the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Mission accomplished

Earlier this month I mentioned that we had stopped giving Leta treats, and many readers wrote to inquire how we went about such warfare and whether or not there were any casualties. I’ll admit, I thought it was going to be the worst battle we had ever fought as parents, worse even than when we refused to let her inject Elmo into her forearm, but it actually turned out to be one of the easiest, for a couple of reasons. One, when your child is already complaining about everything, is already going around moaning COCO EXISTS! or BREATHING AIR IS SO EXHAUSTING! you don’t really notice it when she starts objecting to yet another unacceptable reality. Two, when she realized we weren’t giving in, she tried to seize control of the situation and started bragging about how she didn’t need treats, had never really wanted them in the first place. Oh, snap! Don’t we feel stupid NOW.

The upside is that we no longer spend our meals bargaining with each other. There is no more of this:

Leta: “How many bites do I have to eat before I get my treat?”

Me: “Leta, you’ve barely eaten anything all day. Don’t you want the whole thing?”

Leta: “How many bites?”

Me: “Fine… ten.”

Leta: “How about I eat nine?”

Me: “Ten.”

Leta: “How about eight?”

Me: “I said ten. End of discussion.”

Leta: “So, eight it is.”

Now she only gets treats on special occasions at school or when my mother WILLFULLY DISREGARDS ME. Last week while we were in Kansas City she stayed with my mother for a couple of nights, and when presented with an ice cream cone after dinner Leta didn’t know what to do. My mother assured her that it was perfectly okay, but Leta, not believing her for one second, asked, “Promise you won’t tell my Mama?”

Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s OH SO SAD. Mean mother denies child treats. What monster does this to her own daughter? ME. THAT’S WHAT MONSTER. I don’t mind the occasional treat, that’s not what this is about. This is about the constant negotiating during meals when I would much rather be enjoying my spaghetti. This is about teaching her to eat when she’s hungry and stopping when she’s full. This is also very much about making her suffer.

When I confronted Leta about the ice cream cone, something I found out about because my mother’s urge to rub it in my face far outweighed her loyalty to her grandchild, Leta didn’t say a word, she just looked up at me like a rabbit flipped over on its back by a wolf. I told her it was okay, not to worry, she’s allowed to have a treat now and then, and I asked her if she enjoyed it. “Yes, Mama,” she said, quickly regaining her footing. Smiling broadly she continued, “Does ‘now and then’ mean tonight?”

Earlier this week we got notice that her school Halloween party was going to be held today, and yesterday I found out that I needed to prepare a couple dozen cookies. This is one facet of parenthood that I have mastered, The Cookie Platter, and because of this I can forgive myself for all the other things I’m not so good at, like sewing clothes or building things out of Legos or pretending that Daddy has any idea what he’s talking about. Leta can always be confident in the fact that when I send of plate of cookies with her to school that she will walk in the door and all the kids will be nudging each other going DUDE. LETA’S MOM MADE COOKIES. Which will be a welcome change from DUDE. LETA’S MOM IS WEARING THE SAME SHIRT SHE WORE YESTERDAY.

My secret is easy: do not follow the instructions on the back of the package. Hell no, they’re not made from scratch, they’re just removed from the oven about five minutes before they’re fully-cooked and then left to finish cooking on the pan. Leta loves this recipe, and last night when I removed the first batch from the oven she was suddenly standing next to me in the kitchen having appeared out of nowhere. “What are those?” she asked, not knowing if she should beg for one or pretend that she didn’t need one. I told her they were cookies for her Halloween party, and because it was a special occasion we were all going to eat one after dinner. I got the feeling that she didn’t trust me, and in as calm and deliberate a tone as she could muster she said, “Well then, I think it would be a good idea if we all had dinner right now.”

Another upside of removing treats? Getting to see the glee in her face when she’s allowed to eat one. After dinner I handed her the biggest cookie from the batch, and she was so excited she couldn’t keep her fingers still. “Leta,” I said as she carefully balanced the cookie between two trembling hands, “do you know how much I love you?”

She nodded enthusiastically, took a bite full of chocolate chips and mumbled through a mouth full of crumbs, “Can you be quiet? I’m eating a cookie.”

  • Bubbles

    2008/10/23 at 3:02 pm

    Yes, Leta, I think it would be a good idea if we all had dinner right now.

  • Daddy Scratches

    2008/10/23 at 3:02 pm

    I don’t know if I have the gumption to endure a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old going through treat withdrawals.

    On a related note: My sister-in-law hipped us to a good idea for getting rid of the Halloween treats: if the kids leave their bags of candy out when the go to bed Halloween night, Wendy the Witch comes in the middle of the night to take the candy and leave them a toy in its place.

    Because, you know, what we really need around here are more toys.

  • jellybeant

    2008/10/23 at 3:04 pm


  • Alison

    2008/10/23 at 3:05 pm

    If I can master the Cookie Platter when I have kids, it will be my ultimate success as a mother.

  • Bumbling

    2008/10/23 at 3:07 pm

    Leta’s brain after biting into the cookie: “I am the PUPPET MASTER! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA”


  • kelley

    2008/10/23 at 3:07 pm

    i think, “can you be quiet? i’m eating a cookie” should be on t-shirts and mugs everywhere.

  • Jannie

    2008/10/23 at 3:08 pm

    Hey, I’m not the only one who wears the same shirt two days in a row!

    But of course, ahem, I washed it the first night. Yeah.

  • Dogmom

    2008/10/23 at 3:08 pm

    I truly admire your consistency and firmness. It will really come in handy with Coco. And Chuck. But more so with Coco. You are a really good parent. No matter what everyone in that little town in Utah says.

  • Jen

    2008/10/23 at 3:08 pm

    You know what surprised me is that you’re still allowed to bring “home made” treats. My friends with children are always lamenting that they have to schlep to the store and pay over-inflated prices for store-bought cookies and cupcakes.

  • kathryn

    2008/10/23 at 3:08 pm

    okay, cesar- er, heather? Can you take this act on the road? Say, to Phoenix sometime after October 31st?

  • Ely

    2008/10/23 at 3:09 pm

    This weekend one of my roommates and I made brownies for the rest of our apartment.

    My roommates’ reactions, both as we pulled out the pan of freshly baked goods and while we were all eating them was the same as Letas.

    Good to know when you’re 20 you still have a huge love for treats

  • Don

    2008/10/23 at 3:10 pm

    Heather, I emailed the following poem to you after your post-choice entry, with the intention of cheering you up. I expect you get thousands of emails, and may have missed it, so I enclose the poem here:

    By Don Beesley

    Who has learned not to turn her demons loose?
    That would be Dooce.

    Who has mellowed enough to offer a truce?
    Would that be Dooce?

    Who is irreverent and can give a goose?
    We know that’s Dooce.

    Serious as Zeus?
    Silly as Seuss?
    Can clean a moose?
    NO! No politics!
    Oh, what’s the use?

    You the one, Dooce.
    Go kick some caboose.

  • tracy

    2008/10/23 at 3:10 pm

    I have an almost-6-month old daughter who is already demonstrating her willful disregard for what mama thinks is best for her & these posts remind me I have so much to look forward to….

  • the dalai mama

    2008/10/23 at 3:12 pm

    I long to be allowed to master the cookie platter. So often here, we are not allowed to bring in homemade treats. It totally sucks. I remember bringing in homemade cupcakes, etc., for my birthday to grade school classes.

    I am going to use your trick of taking them out of the oven a little early. If I had cookies out before dinner–I would be hardpressed to get my two-and-a-half year old to eat anything for dinner at all.

  • theambershow

    2008/10/23 at 3:12 pm

    Oh, I have so much to look forward to. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    2008/10/23 at 3:13 pm

    You must make this stuff up. The things Leta says are so funny.

    Dooce, you are a terrific storyteller. I LOL every time I read your site.

  • mmc

    2008/10/23 at 3:14 pm

    @kelley – I’d totally buy that shirt!

  • Tanya

    2008/10/23 at 3:14 pm

    Haha. You’re an awesome mom. :o)

    And now I need to stop at the store on the way home so I can make a batch of cookies… My office will thank you tomorrow.

  • Sandi

    2008/10/23 at 3:14 pm

    Heather, good for you! Leta is very much like my 8 year old, and I wish I had had the balls to cut treats out at such a young age. It just slowly snowballed on us and it got to the point that the only thing she would eat was ramen noodles, toast, sugared cereal, doughnuts and hot flaming Cheetos.

    Finally I put my foot down, and she’s actually done really well. The teacher said her focus at school is better since cutting out artificial coloring. Since everything with artificial coloring is crap, her dietary choices are fairly limited. I even heard her tell her Girl Scouts leader that she couldn’t have artificial coloring the other day when snacks were discussed.

  • Sandi

    2008/10/23 at 3:14 pm

    Heather, good for you! Leta is very much like my 8 year old, and I wish I had had the balls to cut treats out at such a young age. It just slowly snowballed on us and it got to the point that the only thing she would eat was ramen noodles, toast, sugared cereal, doughnuts and hot flaming Cheetos.

    Finally I put my foot down, and she’s actually done really well. The teacher said her focus at school is better since cutting out artificial coloring. Since everything with artificial coloring is crap, her dietary choices are fairly limited. I even heard her tell her Girl Scouts leader that she couldn’t have artificial coloring the other day when snacks were discussed.

  • KT

    2008/10/23 at 3:16 pm

    Victory! I love a good parenting victory story. My 2 year old daughter would eat nothing but suckers and chocolate if she had her way; there are many tantrums in our house over this issue these days. Evil moms unite!

  • Melissa

    2008/10/23 at 3:17 pm

    Wow – seriously… what your conversation used to sound like with Leta at the dinner table is what mine sounds like every night times THREE – all three girls begging me to find out how many bites they have to eat to get dessert. If only I had the willpower to do the same thing you are doing. Oh, and Leta? FREAKING FUNNY. Can she come to my house and entertain us all for a while?

  • Dawn

    2008/10/23 at 3:18 pm

    “Can you be quiet? I’m eating a cookie.” is something that I’ve said on more than a few occasions… to my husband.

  • wookie

    2008/10/23 at 3:18 pm

    I love your kid; she is too hilarious. My niece, Mimi, is Leta’s age and she cuts right to the chase, too: “No, Eemo (Auntie in Korean) Woo, let’s talk about me.” I had to share your site with my sister (Mimi’s mom)…I have to say, since she started reading your site, her own family blog has gotten MUCH better.

    Oh, and thanks for the link to David Sedaris in your previous post. I love his stuff. Holidays on Ice is one of my all time favorites.

  • Adiel

    2008/10/23 at 3:20 pm

    A) I’m dying of laughter.

    B) I now want a cookie.

    C) I love your recipe for making cookies.

  • Ariel

    2008/10/23 at 3:20 pm

    Our children would adore each other.

  • Lo

    2008/10/23 at 3:22 pm

    Awesome! I think you’re doing a great thing. As someone who’s recently had to give up sugar (and white flour, and bad carbs, etc.) recently, I’ve experienced a brand new feeling, it’s called “no worries or thoughts about treats.” What I mean is this: My cravings for sweets, junkfood and all that stuff has gone away, as has the appetite that went along with it. I go out to eat and don’t obsess over what dessert I’m going to have, I don’t even think about it anymore. And I feel soooo sooo much better. And YOU don’t have to negotiate every bite with your daughter anymore, and trust me, after a while she won’t even miss it.

  • Schumanator

    2008/10/23 at 3:24 pm

    I worked at a preschool for awhile and I just need to inform you that the teachers are eating most of your cookies.

    No no.
    They are.

  • gingela5

    2008/10/23 at 3:29 pm

    Luckily I didn’t have to bargain with my mom. I just pushed her aside and got treats whenever I wanted them. That’s why I’m SUCH a healthy adult now. hehe Your Leta is one funny lady!

  • Ness

    2008/10/23 at 3:29 pm

    I also like the whining and moaning followed by the “I don’t NEED it anyhow”s and “I don’t even LIKE those”.

    I love being a mean mom…. 😉

    I also get the same “can you stop talking now” when my daughter is trying to do something she considers to be important.

    Yay kids!

  • Dale Cruse

    2008/10/23 at 3:30 pm

    What is Leta dressing as for Halloween?

  • Tonya

    2008/10/23 at 3:30 pm

    Ah, the joys!

  • SAHM: Surviving Assorted Home Mayhem

    2008/10/23 at 3:30 pm

    Oh that Leta sure provides great material! My little one is talking yet, so I have to rely on cuteness for blogging material–well, that and the occasional heated political topics.

  • Maria Leinen

    2008/10/23 at 3:32 pm

    Revel in the effortlessness now for as long as you can… She’ll return to her ‘old self’ in about another 10 years because at that point, teenagers know we don’t have the energy to battle anymore… bribery becomes paramount for survival at that point! 🙂

  • Joy

    2008/10/23 at 3:35 pm

    I’m also amazed that the school allows you to send homemade treats. Even around here (MN) we had to do packaged treats for preschool.

    Good for you – hold your ground. There are so many parents these days that try to be best friends with their kids. That’s not a parent’s job. Kids need structure and rules. Someone has to be the parent. Please don’t let it be the kid.

    “Never give in” is my parenting motto. I am a stubborn person, so I have no trouble holding my ground. Cry and whine all you want. Call me a horrible mom, the worst mom in the world – whatever, I’ve heard it all! I’m not giving in! As soon as they learn that, life is so much easier.

  • xabombx

    2008/10/23 at 3:35 pm

    Has someone started making magnets with “Leta-isms” on them to sell on Etsy?? If not it’s a crying shame! 🙂

  • Jackie

    2008/10/23 at 3:36 pm

    I wonder if this would work on my husband…

  • Wendy

    2008/10/23 at 3:36 pm

    I totally agree with you on every single thing you said.

    At one point I got so tired of harassing my daughter about remembering to brush her teeth that I instituted the “No sugar for 2 days for each time you forget to brush your teeth” rule. And my kid was so totally honest that she once brought home school party cookies to eat the next day. I was so shocked I almost cried.

  • abonsig

    2008/10/23 at 3:36 pm

    So as the child of a mother with weight problems, I was never allowed to have treats. I was told that I had a chocolate allergy and when I ate a chocolate cupcake at a friend’s 5th birthday party, instead of displaying horrible symptoms of my “allergy” I was grounded. Ok, mom was a little harsh.

    But I had the exact same response to all of it as Leta. Day after Halloween or Easter? “Pfft, I don’t need some stupid candy. That’s so ridiculous.”

    I survived, but sometimes it really sucked. Now with a 2-year-old of my own, I try to explain that desserts/treats are special occasion foods, not everyday foods, and that you should really appreciate them when you have them. I’m hoping that it strikes the balance between moderation and joy.

  • hugnkiss

    2008/10/23 at 3:38 pm

    Thank GOD that no one has taken away my treats…

    You are a more of a maverick of a mom than some other women other there. And I mean it in a good way. Seriously.

  • Elle

    2008/10/23 at 3:39 pm

    Sounds like the treat thing is working. Can’t say the same at our house. I just love the things kids say. We had someone in our house today doing some repairs and our six year old came out and saw him and said “What the hell are you doing?” Wonder where he heard that?

  • Jennifer

    2008/10/23 at 3:43 pm

    You’ve got a great kid. And she’s got some great parents.

  • liz

    2008/10/23 at 3:43 pm

    Wow, I’m impressed. I don’t have kids but I’m always amazed at how kids eat one bite of dinner and somehow manage to talk their parents into letting them take down an adult-sized dessert portion. It’s ridiculous. I think you’re handling the situation well.

  • Tiggerlane

    2008/10/23 at 3:45 pm

    OMG…the wit of her mother…this is what you would have been like as a child, if not for the Mormon teachings holding you at bay. You aren’t gonna pay for your raising, you are just gonna PAY.

    I love her. Her intelligence. Her logic.

    JUST WAIT until she is a teenager – you think the negotiating is bad now? HAHAHA!

    P.S. I’ll trade you a snarky teenaged girl. Right now. Please? B/c treat negotiation sounds like FUN. Compared to the negotiations going on at my house.

  • Randi

    2008/10/23 at 3:46 pm

    you always make me laugh…. but this post it seemed you made me laugh w/out even trying. here i am sitting at work reading this… and i only hope the people next door can’t hear me laughing so hard!

  • Laura

    2008/10/23 at 3:47 pm

    May I please have a cookie now?

  • Janet

    2008/10/23 at 3:48 pm

    Your daughter sounds completely adorable. I think the limit on treats is a good idea.

  • The Real Julie

    2008/10/23 at 3:48 pm

    Kudos on the No-Treatos! Grossly enough, my 5 year old would take a t-bone steak over cookies any day of the week. So, maybe treats aren’t so bad afterall!

  • Sherri

    2008/10/23 at 3:50 pm

    my nephew is 5. for the last 2 years he has had his mom read the ingredients on what he eats and won’t eat anything with “high fructose corn syrup” in it. i thought that was pretty cute. she thought she had created a monster. he would go up to people in the grocery store and say “do you know that’s not good for you? it’s got high fructose corn syrup in it.” she told him it wasn’t up to him to tell other people what to eat.

  • Kelly

    2008/10/23 at 3:50 pm

    Some of us like the nightly bite-taking negotiation at dinner every. single. night.

    I should probably try taking away treats. But I have three kids. I think I may go deaf from the whining.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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