he did, so I did. It was not one of my prouder parenting moments. I'm afraid I did not conduct myself with patience and understanding. But I do understand - I understand the allure of sugar. I am, in the true sense of the word, addicted to sugar, and I'm afraid to say that Ben is too. He is like a little sugar junkie jonesing for his next fix, and I am alternately his supplier and his parole officer. Many of you might read this and wonder what the big deal is. It's just sugar. No. Unfortunately it is never "just" anything. For me it is insecurity, and anger, and self consolation and self destruction and many, many other things. It is definitely not just sugar. I am really terrified that this will be the legacy I hand down to my child. I have a brother who struggled for most of his life with alcohol addiction, a sister who continually struggles with food addiction and it's associated weight problems. I am packing on the pounds myself. It's not something you can just stop - ask any addict of anything. My brother stopped only because he finally realized that getting drunk did not make him permanently forget how much his life sucked, or make any of the problems disappear. Drinking was a problem, and in order to make that problem go away, he had to stop drinking. There are still problems, he has just had to find a new coping system. That is exactly what sugar has become for me: a coping system. From the first time Grandma gives her adored grandchild a cookie to get them to stop crying... can you see where I'm going with this? Sugar = comfort = love. Yes, Ben does loooooove his grandma. He calls her a "sugar lady." Incidentally, my mom can't eat sugar herself. Well, she's not supposed to eat sugar. She is pretty much pre-diabetic, but still loves the sugar. And loves giving it to Ben, like a vicarious high I suppose. A few days after I stood in front of a tear-streaked Ben, holding the zip-lock baggie of leftover candy (all of which I bought) over the kitchen trash can, my mom showed up with a giant bag of peanut Valentine's M&M's. "Share them with your mom and dad." she told him I ate well over half of them. I hated myself for being weak. Sugar is also punishment: I hated myself for being mean to Ben. Ben, in his imaginative play, has "pretend" sugar that is "not bad for you." And he is happy eating a banana for dessert after lunch, but not as happy as he would be if you gave him a banana split. He tries to understand about making healthy choices. He loves dried mangoes and will happily accept them as dessert. He has tried my sugar free brownies, but is not a fan of the nuts in them. And yes, he does get sugar, we are not completely crazed sugar nihilists. I am just at a loss as to how to get him to stop focusing so intently on where his next sugar is going to come from. I really do know what I need to do. It starts with me turning myself around. I need to stop using sugar to console or punish myself. I need to ask my mom to stop giving us candy. I need to gently direct Ben toward healthy choices. And I need to occasionally let him have a treat. This is not about self-deprivation. I love my son, I don't want to deprive him of anything - I don't want him to say "You never let me..." But I'm sure I will never, ever live down the showdown at the kitchen trash can.

13 comments:

NotSoSage said...

What an excellent post. Ah, yes, we all have (or will have) those moments, I'm sure. The moments that, forever afterward, you question whether you did it out of love, frustration or vindictiveness.

I have to admit that some people would consider us close to sugar nihilists (love that term)...at least when it comes to Mme L...and for the time being. I do believe in treats, though, and we most often try to find sugar treats that are not made out of bleached, refined sugar.

I was raised in a house where sugar was pretty much off-limits and, having been denied that my whole childhood, I found that I gorged myself when I finally moved out on my own...and I never recovered my self-control. I'm wary of repeating that with Mme L. Still, I can't get over how sensitive she is to sugar and how quickly she becomes this "other" when she's given something really sweet. And Joe has a family history of Type II diabetes, which makes me even more worried.

But we've had so many conversations with Joe's family about sweets...why do they feel that need to ply her with ju-jubes and suckers and such, when she's just as excited about dates and yogourt and even candied ginger?

I love the "pretend" sugar...ah, if only it were true.

theflyingmum said...

See, I worry that Ben will go off the deep end when he's out on his own (what, you mean like I did when I went away to college? Better sugar than beer, I guess...) (right...) He has that same personality-altering reaction to sugar that your Mme L. does - and my mom has witnessed it first hand. We also try to avoid the "RWS*" (*refined white sugar.) We successfully kept Ben away from it for a while, probably until the first major holiday after he had teeth. Why do they have to make candy so pretty?
I love dates, they are natures sticky toffee! The sugar free brownies I mentioned are sweetened completely with dates, I'll post the recipe sometime. Thanks for letting me know I am not alone in my crusade against sugar:)

NotSoSage said...

Also, I just tagged you for a meme/award over at my place. Feel free to participate or not!

Mad Hatter said...

Oooooo, I so relate to this post. For me, though, the bug bear is fatty/salt. My mother used to make us french fries in the deep fryer to keep us quiet. This is a deep set addiction and I see it emerging now in my daughter. It is so hard to walk the supplier/parole officer line isn't, especially when you have trouble being your own parole officer. Yikes, I feel for you in this situation.

bubandpie said...

When I was a kid, I used to sneak into the cupboard, poke a hole in the bottom of the brown sugar bag, and eat whatever sugar I could burrow out with my finger. (I don't know why I didn't just open the bag - I have a feeling that I had rationalized it that, although it's wrong to open the bag, it can't be all that bad just to eat a bit of sugar that just happens to be falling out...)

To this day, I'm a sugar junkie. I've never outgrown that scarcity thinking - the idea that I'd better gobble down all those store-bought cookies while I can, because there's no telling when I'll get another chance.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I'm not a sugar junkie but my husband is -- he has a theory that it helps control his (environmental) allergies, or at least moderates how bad his reaction is. Nice theory, don't you think?

This will probably not help you, but: in this house the kids are allowed one piece of candy in the morning and one in the afternoon. If they ask for it. Some days my son starts asking whether it's afternoon pretty early... But it works for us because it's a rule they clearly understand (they're 2 and 5) and because they control their consumption, at least to an extent. I do let them choose their own candy. Oh and we never have dessert. (That's just me. I'm too lazy.)

nowheymama said...

What a thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

The problem we have over here is learning that just because a food item (esp. a dessert item) doesn't have dairy doesn't mean we should automatically give it to Katherine. "Oreos don't have dairy? Here ya go - take the bag!"

Her grandmas are especially excited when they find a new treat for her. I understand, and of course I do it to, but she needs to learn that "dairy-free" doesn't always mean healthy. It's just hard not to give into the temptation to let her have food "just like the other kids eat" because so often she can't. However, those are often the trans fat hydrogenated whatevers that are so bad for us. We all just have to keep on trying, I guess.

Sober Briquette said...

Visiting via notsosage. Looking for dessert at the thinking buffet...

Just the sight of the brown sugar bag makes me salivate so intensely I get a cramp in my jaw. My mother used to make us brown sugar and butter sandwiches on white bread.

I did well with my daughter at first, and the grandmothers were definitely the spoilers, but as she got older I loosened the canister lid and the sugar junkie was born. And trying to keep a second child as pristine as the first is just impossible. Add to that my own addiction/boredom/not-so-surreptitious sweet treats throughout the day... I am shamed.

McMama said...

Get this....I gave up sweets for lent.
I hope I make it til Saturday.
I really need to give up my diet pop, but I'm truly addicted to that not so healthy habit

theflyingmum said...

Wow! I am sooooo feeling the love today! Thanks to you all for commenting. Sorry I left you hanging for a while there, I had promised Ben that we would go to the library, which we did,and then I leaned on some button or something and could not type anything - the cursor would blink, but if I tried to type, it would just highlight the text, weird. ANYway;
Mad Hatter: That's really the essence of it, we crave and give what we got. My mom gave us sugar, her mom had a huge sweet tooth and made incredible candy and cakes... and so it goes.
bubandpie: you would've loooved growing up in my house, my mom actually fed me those big hard lumps from the brown sugar bag! I have tried to limit my cookie consumption by saying "only if they are home-made," and then have made myself sick on cookie dough.
jennifer: that theory? I'm not buying it. He is SO in denial. I can't do the candy thing, because if it's here, I'll eat it. I can't trust myself to adhere to the rules.
Sarah: I know what you mean about letting them have what the other kids have - especially since he's in school now and at lunch can SEE what the other kids are eating. The comparisons, I fear, will only get worse as he gets older.
Sober Briquette: Ah, my mom fondly reminisces about the sugar sandwiches of her youth. I had the open faced version as a kid for snacks, but never in my lunch. I think she was too worried what the other moms would think if they found out...
And thank you Jill, for the link-love meme nomination. I'm working on something and hope to post it tomorrow.

theflyingmum said...

McMama, I tried giving up chocolate for lent during my freshman year of college. I think I actually did it too. What has happened to me?! I have only made it 3 days without sugar recntly. But I'm working on it. Good luck to you.

raehan said...

I never craved sugar much when I was young, but now that I have a sweet tooth, I see how quickly it can screw with a body and how addicting it really is.

Thank you for stopping by my site and commenting lately. It means a lot.

theflyingmum said...

raehan; I love your blog! But I know how it is when you're just siting there, staring at the blinking cursor... and it just seems so impatient! Sometimes you just need a break and a good book or a few good movies to clear out the cobwebs.