Bethany Sanders: "Can she have a sucker?" the bank teller asked. "NO!" I said, a little too loudly. "I mean, no thank you. She just had one at the doctor's office."
The teller raised her eyebrows at me and put the little red sucker back in the bowl.
This is an open request to all bank tellers, veterinarians, office managers, store cashiers and especially doctors (who should know better): Stop giving my kids suckers!
It's innocent enough. That tiny little Dum Dum is too little to do much harm, you think, and it makes my kids like you. But you aren't the only one who'll offer them a treat today.
On a recent errand-running day, my preschooler managed to collect no fewer than four suckers and a Tootsie Roll. It was like Halloween! And while she was quiet and happy sucking on her stash, all I could think was, "What would her dentist think?" (Her dentist -- who is wise enough to hand out stickers instead.)
Won't anyone think about the children? Or at least their health? We're facing a childhood obesity crisis, and experts say that our kids may be the first generation to have a shorter life span than their parents, due to obesity and its associated chronic health issues. My kids can't get through one day without someone offering them a sugary treat -- classroom birthday parties, rewards for good behavior at school, candy-filled holiday parties and even soccer snacks! Don't get me started on those -- that's a whole other post.
I know that it makes me sound like a food dictator, but that's not the way it is. Treats are supposed to be occasional, not a regular part of a healthy diet. That's what makes them treats. My kids don't even get a chance to crave a treat, because there's not enough time between the last treat and the next one.
Yes, I know that I can just tell them no, and I do. But I wish I didn't have to. It makes me the bad guy -- and, more importantly, it puts me in the position of demonizing treats. My philosophy is "everything in moderation." There are no "good" foods and "bad" foods, just "sometimes" foods and "all the time" foods. But it's hard to teach moderation in our sugar-crazy world.
There are a lot of other things you can hand out instead of candy. (Kids love stickers, for example.) But to tell you the truth, they really don't need anything at all. Chances are that I've already fed them lunch or packed a healthy snack, and they've got books or toys to keep them busy. A kind smile goes a long way in making both my kids and I feel welcome without loading them up with junk food.
How do you handle the excess of snacks offered to kids?