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No Such Thing As "Zero Interest" Credit

When Maddie was just around five months
old and Brian and I were beginning to agonize over the whole
sleep-training thing, my best friend Abby uttered one of her wisest
sayings ever: “Welcome, my friend, to parenting. Every choice
you make will be ‘Do I pay now, or pay later?’ You have
to ask yourself: Do I do the work now and struggle through and reap
the rewards later, or do I take the easy way out now – say,
bringing the baby in bed with me – and pay for it later when
I have to sleep-train a three-year-old? Your whole life will be
making this choice, over and over again.”

Sleep-deprived as I was, I burst into tears, but Abby was
absolutely right and I’ve thought about it a lot in the past
few years as I make big and small decisions. I usually choose to
pay at that moment, grit my teeth and do something the long, hard
way so I only have to do it once; but sometimes I’ve made the
conscious decision to pay later, even though I knew the price would
be higher down the line. Holding fast when I tell a child
“no”, strictly limiting sugar and television, being
consistent in discipline, they’re all hard but make life
easier in the long run.

In the past couple of weeks, though,
we’ve begun a slow descent down the slippery slope into the
“Choices That Make Life Easier RIGHT NOW” style of
parenting, and I’m afraid we’ve spent ourselves into a
debt that we can’t possibly pay off. Right around Halloween
we greatly loosened our rules on sweets and treats, wanting the
girls to enjoy the season without feeling like the poor Amish kids
in the midst of all that refined white sugar. And then our
out-of-town trip fell hard on the heels of Halloween, making it not
the best time to tighten back up on our eating habits.

I packed junk food for the trip, spending empty calories on the
plane to keep them chewing and swallowing and their ears unplugged
during take-off and landing. We brought Annie’s chocolate
chip bunnies and chocolate milk and apple juice, and the
girls’ eyes were bugging out of their heads at the sight of
all the riches. Then, of course, there was ice cream with Grandaddy
and a piece of candy to keep them awake in the car on the way home
and the girls’ first encounter with Fruit Loops for breakfast
and . . . the list is long and embarrassing.

The result, of course, is that I’ve got a couple Girls Gone
Wild for high-fructose corn syrup, and it’s been a hard week
of detoxing. Maddie gets a piece of candy every Wednesday at school
(I still haven’t figured that out but have given up making
her be the only person in the class who can’t eat it) and it
was the first piece of candy she’d had SINCE SUNDAY. She
acted like a starving person thrown into the Red Lobster
all-you-can-eat buffet. Maddie keeps begging for gum, or anything
to satisfy her sweet tooth. Cora’s just as bad, wanting to
know “what else” she can have for lunch to drink
besides milk and water. I show them their breakfast choices and
they look at me as if to say, “Is that the best you

I know a little sugar’s not the end of the world, and
I’ve let them have a fairly large amount in the past couple
of weeks. But I’d like to get us back to a place where peanut
m&ms are considered a rare treat, not a protein-filled snack.
So pray for me. I’ve got a couple cranky, highly addicted
girls, and the fall ain’t pretty.


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