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?”
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.”