Q: I've had it with motherhood. People tell you how great it is, but if you've noticed, their kids either have left home or the parents make so much money they have live-in help.
Here's the day of a lady who runs two kids and a fast-food franchise. Johnny, who's 2, wakes up Molly, our 4-year-old, as soon as the sun come up. They carry on for awhile and then at 7 Johnny's yelling like a stuck pig for his bottle -- which he gets -- while Molly and I dress ourselves and then dress him.
This brings us up to 7:30 and dry cereal: A Scene. They never eat the same kind and they always dump sugar on it, whether it's pre-sweetened or not.
The children play pretty well for the next hour or so, Johnny especially gets cranky, so we have their beloved punch and cookies. From then until lunch, it's cracker here, a cookie there, every time someone bumps his head. Have you any idea how many times little kids bump their heads?
Lunch is milk, peanut butter and jelly and then naps (or giggles) until 3. More juice, more cookies, a little walk, and home to what I hear you call Arsenic Hour, when the children fall apart between 5 and 7. Except with us it can start as early as 4:30 and sometimes it never really quits until they fall asleep.
Even when I take them to the pool to play with their buddies, drink sodas and live it up, they still collapse -- usually worse than ever. I feel like such a rotten mother.
A. Rotten, smotten. We all get into bad patterns and if you don't believe it, look at your Two.
The only culprit here is your kindness. After spending the first year making sure he didn't have any allergies, you now can give your children all kinds of treats. And so you do. In fact, with your firstborn you probably figured she was so smart she would choose the foods she needed. Ho ho. Give any sensible child the choice between liver and a lolly, or even a peach and a chocolate bar, and there is no doubt which will be taken.
At the same time a parent can start giving out goodies, the child suddenly needs much less to eat, for his body is growing much slower. When a child eats such a small amount, however, it has to be first class. It isn't that his teeth will fall out if he doesn't -- although they may get more cavities -- or that his growth will be less -- although that too, may happen -- but that his behavior will be wretched.
Everything a child eats -- or doesn't eat -- affects his disposition all day and into the next.
After 10-11 hours of sleep, a child still may not be hungry, but he will grow cross and for good reason: His blood sugar has begun to fall to his socks.
While Johnny gets a quick boost with a bottle the milk is rich enough to kill his appetite for breakfast, and this sets him up for a sharp drop in a couple of hours. Although cereal mixed with milk makes a whole protein, it has about as much staying power as that proverbial Chinese supper. Besides, any sugary cereal will help the sugar stay low.
To keep a child happy and frisky in the morning, give him an instant hot cereal or an egg, and with it a half-slice of whole wheat toast and a couple of orange quarters. At mid-morning he gets no more than two crackers and some pure fruit juice. You don't want to serve a punch, which has no value, or something that is 10 percent juice with sugar water or some synthetic powdered juice with vitamins sprayed in. If factory-made vitamins were that good, we could skip meals.
By all means stay with peanut butter, with or without jelly, for lunch; nothing else brings up the spirit faster. Z.I. Sabry, who direct Nutrition Canada, once said that a school child who eats a half-slice of whole wheat bread with peanut butter, an apple and some milk is eating the perfect snack. For the small stomachs of a 2 and a 4, this is the perfect lunch, although a whole apple may be too much.
The afternoon is the slowest time of the day for anyone, including children. Again the blood sugar drops ka-plonk after a nap and again it takes protein to lift it -- not sweets, nor carbohydrates, and certainly not the hefty belt of caffeine that's hidden in sodas.
For some reason we easily give a child a 12-ounce cola (which contains as much as two ounces of sugar) when we wouldn't think of letting him drink two cups of strong black coffee or tea. And when you realize that the child is maybe a third of your weight, you know that the potency of the drug is going to be three times as much.
Instead, a few orange sections -- the potassium is especially good -- some cubes of natural cheddar or some tart apple slices smeared with peanut butter make much better pick-me-ups. In fact, you might try it yourself. As most parents eventually learn, Arsenic Hour hits adults too, especailly if they coubt on coffee or a glass of sherry to keep going. Both are sure downers in an hour or two.
This eating schedule won't guarantee glory between 5 and 7, but it should ease tension and give you and your husband a reasonably peaceful few minutes before dinner. There have even been parents who manage a quarter-hour of calm at the table (or so we have been told).
This will mean a major switch in your shopping, and no doubt about it, a few wails, too. Just tell yourself that kindness comes in many packages.