Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sugar, Sugar!

While the picture is from her birthday at Disney World, it perfectly sums up Jessie’s delightful, yet challenging relationship with sugar!

Yesterday when Jessie called on the cell after school was over, her opening line was “I had sugar!” No mention what exactly she ate/bought that had sugar, just “I had sugar!” “Okay,” I said, “did that sugar come in any form of food, or was it just sugar?” “Mooooom (the long oh of course). I had money and I bought a SMALL sundae after school because I was hungry.” Silence on my end. Then, “Jessie, that’s not a good or healthy food choice. When you get home we need to talk about healthy food choices.” Click. Or whatever sound goes with the slamming shut of a cell phone. Then a few minutes later the phone rings again. I don’t answer it. (I’m getting good at that.) There is a message however. So I listen: “Mom, I’m sorry I hung up on you. I was being defensive and I’m sorry. I didn’t want to hear what you had to say. You’re right (huh?). Maybe when I get home you can print out a problem solving sheet and you can help me figure out how to make healthier food choices. We can do it together.”

Wow! First, the fact that she used the word “defensive” in terms of her reaction, second, that she recognized her defensiveness, and third, that she was willing to do something about it. Most of the adults I know (myself included) rarely recognize their defensiveness so quickly and are usually never ready to do something about it until at least a day later! I need to learn something from this … about myself in particular. But food continues to be a challenge, one that I can relate to, except I am graced with a overactive metabolism that allows me to eat “sugar” with abandon. I am sure that will change as I age, but Jessie has inherited my love of sugar, without the metabolism that makes it not so apparent. Jessie LOVES food—sugar and carbs in particular—and combined with little self-control and a sluggish metabolism it is a bit of a struggle. Food gets mixed up with all sorts of other issues as well, such as independence.

This weekend, for example, we got to sleep in on Saturday for the first time in what feels like a million years, as Propeller Kids is finished for the summer and Jessie doesn’t have to get out the door by 8:30 to go teach. As Dan and I were lazing in bed (at 8!) Jess slams into our room and drops a pad on the bed saying “I’ve written you a note, read it!” She is fully dressed, we are barely awake. Dan’s the only one who can read without glasses these days, so he picks up the pad off the duvet, pushes himself up and reads: “Mom and Dad: I am trying to be more independent because its important and its what Storefront is teaching me, so I am going to Tim Hortons to buy myself a breakfast sandwich. Jessie.” I am too tired to be kind or thoughtful or measured in my response. “You are NOT going to Tim Hortons. (I count myself lucky that she is not willing, these days, to completely ignore my commands.) You don’t have to buy your food to be independent. Making your breakfast also counts as independence you know!” She slams down the stairs and the house shakes, but at least she doesn’t go out the door.

Part of this is due, I am sure of it, to the fact that she has just spent the last two weeks or so eating out—the dance workshop trip to Calgary and the school trip to Montreal. And despite my best efforts and guidance, we consumed a lot of “unhealthy” food, and boy did it taste good! So the food battle continues. We try to celebrate the little gains (other than weight!), and her willingness to recognize that it can be a challenge.

And so, true to her word, when she got home we did the “problem solver sheet” together. I did reiterate that we weren’t trying to get her to never have sugar or ice cream or any of those delightful things, but to try to create a balance in her diet that gave her room to eat any and all of the things she loves without harming herself or her health. The solution (after defining the problem and the goal) was to 1) not go to school everyday with money so that she is tempted (she did recognize that it was REALLY hard to walk by Baskin and Robbins each day after school on her way to the bus stop, and felt better when I agreed with her that that would be really hard for anybody!) 2) to pick one day a week when she would bring money to buy a snack after school, 3) to mix up what she bought and maybe to choose a frozen yogurt instead, and 4) to pack a snack that she likes that she can eat after school. We also talked about what would happen if she bought a snack everyday and how much money she would then NOT have for some of the things she wants to buy … like clothes, movies, dance classes, and fixing my old guitar. Ah money …. And budgeting. That is a whole different post!

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