27 Sep Should I have allowed my 3 year old to have a “Freakshake” as a treat?
I allowed Oliver to have a version of a freakshake today. I would never usually allow him to have one of these, especially after a meal and a cake. But, I did. And I regretted it straight away as he was sick immediately afterwards.
We went for an impromptu lunch today to celebrate one of our friends’ birthdays. Oliver had half a jacket potato and a small cupcake. We’re quite strict with sugary food and drinks and only let Oliver have them on what we consider to be appropriate occasions. He didn’t taste ice cream until he was 21 months old when we went on holiday to France. He didn’t have chocolate until he was 2 and a half when I did him an Easter egg hunt with some small chocolates as prizes. I allowed him to have a cupcake today as were celebrating a birthday. Ordinarily he wouldn’t have been allowed a cake after lunch.
Some of my friends and family think that I’m too restrictive with his diet. They’ve voiced their concerns that when he does have the opportunity to choose food for himself he’ll go crazy and gorge. I don’t share this concern. At birthday parties I always let him have whatever he likes from the food on offer and so far he’s made quite sensible choices from what’s available, taking a balance of different foods. He hasn’t just gone for the junk or sweets; he usually does get a sandwich and some fruit or veg and dips if it’s available too. He doesn’t realise that he’s ‘deprived’ as some of my friends would put it. He has biscuits, cake, popcorn, hot chocolate and ice cream at home, but we make them ourselves so they are sugar free. If he asks for biscuits, we make some, so no food group is a mystery that he’s never tasted.
When he was younger I used to go by the motto ‘Don’t ask; don’t get’. What I mean by this is, if I’m sitting with some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and he’s happily tucking into a homemade frozen yoghurt pop, why would I offer him ice cream? If I’m stuffing my face with Christmas chocolates and he’s merrily munching raspberries, why would I offer him one? As soon as he got to an age where he realised that what I had was different and asked for what I had I either gave it to him, or I chose to not eat it in front of him. My own rule is not eat anything in front of him that I’m not willing to share; I think that would be cruel. I don’t make others stick to this rule, friends and family can eat what they like I don’t say ‘You can’t eat that in front of him’. Now he knows what things are and asks for them, he’s usually allowed them, when we consider it to be appropriate timing. If it’s a scorching hot day he can have an ice cream if the van stops down our road. If it’s freezing cold and we’ve been outside all day he can have a hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows. If he does an Easter egg hunt and gets a Crème Egg, he’s allowed to scoff it. These aren’t things we have every day, so I’m happy for him to have them on the occasions that he does. I think we take quite a balanced approach to his diet, but some people would disagree and would allow their children have these things more often.
So back to today’s birthday lunch. After eating our meals our friends decided to have a freakshake for dessert; the café we’d gone to is famous locally for having the best ones around. I’d never heard of them, but basically they’re an elaborate milkshake. The inside of the glass is decorated with syrup and then the milkshake is made with milk, double cream, ice cream, chocolate or fruit, and more syrup. It then has some whipped cream, a cake or donut, even more syrup and some sweets and sprinkles on top. Oliver asked for one and I said no. I explained he’d had his cake and a jacket potato, and his tummy was probably full. He assured me that it wasn’t. Our friends’ freakshakes came and they looked amazing, so naturally Oliver had serious freakshake envy.
The café we were at did actually do children’s freakshakes. Despite these being on a smaller scale than the one above, I still wouldn’t give one to Oliver. I dread to think how much sugar would be in one. But, he really, really wanted one. Against my better judgement, I went and asked if they could make him a fake one, just milk with a tiny bit of squirty cream and some sprinkles, to appease him so that he didn’t feel left out. They obliged and served almost exactly what I’d asked for, except it had a flake and some chocolate sauce on top too. To a 3 year old it looked like a freakshake, but I was happy that it had considerably less sugar than a real one.
Literally two minutes after drinking it he burst out crying with tummy ache. Five minutes later he was inconsolable and doubled up on my lap clutching his stomach. He was then sick all over the café floor. Immediately after being sick he brightened up and was happy and smiley again.
I felt so guilty for allowing it to happen, I should have just been firm and said no. I’m usually quite strict and when I say no, I mean no, and no amount of whining and whinging gets me to change my mind. On this occasion he didn’t actually whine and whinge, he just asked me really sweetly and said ‘Pleeeeeease Mummy’ and looked at me with his big brown eyes. He’s been so good recently (he really is the best big brother to Charlie, he’s had some health concerns recently which has resulted in hospital visits and he’s had unpleasant blood tests – sometimes daily) so I reasoned that he deserved a “treat”. I felt so, so bad that he was sick and I realised afterwards that actually it wasn’t a “treat” for him at all in the end. It just reinforced to me why I don’t normally give him such sickly things, why I don’t use food and drink as treats or rewards, and that he’s not old enough to know when enough is enough with tempting foods so I still need to limit them for him.
It obviously wasn’t the sugar in the ‘freakshake’ that made him sick, but the sheer volume of food and drink he’d consumed. It was simply a case of his ‘eyes were bigger than his belly’. We’ve all done it, (please say it’s not just me?!) you go for dinner and are stuffed from your main course but then the server shows you the dessert menu and something is just so tempting that you manage to squeeze one in even though you know you’ll have to roll home afterwards as you’ll be too full to walk.
With Baby Led Weaning the ethos is that you let the baby decide when they are full, and don’t coax them to eat more, or limit their intake of food if they’re still going. Until now I’ve always listened to Oliver when he tells me he’s still hungry or that he’s full and allowed him to regulate his own food intake. I think now that he’s older he’s realising some foods are ‘nicer’ than others. Today he forced himself to drink it because he wanted it, rather than listening to his own body and deciding whether or not he needed it based on how hungry or full he was. I think for now, with ‘treats’ at least, I still need to regulate what he has and not allow him to chose how much to eat.
What age did you give free reign to your children to all kinds of food? Did they chose sensibly or go crazy?