So yesterday it finally happened, My older daughter called me on it.
She had been complaining about how most of the kids in fifth grade get school lunch and today that meant sugar cookies. I was startled to learn that out of a class of about twenty-four children, Greta is one of only three who bring home lunch. “I know it’s hard honey,” I said feeling genuinely sad. I know that A Year of No Sugar means one thing to a forty-year old, and quite another to a nearly eleven year old.
“Mom,” she said, suddenly, “What do I get out of it? What’s good about it for me?”
“Well, it’s our family project,” I said, a little uncertainly. “We’re doing it together.”
“Yeah I know, but you’re going to get a book out of it. So it’s really for you. Right?”
“Well, yeah,” I said, thinking: and that would be the best case scenario. Right now, having something so concrete as a published book to prove what we’ve done here meant anything isn’t guaranteed. “But you can be part of the book too,” I reminded her, referring to her journal entries and Smoothie recipes she’s been compiling, “if you want to.”
“I know,” she said, reasserting “But it’s really for you.”
“Well, sort of,” I said lamely. “I am sorry it’s so hard.” And after a pause, “That doesn’t make it any easier, does it?”
“No.” she said.
“Well then how about I make it up to you by… buying you a fancy new pair of shoes?!” I exclaimed. Parent tip #24: when all else fails resort to outright bribery. (I should point out that we had just arrived in the parking lot of the shoe shop in order to find her a pair of “fancy” shoes for her upcoming birthday. We looked all afternoon and never did find any- this being Vermont where patent leather shoes are in significantly lower demand than muck boots- so we bought bagels with cream cheese instead.)
“Okay” she said laughing.
Phew. That was a close one. The worst part about this exchange is that she’s got a valid point. I mean, I could pull out some charts and graphs explaining the growth of sugar consumption in the US and how it mirrors lovely things like incidence of pancreatic cancer and metabolic syndrome… but she’s about to be eleven. I’m pretty sure, in the war between pie graphs and pie, I’d lose.
So the health argument is pretty much out; the “you can help” argument is marginally persuasive, but not a surefire winner. And of course, there’s the fact that I’m still searching my soul for the real Why of this project: I mean, you can have a blog or a book about anything… why this? As someone recently asked me point blank: what’s the payoff?
I’m not trying to lose weight. Certainly, I’m trying to be healthier, which, by subjective standards the whole family does seem to be. But to effectively separate me from my Reese’s Peanut Butter cups there would have to be more to it than that… What seems to be stoking the fire of my resolve is the fact that I have been convinced by intelligent, thoughtful people like Dr. Robert Lustig (The Bitter Truth), like David Gillespie (Sweet Poison), who connect the dots in such a convincing way as to make you feel as if a veil has finally been lifted from your eyes and suddenly it all makes sense.
Like any new convert, I have developed a fervor about this knew revelatory knowledge and I feel people should know about it and shouldn’t be afraid to find out- if true- what it might all mean. Like I’ve reported on other posts, the hardest part for me in our Year of No Sugar isn’t resisting temptation, it’s dealing with the conspiring societal norms which come together in a tsunami-fashion to break down the walls of our better judgement. With this project I figured that if we could just show in a dramatic way what was possible, and consequently bringing a greater public awareness to the issue, that might be enough for others to follow in a more moderate fashion.
How to explain this to my near-eleven year old? How about: “We’re just trying to change the world, honey.” I’ll try that next time, and let you know how it goes.