parenting gymnastics: the art of the balance beam

My remarkably brief attempt at gymnastics as a child taught me several things: leotards are fabulous (and they didn’t even make the sparkly spandex ones back in the dark ages), tumbling was the most fun, I could only do one move on the bars but I could do it really well, and the balance beam was terrifying.  Oh, plus I had trust issues with the whole “hurtle yourself backwards and believe your hands will hit the floor before your head” while learning back handsprings.  But I digress.

Bear's gymnastics experience. Her leotard was way cooler.

Bear’s gymnastics experience. Her leotard was way cooler.

The balance beam frightened me for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that I had no sense of balance, and it occurred to me recently that a great deal of parenting feels like walking an incredibly high balance beam.  Sometimes the issues you deal with are big and sometimes they’re small, but they all require you to handle them without crashing to the floor with a resounding splat.

Some of our smaller issues:

*  Dessert – We tackle requests for this pretty frequently.  T-man and Bear are always in favor of it and our answer might be yes, depending on the time.  If so then I’m faced with deciding whether to approve tiny, small, or medium servings based on sugar content.

*  Technology – We also straddle technology time.  Be it iPods or iPads or watching something on Netflix, this comes up often with the kids.  I’ve stemmed the tide a bit by setting a 6:00pm cut off time for electronics but sometimes we make exceptions, so “Can I watch/play/do…” still makes an appearance around our house in the evenings.

*  Soda – Then there’s the nightly decision about what to drink with dinner.  Water is almost always the answer to this question.  Sometimes we’ve compromised with sparkling water, but when we agree to soda it unleashes a flurry of new decisions.  Fully loaded (sugar!!) or diet (aspartame!!)?  Caffeine or decaf? Exactly how jacked up on sugar and chemicals can they get and still be able to go to bed on time?

Soda works on a sliding scale for me.  Since they don’t fully understand my reasoning I’m sure my decisions probably seem erratic to T-man and Bear, but I can’t quite explain the pyramid-like hierarchy of sodas based on health factors I mentally shift through when they want one.  Maybe some day I’ll explain this multi-level system.

Until recently sparkling water had been acceptable, but now I’m trying to eliminate aspartame from the house.  The next choice would be clear diet sodas – no artificial colors or caffeine, but again…aspartame. Sprite, Sierra Mist, and 7-Up aren’t too bad, plus root beer’s decent enough – yes, it has artificial coloring, but at least no caffeine.  Coming in dead last are the fully loaded sodas like Coke, Pepsi,  and Dr. Pepper.

I only have one rock solid ground rule:  absolutely no Mountain Dew.

That might seem a little harsh, but this particular soda is so far beyond the realm that my answer has always been 100%, over my dead body, hell no to doing the Dew.  It has chemical ingredients that make me nervous, and the caffeine content?  Sheesh.

Take a look at some other of the other sodas’ caffeine levels:

  • 7-Up  0mg
  • Coke  35mg
  • Pepsi  39mg
  • Dr. Pepper  42mg

But Mountain Dew?  It packs a walloping 55mg of that central-nervous-system stimulant to spazz out my kid.  My own morning coffee delivers 75mg of welcome caffeine to my tired brain…even without crunching the numbers, it’s clear by our relative body masses that T-man’s caffeine intake from the Dew would vastly outweigh my coffee fix.

As you can see I’m pretty passionate about this, a fact that the kids are well aware of.  T-man and Bear have heard my spiel at least a dozen times already.  Which is why I found it particularly strange when I picked up T-man from the school dance only to hear this from the back seat:

“I hope you don’t mind, but because it was a special occasion I got a Mountain Dew.”

Ummm…well yes, son, I actually do mind.  Quite a bit.  Haven’t you heard a word I’ve said about that stuff?  Nope?  Huh.

That "special occasion" logic was a nice try, but it's still a no go.

That “special occasion” angle was a nice try, but it’s still a no go.

I thanked him for his honesty, but I also explained that later on he would be researching the soda himself.  Maybe going to the trouble of finding the information on his own would help it stick a little better.

We were in the kitchen the next afternoon when T-man googled what’s in Mountain Dew and side effects. His eyes grew a little bigger with every fact he read aloud to me:

  • The soda contains BVO, an ingredient found in pesticides, gasoline additive, and flame retardants.
  • Yellow dye #5 (tartrazine) can increase ADHD-like symptoms among children with and without ADHD.
  • Possible side effects – liver problems, tooth decay, infertility (explaining that one was fun), skin lesions, memory problems, anxiety, migraines,  and blurry vision.

I’m sure he mentioned a few others, but these alone were enough to make him stop and think.  I could see the wheels turning as T-man processed what he’d just read – that a soda could do these things to him. It was enlightening, to say the least.

As a plus, his research had backed me up with solid facts.  I wasn’t some crazy mama out to deny him delicious soda that all the other kids drank.  In this particular instance when I said “I have my reasons,” he had literally read the reasons himself.  Score!

It’s been about three weeks now and I haven’t heard a request for Mountain Dew since.  I’m not sure how long our little hiatus will last – I don’t delude myself into thinking he’s permanently convinced himself to avoid this particular drink – but at least he’s got this information stored somewhere in his memory.

Next item on the agenda?  Energy drinks.  Yikes.

3 thoughts on “parenting gymnastics: the art of the balance beam

Add your 2 cents here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s