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No, You Really Can’t Give My Kid Sugar

Photograph by Getty Images/Hemera

Dear well-meaning, loving, kind people who offer my daughter sweets,

I would love to give my daughter cake just as much as you would. I would love to give her cheesecake on my birthday. I would love to give her more than one tiny bite of one little Swedish fish for Valentine's Day.

I want to say yes to her, and I want to say yes to you when you offer to give her a bite of your delicious pastry.

But instead I'll say, "I'm sorry, no, she doesn't do so well with sugar." And you'll move on glumly, perhaps thinking I'm a mean mom.

Once someone suggested to me that she "just needs to get used to it." (I won't even begin to explain why building up a tolerance to sweets is a bad idea.) I would love to say yes to you, but I won't.

See, my daughter really doesn't do so well when we give her sugar. She enjoys the one bite. Then she wants more and more, and cries when we say no.

Once we've finally calmed her down from the sadness of not being able to have what she wants, the sugar high is kicking in. She moves from one activity to the next flinging toys, crazed, unable to focus on any one thing. She runs and darts around and her loving sweet eyes seem replaced with wide-eyed out of control manic eyes.

She won't know what's going on, and will feel funny, so she'll need lots of extra care and attention. On sugar, her (tiny, newly formed) ability to think things through is gone. She will exhaust you and hurt herself.

She gets "bonky," and is way more prone to tripping, hitting her head, falling off of things, and so on. When she is hurt, she will want comforted but not held, because she will still be hyper and need her room to squirm and run.

She will want to sleep, but won't be able to. This will bring more tears. You will try for hours to help her find calm, find rest, after all—it was only ONE bite of cake or ONE Swedish fish, right?Shouldn't the effect have worn off by now?

No, it won't have. She will not be able to sleep, but will feel exhausted and miserable, and unable to calm down.

Perhaps after several (maybe 8+) hours, after some good protein, after completely exhausting mommy and daddy, she will finally fall asleep. She will have had a miserable, miserable time, and when our daughter is miserable, we are undoubtedly miserable too.

I have considered that it could be a coincidence. I have considered that I could be too "in-tune" with her moods.

I have also considered that the exact same thing happens to her father when he eats sugar, and so he rarely ever eats any. Perhaps it is genetic, maybe they are extra sensitive to glycemic changes. Whatever it is, I know that sugar in our household means misery for all.

I would love to say yes, but I will not subject her to that. Saying "no" to her now is the most loving choice I can make for her.

Maybe in the future her body will change and she will be able to handle sugar. Until then, I will keep apologizing, keep saying no to the dear kind treat-offerers, and offer her berries instead, which she adores and devours like the best chocolate cake in the world.

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