I’m sorry, pediatricians and dentists, but you may not want to read this post. Here it goes: I willingly give my children multiple treats a day. Yes. Every day. A dessert in the middle of the day AND a dessert at the end of the day. And I’m not sorry for doing it. Not an ounce of mom guilt. Nada. Zilch.
My kids have yet to have a cavity and they’re growing at a healthy pace each year, but that’s not what keeps me guilt-free. I have my reasons, some of which need explaining and others, which speak for themselves:
It’s a family tradition I want to preserve.
I was raised on multiple treats a day. In my lunch bag, I would have Little Debbie snacks or Thin Mints that I would sometimes trade with my friends for Keebler Elf cookies or Dunkaroos (90’s kid here). After dinner, my mom would return from the kitchen with some frozen treat for our little family of three. Over the summers when I stayed with my grandparents on the Cape, day trips to the beach/ pool/ park/ bike trail/ tennis court included some sort of candy, and after dinner, a box of chocolate and vanilla mini Dove bars would emerge from the freezer.
It’s in my kids’ blood.
I regularly drank milkshakes during both of my pregnancies. The little swimmers inside my belly would become active, but not in a wild or painful way. It was like a soothing somersault, which I interpreted as a kinesthetic thank you.
I know some people will say it’s an unhealthy form of self-medicating and coping with stress, but I’ve discovered that having treats as part of a routine reduces the onset of meltdowns. I haven’t witnessed sugar highs with my kids. Instead, their nightly dessert right before bath time acts as a signal that the bedtime process is about to start. Sure, sometimes I have to utter threatening words (“if you don’t finish your dinner, you won’t get a treat”) when they’re running around and not eating the healthy food on their dinner plate, but all is quiet on the table-front once they’ve earned their reward.
It’s an exercise in patience.
Knowing that treats are coming helps my kids learn to wait. If there’s a long ice cream line, they don’t whine, “Is it our turn yet?” They just wait, smiling at the people ahead of them. If there’s chocolate cake at a wedding, they don’t whine, “When is it time for cake?” They make their way to the dance floor and boogie until the time is right. (It also helps with the concept of time. I can tell my older child a certain hour to look for on the clock and she’ll explain to my younger child that they have to wait for that designated right time).
It’s all about moderation and honoring choice.
They understand they can’t eat sweets all day. They’re not greedy sugar fiends. (Thank you, hungry caterpillar, for imparting that lesson). They appreciate the boundaries, stipulations, and limited freedom of twice-a-day treats. My children know they can’t eat an entire bag of M&M’s, so they ask for no more than 10. They know what treat options are available on any given day, so they think through their requests and rationalize, “I’ll have this today and that tomorrow.”
It’s a cheap adventure to take in our county or on any trip.
It’s about making memories and making messes.
It’s an instant photo op.
It’s about maintaining the cool mom status.
It’s an act of love.
It’s happiness in its sweetest form.
So, pediatricians and dentists, if you even got to the end of this post, sorry, but I’m not sorry.