Sunday, December 26, 2010

Petel for Babies and Cake for Breakfast

Q: My husband gives my baby "petel" (concentrated fruit-flavored syrup mixed with water to make "bug juice") when I'm not around. Sarah is only 14 months old. How do I get him to understand that it's not good for her? Now she throws her sippy cup when she discovers it's only water!

A: This is not really a parenting question, it's a marriage question. "My husband's not doing what I want, how do I get him to do what I want him to do/to see things my way?" Of course, in a way it's much simpler than this because it's not just something you want, it's actually what's best for your child. Unfortunately, some dads just don't get it. Or it's more likely that they get it but it's easier if they pretend they don't.

I just asked my husband why a dad would give his baby petel. After the first three answers he refused to give me any more because I was laughing so hard he was afraid I'd hurt myself.

1. They give babies sugar water at the bris. It's authorized by a "baby expert."
2. Babies don't have teeth yet anyway. It's not going to give them cavities.
3. He's probably not giving her real petel. It's probably the healthy kind.

When I raised my eyebrows, he explained:
"There are some brands of petel that list all the vitamins and minerals they have. There's even a picture of a dragon on the bottle that says it has calcium" (so it must be true, right? The marketers of this "sugar water" have the gall to call it "Vitamin-chik!")

OMG, I was rolling on the floor.

Then I asked him why a dad SHOULDN'T give his baby petel.
He said all the sugar would make her hyperactive.

That's the difference between hubby and me. He sees the immediate consequences that he's going to have to deal with: a hyperactive child.

I see the whole forest, not just the individual tree.

• You and I know that Sarah is going to fill up on empty calories and not want to eat real food.
• I'm sure she already has some teeth, and even if she doesn't, she'll get them eventually. Your husband's not going to get up one day and say "Oh, you have teeth now, no more petel."
• Of course, too much sugar causes all kinds of health problems, not just tooth decay.
• But you're already seeing a serious problem here. Addiction. No, she's not seriously addicted like, say, I am to coffee, but she's already refusing to drink water because she knows something tastier is out there. (Even though the "tastiness" of petel is up in the air - who actually likes that disgusting swill? Kids who don't know better, I guess. And for some reason our husbands.)

The real issue here is not convincing your husband that you're right and he's wrong. No matter what research you shove in his face (and I do recommend shoving research in his face if you want this to stop), even if you do convince him to stop giving her petel, it's all about your husband's attitude. He sees things differently than you do for all sorts of reasons. He's a man and you're a woman, he's a dad and you're a mom. When it comes down to it, he's him and you're you.

And that's a good thing. Imagine what your life would be like if you'd married someone exactly like you. You can't imagine it because you never would have married someone exactly like you. We married our husbands because "opposites attract." Of course, we have the important things in common, but we have to differ in some ways or we just wouldn't be able to stand each other!

Anyway, as it is to many questions in marriage as well as in parenting (believe me, it's a theme you'll see repeated here often), the answer to your question is that you have to pick your battles. There are going to be a million things your husband and children do that drive you crazy, and you can't bite their heads off for every one. You have to look at the specific scenario and decide if this one is worth fighting for.

In my house, it would be.

When my Eliana was a baby I told Hubby in no uncertain terms that we were going to raise her on healthy food and she was not to get any junk. As far as I know he stuck to that for the first year. Then at her first birthday party she had chocolate cake with delicious sugary pink icing. To you and me it would be obvious that a birthday is a special occasion and that the next day we would return to life as usual. But my husband got up in the morning and served birthday cake to our 12 month + 1 day-old for her breakfast. "Oh, she's one, I thought she could have cake now," was his response when I asked him what in the world he thought he was doing. I was dumbfounded. But looking back, I shouldn't have been. You can't just assume your husband knows what you're thinking. As obvious as it seems to you, sometimes he needs it spelled out for him.

Hubby grew up on cake for breakfast. I don't know if it was a cultural thing or what, but his parents ate cake for breakfast and they let him eat it too. Sure, I love a good donut in the morning, but I know it's not good for me and it's not a nourishing breakfast that will give my kids (or me, for that matter) the energy and brain power they need to make it through the day. They need protein and healthy, whole grain carbs.

Hubby's response? "What's wrong with cake? It has milk. It has eggs. It has flour. It's a great breakfast!"

Three years later my husband gets it. Or claims to. After it being pounded into his head a bazillion times. Because I decided this was a battle that was worth the fight. But there are plenty of times I just shrug my shoulders and walk away. You have to decide now and every time something like this happens if you're going to fight for what's right or let it go and live to fight another day.

And by the way, when my husband thinks I don't know about it, he still gives the kids cake (or Cocoa Pebbles) for breakfast once in awhile. But I know - I can see it on their faces and smell it on their breath. And I let him know that I know. But I don't admonish him. Just the fact that he knows that I know teaches him that he'd better be careful where he treads because WIFEY KNOWS ALL!


  1. it is so important that babies do not start bad eating habits. It is only us, the parents that have control over this.

  2. Eytan is more of a food Nazi than I am - and I am pretty Nazi-ish! I'm one of those moms at the park who offers cheese and apples when all the other kids are eating bisli. It took us a good three years, but we are reasonably in synch about parenting, especially food. The television, however, took longer (he's a bigger TV Nazi than he is a food Nazi.)

  3. I love the ending "Wifey Knows All" that's so true. I can always tell by the bags and wrapers laying about exactly what dh bought the kids..and I have a sharp sense of smell...and children are horrible liars!-Iris

  4. Gina - So true.

    Hil - I'm also the one with the cheese and apples at the park (and gymboree). I've relaxed my TV Nazi ways over time though.

    Iris - It never ceases to amaze them when I smell chocolate or strawberry ice cream on their breath. ("Them" includes Hubby.)

  5. Gina - So true.

    Hil - I'm also the one with the cheese and apples at the park (and gymboree). I've relaxed my TV Nazi ways over time though.

    Iris - It never ceases to amaze them when I smell chocolate or strawberry ice cream on their breath. ("Them" includes Hubby.)

  6. We have caffeinne free herbal teas we make to give the boys. We add a tiny bit of sugar to a pitcher of tea and that's what they drink.