Our Lady of Perpetual Depression

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.”

263 Comments
  • Vicki

    2008/10/24 at 9:38 am

    I’m new to reading Dooce, but Leta sounds like an adorable and highly intelligent kid. I was rarely allowed treats as a child, and I agree, it really made me appreciate them more when I was allowed them, plus I think it helped me grow up willing to try different foods etc.

  • mpotter

    2008/10/24 at 9:55 am

    that’s hilarious… can we eat dinner now.
    she knows how to work it.

    kudos to you (oh, wait- that’s a treat in form of a granola bar) yay to you for not always giving in to treats. you described it perfectly about seeing the glee.

    i sure hope when i get to this stage i’ll be able to do the same. growing up i didn’t have a ton of treats (there aren’t a ton of treats to give when you’re the youngest of 13) so i can’t imagine i’ll always lavish on the little bean. but who knows. she’s only 3 months old, but even in the womb i learned never to say never.

    leta’s adorable.

  • Sondra

    2008/10/24 at 9:59 am

    Congratulations!I have to say you gave me hope as, I too, have outlawed treats after dinner. It was rough going at first but is wonderful now! No more arguing and negotiating EVERY SINGLE BITE OF FOOD! Ahhhhhh peace 🙂 My 5 year old son knows that treats are fine at his grandparents but at home it’s only special occasions and it has worked out great.
    Thank you for bringing laughter to my day!

  • shonda

    2008/10/24 at 9:59 am

    You and I have the same parenting techniques: bribing and trickery.

    Here’s a recent convo between me and my four-year-old:

    ME: Eat your asparagus.

    HIM: No

    ME: If you don’t eat it, you can’t play your Thomas the Train matching game on the computer.

    HIM: What?

    ME: Seriously, no asparagus, no game.

    HIM: What?

    ME: And I’m gonna let your little brother play it all night.

    HIM: You’re a mean momma.

    ME: Eat your asparagus.

  • norm

    2008/10/24 at 10:02 am

    I loved this one. LOVE.

  • Sandra

    2008/10/24 at 10:26 am

    What makes it hardest to teach your kids about healthy food choices is the CRAP that manufacturers masquerade as real food and market to kids.

    Overly sweetenend breakfast cereal, chocolate milk instead of plain mailk, “fun” fruit snacks that don’t contain any actual fruit, chocolate coated or filled granola bars that have the same amount of sugar/fat/calories as a candy bar or cookies. Yogurt marketed to kids is FULL of sugar and artificial color. Juice! Juice makes me crazy. Even some 100% fruit juice contains as much sugar, ounce per ounce as pop or gatorade. North Americans have gotten so used to SWEET that they can’t eat unsweetened and now food makers need to substitute Splenda to cut down the calories.

    You can take away the “treats” to eliminate the food wars, but are you doing them any favors nutritionally if their meals and snacks are make up of total crap?

  • Robin G.

    2008/10/24 at 10:37 am

    To 194. Jennifer Suarez: Actually, I frequently post very supportive comments on Dooce. But given that A) this thought about a potential future eating disorder has popped into my head several times when Heather posts about Leta’s food issues, and B) this *is* a light-hearted post, it seemed like the time to mention it, rather than kicking Heather when she’s down.

    I want to make it clear again that I don’t in ANY way feel that Heather is doing something to *lead* to a *potential* problem, only that it seems like Leta might have inherent tendencies in that direction. Heather isn’t stupid — I’m sure she’s had similar thoughts. One of the big benefits of blogs is that we can discover other people are seeing the same things we are — ie, we’re not crazy. If Heather thinks I’m getting things entirely wrong, all the more power to her — after all, she lives with Leta and has access to far more information than the rest of us readers. But if she *has* thought that something like this might be in the future, it may be somewhat reassuring to hear that it’s occurred to someone else, too.

    I generally presume that if comments are open, then they’re open for discussion, not just cheerleading. Surely one dour comment among 200 (so far) happy ones isn’t going to ruin Heather’s day, especially given that she hasn’t crumbled under the weight of the last several political posts.

  • amy

    2008/10/24 at 10:44 am

    We did the same thing with TV at our house. And now when the short ones get to see a video at Grandma’s house, they dance around with glee.
    It’s brilliant.

  • Sarah

    2008/10/24 at 10:57 am

    Adorable!

    I make those cookies too .. and they are to die for!! who needs a recipe!!

  • Sarah

    2008/10/24 at 10:57 am

    Adorable!

    I make those cookies too .. and they are to die for!! who needs a recipe!!

  • hkdkat

    2008/10/24 at 11:03 am

    You’re also raising her to be healthier. I really enjoy your stories and your site. I’m not a parent yet so I can’t say I understand what you’re going through, but I know it can’t be easy!

    Thanks for sharing yourself with us!

    A lurking reader till now,

    Heather

  • Naomi

    2008/10/24 at 11:03 am

    Oh my goodness. I have five month old twins and I can not WAIT for them to be four. Children! Now available in “completely interactive!”

    Also, I thought you and your readers would appreciate this hysterical short parody (with a song!) of Palin as the earthy, but completely divorced from reality princess from the Disney movie Enchanted. SO FUNNY:

    http://www.meltingpotproject.com/mpp/2008/10/new-article-and-song-shes-just-a-happy-hockey-mom.html

    click on “keep reading” – it’s worth it.

  • Mockstar

    2008/10/24 at 11:04 am

    I think there is very little that should be able to deter a mothers question of “do you know how much I love you?” Cookies made by mom’s hand is one of those get out of sappy-lovey comment free cards. The guilt free gift that understandably puts time on pause for a 5 year old. I completely understand.

  • Jazzy

    2008/10/24 at 11:10 am

    My 6 year old, much like Leta, has been a great debater since her was birthed. He is going to be an excellent hostage negotiator when he grows up!

  • Kristy

    2008/10/24 at 11:11 am

    I think I should incorporate a no treat rule for my husband. AND myself.

    I’m so glad to hear that this new law is being enforced with little to no protest!

  • Julian Meteor

    2008/10/24 at 11:21 am

    When I was a kid if my Mum REFUSED to let me eat sweets I would OFTEN play statues WHEREVER I was. In a shop, at the school gates, in the middle of the road you get the idea. So, EVENTUALLY, being the good, intelligent mum that she is she gave in and bought me sweets WHENEVER I asked for them (most days).
    It really isn’t that hard. I think the kids who have NOT workede this out yet must be pretty thick, no offence.
    Julian Meteor, Plymouth

  • sma

    2008/10/24 at 11:40 am

    When my mother visits from WI, she makes her specialty for the kids for dessert. It’s call fluff: jello, coolwhip, and a can of fruit cocktail all mixed together in one over-the-top sweet orange (and wholly unnatural) concoction. I believe I ate this as a child and lived to tell the tale . . . so I figure it’s OK once or twice a year.

    Here’s my solution to baked goods for school functions: Utah’s own Schmidt’s Pastry Cottage (2100 S 500 E). If you bring in a cookie cutter, they will make and decorate sugar cookies in any shape, size, and color–and they use real buttercream frosting! Delicious.

  • Mari

    2008/10/24 at 11:43 am

    You guys had ONE cookie each after dinner? Really? I can’t even comprehend that type of restraint (or should I say deprivation)?!

  • celia

    2008/10/24 at 11:49 am

    Try adding 1 cup of mini marshmallows to your favorite brownie mix. People love them and they taste home made.

  • Karen

    2008/10/24 at 11:53 am

    I’ll take two of the mugs with Leta’s quote on them.

  • McCain't

    2008/10/24 at 12:06 pm

    As long as you were wearing your McCain’t shirt several days in a row, it is fine….

  • Nancy Y.

    2008/10/24 at 12:06 pm

    I’m going to add “Can you be quiet? I’m eating a cookie…” to my email signature. It sends just the right message.

  • Missives From Suburbia

    2008/10/24 at 12:25 pm

    Nicely done! When you figure out how to pretend your husband knows what he’s talking about, will you promise to write about that, too? Because I could use some tips.

  • Suz

    2008/10/24 at 12:44 pm

    @Kelley – That t-shirt idea is genius!

    I bet there are millions of brilliant “Leta-slogan T-shirts” that could be made. Certainly something to think about it!

    Best,
    Suz
    “3 Troopin’ Travelers”

  • Anita Ovolina

    2008/10/24 at 12:53 pm

    I wish I had the will to do the same. I go through these periods when I am strict with treats and at other times not strict – I blame it on the fact that I have many kids but really it’s just an excuse –
    Should do what you did!

  • Kristi

    2008/10/24 at 12:54 pm

    Ah yes. The ole ‘last minute notification’ of anything school related. I know it well.

    Can’t tell you how many nights I got that ‘memo’ and how many mornings I was up at 0300 to bake (had to be to work at 0600).

    School parties aside, one of my all time favorites was when my high school aged son (now 20) got up early to finish up some homework.

    It’s 5 a.m., I’m in the bathroom trying to get ready for work and he comes in asking, “Mom? How do you calculate the surface area of a right angle triangle prism?”

    Whaaaaaaaat? ACK!

    Thankfully, we had the benefit of an already awake step-dad and Google.

    He got an A on his homework, I still have no clue how to do it.

    Nor do I care. =)

  • Stephanie

    2008/10/24 at 12:57 pm

    Awesome, just awesome!
    And adorable!

  • Lindsay

    2008/10/24 at 1:00 pm

    When I was a kid my mom brainwashed me into thinking frozen green peas were popsicles (try eating some while they’re still frozen – actually pretty good). So I went through my entire childhood begging for them as treats. When I got old enough to figure out what she was doing I felt duped, but now It’s the ultimate rush – ‘ha-HA you’re eating something good for you AND YOU LIKE IT.’

  • erica

    2008/10/24 at 1:01 pm

    I dont have children but if I did I would tell this story like it was my own.

  • Stephanie

    2008/10/24 at 1:07 pm

    I think it’s only fair that you bake a few thousand cookies for your loyal readers.

  • Tootsie Farklepants

    2008/10/24 at 1:10 pm

    I just recently cut out treats from my kids diets because I realized that they had one in their packed lunch for school, then they’d have one when they got home and another after dinner. It’s one of those things I didn’t really notice happening until I was like, didn’t you have 3 ice cream sandwiches today?

    Re: cookies… I have to take the cookies out of the oven 5 minutes before they’re done because…they’re done. My oven has a faulty and temperamental temperature gauge.

  • Anonymous

    2008/10/24 at 1:12 pm

    I think that’s fantastic! I went to a kiddie party last year and there was so much candy I felt sick just looking at it. Kids need to learn early on that good food isn’t punishment. In southern Italy, kids eat nothing but pasta, vegetables, fish, and stuff in olive oil. And they think it’s tasty!

  • Selena

    2008/10/24 at 1:14 pm

    I have had the same view on treats since my daughter was born and people really do think Im CRAZY sometimes. I mean for the first year she got no sugar at all. People think I’m nuts cause I won’t let a one year old down a frosty for goodness sakes. I have started allowing over the past year (she’s 2 and a half) treats on special occasions or after eating a good meal. But they are far and few between and ususally consist of all natural sugar free popsicles or fruit roll ups! It feels good to be shaping a healthy diet for her, if not for myself.

  • Baby

    2008/10/24 at 1:17 pm

    Our children are older now, but we stopped the treats early. After awhile it wasn’t an issue.

  • britneybikini

    2008/10/24 at 1:19 pm

    Very funny stuff. Just what I needed on this cold fall day.

  • Jaime

    2008/10/24 at 2:04 pm

    T-shirt please!

    “Can you be quiet? I’m eating a cookie.”

  • Molly

    2008/10/24 at 2:15 pm

    I love this! 🙂

    We removed “treats” from our home about 6 months ago. Our 4 year old was doing the same thing. We now keep a bowl of fruit, and granola bars on the table, and we keep yogurt and applesauce in the fridge.. Those are our snacks.. no more fruit snacks, candy, etc.. And you are so right, when they do get a treat, its like heaven.

  • Brittany

    2008/10/24 at 2:48 pm

    Okay, seriously, I thought it said ‘we stopped giving her threats’ and so I was confused the whole time and was like, well, I don’t really find desserts very threatening and so after I read the whole thing I went back to the top and was like, ‘oh. treats.’ and felt totally retarded.

  • Rebecca

    2008/10/24 at 2:53 pm

    My husband and I went to hear this naturopath talk a little while back, who definitely believes that sugar is the devil – – she suggested putting an assortment of little healthy snacks in a muffin tray and leaving them on the kitchen table for grazing! I am torn between wanting to try the system myself when my daughter has teeth, and feeling like that might make me the lamest mama on the planet. “I like how your mother leaves out boiled eggs and broccoli for afternoon snack!”

  • Psycho Ex Wife

    2008/10/24 at 3:51 pm

    We had to endure the same negotiations during meals as well with my stepsons, and it was hell. Bravo to you for teaching Leta a valuable lesson. Ours unfortunately are still learning to not enjoy anything with their mother who continues to ply them with crap (including milkshakes, Wawa stops for candy, corn dogs and fried cheese last week while the youngest missed the entire week of school from being ill, gee, wonder why he was sick?) because it’s easier for her to do that than to say no. No thought given to her 8 yr old that weighed 150lbs.

    If your kid hates you and complains, I think you are raising her right 😉

  • kat

    2008/10/24 at 3:52 pm

    Absolutely PRICELESS!

    When I was a kid, and quite a hyper kid I might add, the doctor told my mom to get me off sugar as much as possible. Did she listen? No. She did not. In my household, special occasions were every night and I grew up to expect such treats — every night. I still do. It’s a constant battle, and my inner conversations go somewhat like this:

    Kat: “How many bites do I have to eat before I get my treat?”
    Kat’s Good Side: “Kat, you’ve barely eaten anything all day. You need to eat helthy. Think of those chubby thighs. Think of next summer’s bathing suit.”
    Kat: “How many bites?”
    Kat’s Good Side: “Fine… ten.”
    Kat: “How about I eat nine?”
    Kat’s Good Side: “Ten.”
    Kat: “How about eight?”
    Kat’s Good Side: “I said ten. End of discussion.”
    Kat: “So, NOW it is.” 🙂

  • Laura

    2008/10/24 at 4:20 pm

    You can also apply your cookie baking technique to brownies – remove them from the oven 5 minutes early and you will have my husband’s half-baked brownie recipe. Delish with vanilla ice cream. I have to give him credit, because it is the only thing he can bake.

  • Swati

    2008/10/24 at 9:51 pm

    I have always refrained in the past from commenting even when I wanted to applaud, or disagree, because there are so many people writing in – it just seemed like adding another burden for you to manage. Am breaking my rule today to actually respond to ‘Dancing monkey’ for which comments are closed. Forgive me for this breach of etiquette, intruding when you did not want it, but I just wanted to add my silent ovation for your courage, and for the way you handle this – the whole thing, writing what you feel, being considerate of others right to their opinions, letting them express themselves here without feeling insecure.

  • Kevin Ballard

    2008/10/24 at 6:41 pm

    Removing treats is a wonderful idea. As a young adult male of 23 years, I would certainly be in much better shape physically if I didn’t have dessert every night growing up.

  • Rebecca Maples

    2008/10/24 at 6:42 pm

    This is why I read your blog, I wish I were as strong as you are. If I would have done this years ago, my oldest is now sixteen, we would be better off. Now my kids are there every night asking “can we have a snack?” I then say “if you ate enough of your dinner you wouldn’t need a snack”.

    Hats off to you and keep to your guns, wait you don’t like guns, keep to your principles!

    Thanks,
    Rebecca

  • The Independent Mom!

    2008/10/24 at 6:55 pm

    That is so freaking awesome – that you are no longer ‘negotiating’ I have THREE crazy kids that do nothing but negotiate.

  • Kurt

    2008/10/24 at 6:57 pm

    Ha! If she went to our daughter’s school you wouldn’t be allowed to make your own cookies for her class. No homebaked goods are allowed; due to potential allergic reactions all goodies must be store bought. (And loaded with the crap that only processed goodies contain.)

  • Beth

    2008/10/24 at 7:39 pm

    As an elementary school principal, let me assure you that you don’t want to eat some of the crap that some parents bring. I can only imagine what their houses look like as some of these people don’t change clothes for days… Oh, sorry!

  • Jim

    2008/10/25 at 12:57 am

    My son negotiates whether he is getting a treat or not. He is not so much into the eating. All that business about how many bites goes on all the time at our house. He wants to negotiate about how many bites he has to eat until he is done either with a specific item or dinner in general.

    Our solution is to not negotiate. I find this to be easier than withholding a specific item or class of item. I certainly agree that the endless negotiation is unacceptable.

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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