Don’t let the photo fool you, this blog is anything but sweet. In one of the many rants I listened to from my good friend Jane this week, she mentioned that Mary, the older of her two stepdaughters, has a “sugar addiction”. At first I took this to be Jane exaggerating yet another flaw in Mary’s unpleasant personality, as we have reached a point where Jane can not stand this girl. Everything she says and does sets Jane off and while I do feel much of her frustration is warranted, there are times I just let her vent, say I understand and move on. While I knew that Mary’s diet was less than ideal, at 16 she has the palette of toddler, living mostly on white foods (pasta, bread, rice) and very little protein aside from hot dogs, but I had never heard of this sugar addiction.
Apparently Mary drinks nothing but iced tea, very sweet iced tea. Now, I am a Southern girl and sweet tea is the “house wine of the South”, but once I pushed for more details, there is nothing sweet about what is going on here. Seems in a one month period, being at their house every other week, Mary consumed an entire FIVE POUND bag of sugar. Since no one else in the house uses sugar other than to bake or cook, this was not found out until Jane went to bake and found the new bag she bought the month before was empty. Dick had a talk with Mary, who of course denied using that much sugar. Within the next two weeks the brown sugar, coconut sugar and Stevia all depleted as well, as no addition regular sugar was purchased. By any standard this is a HUGE problem. But when you take into consideration this is a girl suffering from depression and anxiety, who has been seeing a therapist and started anti-depressant medications in the past six months, my next question was: has Dick mentioned her sugar addiction to Mary’s doctors/therapist. i was shocked to find the answer was “no”.
I have never been a huge consumer of sugar, not in the way Mary is, I prefer my sweets in the form of a tasty pastry, so looked up just how serious sugar in-take on this level can be. I found that “Scientists have found that sugar is addictive and stimulates the same pleasure centers of the brain as cocaine or heroin. Just like those hard-core drugs, getting off sugar leads to withdrawal and cravings, requiring an actual detox process to wean off.” (Dailyburn.com). When you pair consuming that much granulated white sugar along with the diet of mostly carbs that also convert to sugar, this girl may be better off sorting coke! Ok, maybe she wouldn’t be “better”, but if she were doing “drugs” her parents would actually work to get her off of them, where as this sugar thing is not being taken as serious as it should, in my opinion.
I asked what they did about this, a I know Dick handles things much differently than my husband does with “the girl”, mostly because his daughters have some pretty big issues that we are lucky not to deal with and my husband is a bit better at the role of parent than Dick. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Dick and I love how much he loves my friend Jane and the four of us have a great time together. However, Dick parents out of fear. Fear of his kids being angry or upset with him and fear he will have to deal with his ex-wife. I asked my hubby how, if this had somehow happened at our house, would he have handled it. He said “no more sugar, period”. I tend to agree, yet Dick went online, looked up what the recommended daily sugar intake was and gave Mary a two month “supply”. Now, keep in mind, he gave her the recommended amount for ALL sugar in one’s diet, so her mostly carb filled diet, which also is heavy in hidden sugars, was not factored in, so she would still be consuming well over the recommended limit. That two month supply was gone in less than two weeks. Once again other sugar products started disappearing and the rant about Mary that brought this addiction to light was when Dick took the Splenda away from her and she had a breakdown. And all the while, nothing has been said to her therapist about this, which really shocks me since Dick reports back to the doctor on everything. This could explain why Mary reports she is happier at her mom’s house, where she has unlimited access to all her sugar she wants. She complains that her father “controls her”, well, he certainly attempts to control her sugar intake.
This situation got to me thinking, on a few topics actually. Yes, we all know that American’s face soaring obesity rate, due in large part to the consumption sugar and sugary foods, but many younger people have horrible diets, in my option due to the “chicken nugget” culture. When I was growing up there was not the convenience of chicken nuggets at the ready for every meal. Our parents made dinner and we were expected to eat it or, hold on to your seats, we ate nothing. My grandfather had a rule, you try something before you say you don’t like it. I credit he and my grandmother for my love of all kinds of foods and my love of cooking. However, kids today are given the option of a special, convenient meal to avoid meal time tantrums. Yes, there are more single parent household and yes, everyone is busy. But I was raised by a single mom and she only cooked one meal at a time. Much like Mary, these chicken nugget kids crave processed foods, well beyond the toddler years. If children are not taught about nutrition and balanced diets at a young age and in their homes, where are they expected to learn? While I have no doubt that at 16 Mary fully knows that consuming BAGS of sugar in a few weeks time is not normal nor healthy, no one until now has told her no or why it should not be an option.
Aside from the obvious issue of the long term affects of a sugar addiction, the parenting out of fear and adolescents feelings they are in a position of power is wearing thin on me. We faced and addressed this in our home with the girl, but I feel now, at 13, we have it well in hand and the roles are clearly defined and respected. She is a good and respectful young lady, we are very lucky, but even when the child is more of a challenge, a parent can’t just give up and turn the power over to the kids. I see this so often with my fellow step-parents, the struggle to seeing their spouse cower to a child. Jane’s therapist pointed out that seeing Dick emasculated by his daughter must make him very unattractive in Jane’s eyes. She finally admitted that was true, a revelation she was no prepared to make. But it is only logical and can only be ignored for so long.
I hope Mary gets the help she needs, we joke about being sugar sweet in the South, but this is taking it a bit too far.