I had a very difficult second pregnancy. Part of what made it so challenging was the fact that I was taking care of my first-born full-time, and she was just eight months old when I conceived. Carrying a baby in my belly and another on my hip for the entire first trimester was tough, and things only got harder as my belly grew and my first baby became a toddler. One way I knew I could get Emma to sit still or follow directions was to bribe her with something sweet. Slowly, that lead to feeding her convenience foods that were easy for me to prepare (read: unwrap) and sweet enough for her to eat without issue. Now? My child is addicted to sugar, and it’s all my fault.
I know it’s genetic, in part, to love the sweet stuff. My father could go through a carton of ice cream a day and cookies don’t last long in my parents’ house. My sister has openly stated that she could never be an alcoholic because she’d rather consume the calories in the form of a piece of chocolate cake. My mother loves to retell the story of a two-year-old me, eating my first cream-filled, chocolate-covered donut, leaving not a smear or crumb behind. It makes sense that my daughter would have an innate yearning for sugar. But why on earth did I nurture that?
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Convenience for a pregnant mother equals processed foods, and that equals sugar. That’s the bottom line. I lazily gave Emma individually packaged yogurt instead of the healthier plain kind with a drizzle of honey or jam. I pretended that using three lollipops to get through a trip to the grocery store was a reasonable bribe for good behavior from a toddler. I treated myself to coffee and bought her a little something to give me three minutes of quiet at the back table of the coffee shop.
Now, I’m paying the price. Emma begs for popsicles, lollipops, and jam any time she gets a rumble in her tummy. Gone are the days when she’d eat an entire avocado as a meal or enjoy a fruit and cheese plate for breakfast. I have to get even more creative than if I had never started her down this awful path. I am slowly putting less and less jam in her plain yogurt, making popsicles using mostly water with a splash of juice, and insisting she have just one more bite of her peas before giving her a homemade, not-so-bad-for-you vegan oatmeal cookie. I’m also trying to make healthier choices for myself.
What have I learned? Sometimes, as a parent, the path that seems easiest really isn’t. I’m grateful that we’re nipping this addiction in the bud and are not allowing Emma to develop eating habits that will haunt her. I’m grateful that she’s not even two years old yet and won’t remember how she cried for 30 minutes over not getting a marshmallow before dinner. I’m grateful to have learned another lesson in parenting, and I vow to not make the same mistake again.
What parenting mistakes have you made that you promise yourself never to repeat?