Sugar & Television: Why do they undermine us?

October 14th, 2008 Comments

Coming from a long history of addictions, both in my families and The Wife’s, it isn’t easy to watch those traits begin to show up in my kids.  I didn’t know anything about addictive behaviors until my late 20s, but the lessons learned then have altered my life’s trajectory.  It was at the point that I learned I was an alcoholic and a drug addict that many things began to make sense.

First, all the family history began to come crashing in.  The depression, the abuse, the alcohol, the parties, the dysfunction.  It was rampant in my maternal and paternal roots.  Next, there were the “incidents.”  Times when my parents showed just too little responsibility.  Finally, I saw my own life flash before my eyes and I realized that I had always been headed towards addiction, I just masked it with socially acceptable behaviors.

We used to joke that Pepsi was the gateway drug to heroin.  Looking back on it, I’m not so sure that doesn’t have some truth in it – at least for my family.  Really, I think it has more to do with untreated depression and growing up in an undisciplined home.  Add to this mix, the denial of issues, the dismissive attitude towards real emotion, and a host of ignored problems.

For my family, we have made some choices to add discipline back into our home.  Things that weren’t present in our homes growing up.  Now we don’t want to be Nazis over this, but we don’t think it is that bad to teach our kids good habits and a healthy sense of self-denial and delayed gratification.

I believe we have a head start by NOT having drugs or alcohol in the home.  I also think that, as older parents who grew up in the self-help era, we can offer our kids a healthier foundation than our oh-too-young parents were capable of offering.  Not only have we read books, dealt with much of our co-dependencies, treated our depression, and sought counseling, but we have experienced the pain of addictions first-hand.

For many people, there is no danger in these two ubiquitous forms of escape

Two of the addictions we are trying to actively deal with, are from very socially acceptable habits in our culture: television and sugar.  For many people, there is no danger in these two ubiquitous forms of escape.

Television is often viewed as a benign form of mindless relaxation, child entertainment and diversion, and a great source of information.  And while it’s true that it may be used in these forms, I’ve found that I cannot control it.  My parents were unable to control it, and others in my family have been unable to control it.  Given this history in my family, I would be a fool to bring it into my home and expose my children to values in which I do not prescribe. (You can read more here: http://www.turnoffyourtv.com )

Obesity and Diabetes are two of the leading killers in Western Culture today.  Yet, despite this, we continue to consume sugar by the truckloads.  A recent documentary, King Corn claims that the majority of the food we eat contains high-fructose corn syrup.  When growing up, I used to put two tablespoons of sugar on my Cheerios; and as a teenager working at Baskin-Robbins, I would consume a chocolate-mint shake and a triple hot-fudge sundae at least five days a week.

It is troubling to me 

What is troubling to me is the lack of support we receive as we try to instill good discipline in our kids.  When we talk about reducing sugar, or providing healthier alternatives to sweets, we receive blank stares, and often derision.  When we ask people to turn off their TVs, especially when no one seems to be watching it, we are often looked at as if we had three heads.

These two items are so prevalent in our society, that it is almost impossible to escape them.  At the grocery checkout counter, right beside the soft-porn gossip magazines, lies a whole treasure trove of sweets – at just the right height for three to eight year olds.  Walking through Wal-Mart, we are bombarded by TVs at the end of nearly every aisle.

Though the commercial representations and permutations of TV and sugar are difficult to deal with, it is my child’s role models that have the greatest influence.  I have found that I rarely eat, or need, dessert anymore.  I haven’t completely kicked the sugar habit, but at least I abstain in front of my kids.  And when we do share dessert, they are given portions that are proportionate with their size and weight.

The Wife and I both have a medical background and we understand the need to titrate drugs and give appropriate dosages.  Pediatric dosages are based on weight.  So why would I give a child who is 10% of my body weight, the same portion that I, a 200 lb. adult, would eat?  I don’t.  They get a dose that is 10% of regular.

Yesterday we went out to lunch with some close family whom we don’t get to see very much.  It was a buffet-style lunch, which seems to be quite attractive to the older generations.  I ate my fill of regular food, some great pizza, and some other foods.  Then I was done.

Then our close family made another trip to the buffet.  He came back with a 9″ oval plate filled with ice cream, cake, crumbles, and sauces.  It was easily a half-pound of dessert.  I was amazed.  She showed greater restraint and came back with a normal-sized portion.  My Darling Daughter was mesmerized by the size, creativity, and tantalizing seduction of these two desserts.

the desserts were held up for display, just out of her reach

Then, to add insult to injury, the desserts were held up for display, just out of her reach.  You could see the addict’s lust in her eyes.  I prayed for her.  To her credit, she was quite content with the small vanilla cone I got for her, and she was willing to eat more vegetables first.

If my children had the potential of a fatal allergic reaction to peanuts, I doubt people would pull this kind of stunt.  If my kids we’re autistic, and TV drove them mad, I doubt they would think twice about pushing us to let them watch TV.  To me, there is much more at stake here.  I don’t understand why it is OK to undermine our parenting choices?

Comments

  1. Jan McKenzie says:

    I found you through a link from Andrej Kis and have added you to my blogroll.

    Good writing. I can identify with your need to be real and the risk it involves. I take it as the life of faith.

    1. Jan McKenzie says:

      I’ve read Postman too, Andrej. His chapter on television evangelism as entertainment was especially thought provoking. A good reference to Gary’s post.

  2. Andrej says:

    Thank you for sharing! While I was in high school I read a book by Neil Postman entitled, Amusing Ourselves to Death. You might be interested in reading it as it probes into the manipulative world of television. I really appreciate this entry. I might do one similar to this, but on TV only.

    1. Hi Gary,
      I found your site via facebook and was amazed at how impressive your blog is. I particularly liked your note here on TV. Refreshing to see someone else who holds these kinds of ideals and who shared similar weaknesses.
      thanks for sharing.

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