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Zero Dark Sugar

by Barry L. Levy

Years ago, I sat at a business meeting with a mother who explained that when she took her child to other two year-olds’ birthday parties she would often try to find a creative way to exit in that moment after singing “Happy Birthday” and just before cake was served.  I won’t deny, I thought this was odd.  At the time, our girls were just a few months old and frankly it seemed somewhat cruel to deny their future-selves some delicious future baked goods.  [Full disclosure:  I have a violent and notorious sweet tooth.]

But odder still than fleeing from the scene of cake… was that this mother had other protocols for birthdays.  That she continued on at all seemed odd, clearly my facial expressions didn’t prompt her to quit while she was behind.  But as she continued, she further “over-shared” that there were tiers of birthday parties.  See, if the party was for someone especially close to her, she would stay for cake.  Sort of.  See, she came prepared ahead of time with her own sugar-free alternative so that her child could participate in the cake eating… sans refined sugar.

At the time, I thought she was bat shit crazy.

Now, I’m equally convinced she might well be a genius.

Let me make clear that I am standing on no soap box here.  I frankly don’t care if you decide to mainline your kids with sugar into a diabetic coma.  All I can tell you is when my kids have sugar, it is like something out of Ken Kesey’s “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.”  Literally:  my son will run like a chicken with its head cut off, shaking his head back-and-forth incessantly until he runs into walls.  For those of you who question if I might be embellishing, I can only assure you that I have video of his ricochet.  Some day perhaps I’ll upload it… so that you can both see this and listen in for my own diabolic laugh track (cruel, sure, but also true.)

Now it is in this context that one of my five year old daughters recently gave birth to the verb, “To Sugar.”  Sugaring is the involuntary act of jumping off couches as if one could fly, swinging from chandeliers like spider man, and/or (this part is optional) intentionally colliding with one’s own sibling to see who might be left standing by the impact.  Oh, and then crying hysterically for the next 45 minutes — not from the physical pain — but from the sugar crash.

At this point, I would imagine some of you might be asking yourself, “if he knows how extreme his children respond to sugar — why not go sugar-free?”

To which I can only respond, “where’s the fun in that?”

I’m kidding, I’m kidding.  Sort of.  We do still bribe them with treats from time to time.  Not proud of this, but it is true.  And sure, after either my wife or I take a child out for a special one-on-one dinner, we’ll inevitably get suckered into buying dessert.  Especially if they eat (or at least try) their vegetables.  Damn it, there are those bribes again.

But here’s a fun little surprise for new parents… as your child graduates from the baby stage into toddler-dom and beyond, those cakes, especially the ones from Ralph’s Superstore (I can’t explain why) will forever mark your toilet bowl with colored “treats” that make absolutely no sense.  It can’t really be the food coloring, as there’s often little correlation.

It is enough to at least make one stop and think.  Stop, sure.  Quit?  Hell no.

So… lest I am tagged as the leader of the San Fernando Sugar Cartel, I do want to point out that we have certainly made a few changes in our lives.  We have bailed on a party (or two) before the hosts hand out the crack pipe.  I mean, cake.  Even though, like an addict I tighten up trying to convince myself that I can handle it.  I can.  I’m sure.  But for my kids sake we need to flee.  That’s what I tell myself, anyway.

What’s more, the Encino Sugar Crisis of 2013 has found it’s way into our own home.  Recently, when we ran out of cereal, my wife ran to the grocery store and grabbed both Cheerios and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  Now, here’s a fun fact:  wanna guess which one only has 1 gram of sugar per serving and which has 9!?!?  The realization that one carried with it nine times the potential for a sugaring incident in our house immediately prompted me to inform my wife that there would be no Cinnamon Toast Crunching (that’s right, it’s a verb) on my watch.

Maybe that crazy sugar-free cake lady had it right after all.

Nah, I can handle it.  I’m sure.

Barry L. Levy

About Barry L. Levy

Barry Levy is a husband. A father. A writer. His "credits" include Noa, Jordan, Ben. His writing credits include Vantage Point & Paranoia. Follow him on Twitter @barryllevy

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