In my family, on your first birthday, you get your own cake to smush, paint yourself with, and enjoy any way you please. My daughter turned one a couple weeks ago, and everybody excitedly snapped photos as she, at first, gingerly accepted a couple tastes of icing from me, then dove in with both hands and giggled at the squishing sounds the frosting made.
Every few seconds, she looked up at one of the sea of relatives surrounding her, offered her pointer finger, and shared some icing.
Everyone loved watching her get all messy, and it was fun to keep the tradition going to the next generation, since she’s the first baby on that side of my family.
But when I met up with my moms-and-babies playgroup the following week, I was a little shy about sharing what we did to celebrate my daughter’s birthday.
It seems like sugar is more and more demonized these days. It’s becoming almost trendy to give up sugar, maybe only for a month, as one family in the UK tried, or forever.
Yes, of course, I don’t want my kid running on Snickers and chocolate milk every day, but a little sugar here and there is a more sustainable strategy.
This, in some ways, is simply another front in the mommy wars – and this time, we’re fighting over sugar. For some moms, it seems like how good of a parent you are is measured by how little sugar your kids consume.
In my opinion, it's more important to teach kids moderation in all areas of life. Yes, fruits and vegetables are essential on everyone’s plates, and no – despite what I told my parents as a kid – Fruit Roll-Ups and ketchup don’t count.
Keeping a spotlight on healthy food naturally takes it off sugary snacks.
As parents, do we have healthy diets? Do we have sugary treats all the time? Then, it’s time for some reflection. Whatever we’re up to, kids will see that, think it’s normal, and follow suit (unless they’re teenagers, but that’s a whole different deal).
For my daughter, my current strategy is that I amp up my reaction to healthy food, saying things like, “MMMmmm, carrots! I love spinach! Avocado is the best!” My delighted tone often inspires her to at least try what I offer her.
I try to keep it real and be sincere, but there's a limit to how many times I can promote the deliciousness of spinach before needing a dose of moderation myself.
I can almost see her rolling her eyes sometimes. We'll see how she does in the usual picky-eater stage – here's hoping that it won't be too tough.
Having special food is part of celebrating life’s memorable moments. I’ll never forget how my daughter dug into that frosting on her first birthday cake. When I was a kid, my family celebrated small victories in my dad’s business by having cookies for breakfast. We only did it a handful of times, but I’ll never forget those early morning moments when I dunked Oreos into milk with my sister and parents.
Have you ever noticed how many of us relish in making rules for ourselves and our families? No carbs, no sugar, no dairy, no gluten, no plastic, no fill-in-the-blank with whatever else you can think of that could have the potential to be harmful.
A concerted effort to live healthier lives is admirable, but I think the “everything in moderation” is a much more sustainable strategy. It's easier to avoid cheating on a diet when everything is allowed – in moderation.
As for me, once I finally get my toddler settled in her crib tonight, I will have one cookie with a glass of delicious almond milk, savoring every morsel.