By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
A few years ago, I attended the birthday party of twins. The adults watched the 2-year-old boys celebrate their birthday by experiencing their first-ever taste of chocolate.
“That’s smart that they’re only now getting introduced to sugar,” I thought to myself, as I witnessed the floodgates for sugar consumption being opened for the boys, who hadn’t been allowed sweets prior to this day. Why didn’t I think of that when I was a young mother decades ago? I honestly had no clue about the harmful effects of excessive sugar.
In fact, sweets were an irresistible attraction in my household. I was guilty of feeding my kids tons of preservatives and saturated fats with canned food and takeout meals because I didn’t have time to cook.
I admit that I fed my kids thousands of pounds of sugar by the time they were teenagers. I gave them candy before they turned a year old. I spoiled them rotten, not only with cookies, cakes, pastries, and mini butter croissants, but also with reward trips to ice cream shops whenever they behaved. I cooked just about everything you could imagine that parents nowadays would think twice about serving their kids.
I loved to bake chocolate chip cookies for my sons every week. As soon as I took the cookies out of the oven, the aroma would draw them into the kitchen from all corners of the house.
“Cookies, cookies,” cried my son, while grabbing a couple for himself. His younger brother would not be far behind, fearing that his older brother would consume them all.
I would also make a couple of jumbo cookies for good measure and I joined my boys in devouring one. Nothing made me happier than seeing my kids enjoy my baking. When the cookie jar was empty, I baked again. Baking became a therapeutic ritual for this working mom.
Ready-made cookie dough was cheap and always available at grocery stores. Convenience sometimes equals survival for us working moms. Processed foods were the least of my concerns, as long as I put food on the table. It’s not that I deliberately sacrificed health for convenience. Mothers didn’t think in those terms in my days. I didn’t want my kids to be hungry. I didn’t think I had any choice.
Fats but no sodas
None of our family members were overweight, so I never worried about our dinner having too much fat or sugar. Butter was what we ate every day with our toast. (I hate the taste of margarine.)
I never objected to their sugary choice of cereal for breakfast. No matter how strict parents are, they need to make their kids feel like they have some control in their lives. It is important that parents give kids some autonomy.
In my days as a young mother, nobody ever questioned my ability to do a good job taking care of my family and balancing my demanding career.
The sin I didn’t commit was we never stocked up on sodas, because I dislike sodas.
Today, parents who have so much more free information about health and what’s good for kids would be alarmed by what I did.
Would I do it differently if I had a second chance?
Absolutely not! We cannot change the past.
How did my kids turn out?
I stopped baking cookies when my kids went to college. My family had outgrown the tradition. Actually, we don’t eat cookies anymore because the store-bought kind don’t taste as fresh as the ones I made.
I will never forget my sons’ smiling faces and eyes lighting up when they saw cookies on the kitchen counter. I loved to spoil my kids. Food connects people. Food is bonding and love. I would never trade those good old days. So the issue is, did my kids turn out to be sugar-addicted and obese? Have they adopted any unhealthy habits because of the way I raised them?
I don’t tell them what and what not to eat now that they are adults. They have become more health-conscious than I am. The only credit I claim is that my kids have loved vegetables since they were little. They grew up with veggies. And they don’t smoke. In our household, smoking was not allowed.
My sons have taught me more about the health benefits of foods than I could have ever imagined. The future will always work out. Why sweat the past?
Assunta Ng can be reached at email@example.com.