The Candy Dilemma

November 3, 2011 at 10:35 am (Cooking, General)

I have issues with candy. I don’t mean sweets in general, but candy. Not homemade candy, either, but the mass-manufactured kind that comes pre-wrapped in plastic and tiny boxes. With this I have problems.

1. As a mom, it adds much too much stress to my life. “Can I have a piece of candy? Can I have this candy? When can we have our candy? Hey mom, can I have candy now?”

2. It’s nutritionally devoid. Our kids are…kids. They’re growing leaps and bounds every day. Candy certainly doesn’t help that process, and it takes up room in their bellies for high quality, nutritious food they might otherwise eat at meal time.

3. It’s gastronomically detrimental. The flavors that have been engineered for that candy are designed to get you to want more. They also get you accustomed to enjoying artificial flavors.

4. It’s everywhere. Besides the candy-yielding holidays and events that pop up throughout the year, my kids keep an unofficial record of the local business establishments that are equipped with bowls of candy on the counters. This always determines their desire to come in when we’re running errands. And once inside…”Hey mom, can I have a candy? Can I have one piece of candy?”

Now, I must say, I am not opposed to desserts. Like this:

Only mass-manufactured candy. Like this:

I never want my kids to have it. There’s just not ever a good time for them to put such “food” into their growing bodies. At this point in my rant, candy lovers everywhere probably want to yell at me to lighten up. And even I have to ask myself,

“What in the world is my problem?!” Can’t I just accept this small part of life and allow my kids to enjoy a childhood with candy?

Every year at this time, I search for a way to balance my candy neurosis with my kids’ unyielding desire for the stuff, and also with my goal of teaching them about healthful foods and the concept of moderation. Self moderation. Which means in order to learn how to manage their candy intake, they have to be in control of it themselves.

If I’m in charge of the answer to “Can I have candy?” it’s going to be “No; no one needs manufactured candy, ever!” If they are in charge, the answer is, “Yes; always and only!” Moderation lies somewhere in the middle, and to find it we seem to need to experience both extremes.

So on Tuesday of this week, we embraced Candy. Tuesday was all-you-can-eat candy day. It started at 6:30 in the morning and ended 2 hours before bedtime. They were in charge of their candy decisions that day. They could base them off of their hunger, their cravings, the well-being of their tummies, or the level of their boredom, so long as they please, please don’t ask me if they can have a piece of candy.

The picture from above? The one displaying a ready-to-eat assortment of candies? That was my son’s lunch.

JJ complained of a tummy ache one time that day, at which point…he stopped eating candy. (For a bit.) Wednesday went back to me rationing out the candy for them, but by then they’d had quite a fill of it. It wasn’t nearly as tempting.

We certainly can’t do all-you-can-eat candy day every day; our kids are just not old enough to have free reign of their candy decisions. But Tuesday’s experience was indeed helpful in learning some personal limits. I do think we’ll do it again, even before next Halloween. At least for our kids who have an insatiable sweet tooth and seemingly iron stomachs, I think it’s important that they experience the difference between no candy and all candy. I want to allow them as much freedom as possible to make their own decisions about food (or “food,” as the case may be). With our help, they’ll find moderation for themselves.

In a few months, after their little systems have thoroughly cleansed, we’ll try Kids-in-Charge-of-Candy day again. Now if you’ll excuse me, there are two eyes peeking at me over the back of my laptop and a muffled voice urgently inquiring, “Mom, can I have another piece of candy?”

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