Monday, May 17, 2010

Dessert Police

When I was a kid, cookies were always kept in the house. Sunshine Hydrox, my dad's favorite, never ran out, and much to the delight of my brother and me, were kept in an easy-access cupboard. Maybe my mom thought this would promote our self-restraint. After all, we knew the rules: dessert AFTER dinner. Only TWO cookies apiece. Got it.

But once I became a teenager and life got harder, nabbing four (or five or six) Hydrox cookies after school or after dinner (or both) seemed to help my mood. Not that it helped my teeth--they were filled with cavities before I went to college. The lesson I learned was that you can't keep sweets in my house and expect me to have any restraint.

Today, I try to impart to my children the lesson I *should* have learned. That is, we have a limit of two cookies because more than that is unhealthy for your teeth and your body. This is why we don't get dessert every night, and when we do, it's usually a small treat. Some might say I'm pretty strict about desserts today. (OK, maybe just my kids would say that.) But I'm starting to think they have good reason.

One recent evening at a scout meeting, snack time rolled around. One of the dads was in charge this week, and he put a package of individual cookie packs on the table that was surrounded by eight or nine kids. The package had Nutter Butters, Oreos and Chips Ahoy cookie packs in it, and I think it was expected that each boy would take one package. Notice, I say "expected" and not instructed.

I watched as my son took a package of Oreos (six cookies to a pack), each of the other boys also took a package, and then some also grabbed a second. One actually was stuffing the first pack in his mouth and had two more packages in front of him. His mom was chatting with the other moms, and I wouldn't be surprised if his goal was to eat as many cookies as he could before being discovered and stopped. He is seven, after all.

Once I got Ben to give up his Oreo pack after we negotiated that he could have three cookies, I went around the table and told all the other boys "one package per scout." When they protested, I turned to the room of moms and said, in a voice that I thought was rhetorical, "Hey Moms, would any of you object to your boys eating 10 to 12 cookies tonight?"

They kind of hemmed and hawed, but no one really answered.

Maybe they didn't get my joke. Maybe their not as fanatic about dessert rules as I am. But I was surprised to get barely a reaction to my question, and so I told the boys "one package each unless your mom tells you differently," and left it at that.

Don't get me wrong. I'm sure Ben would have eaten as many packages of cookies as he could have if I hadn't been standing there, and would later have complained of a stomach ache. But That's OK. I'll take the 'bad mommy' rap now, if it means that my kids will learn self-restraint, and that I can be there to point out when they exhibit it. Maybe I'm depriving them of cookies, but I hope I'm giving them some useful tools in their stead.

If nothing else, it means less vomit for me to clean up while they're young.

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