I recently posted some pictures on Facebook that I thought were hilarious. My nearly 2-year-old had just gotten up, her hair was a frizzy mess, and she was trying to eat a giant piece of turrón.

This comment set me off: “She’s lovely, why mess that tiny young healthy body with junkie chocolate?”

Was I messing up her tiny, young, healthy body with “junkie chocolate”? Don’t be ridiculous. Here’s the standard breakfast for children in the Netherlands, it’s called hagelslag:

chocolatenetherlands
This is from a New York Times article about what kids eat around the world. It’s worth a read because so much is based on culture.

Are Dutch parents messing up their kids? Not if you look at life expectancy, obesity rates or any other health indicators. So how is it that the Dutch are able to load their children up on white bread covered in chocolate sprinkles and American kids are the ones coming out less healthy?

Probably exercise, maybe it’s the overall diet, perhaps it’s portion control. But the point is simple: there isn’t a single food that makes or breaks a child’s health.

I can’t believe that photos of Stella comically trying to shove a chocolate turrón into her mouth were controversial to anyone! It’s just food, people! I know it looks like she ate a ton of chocolate, that was what made me laugh. She looks like a crazed chocolate gorging muppet. I LOVE THAT ABOUT HER. She doesn’t feel bad about it at all, and there is something beautiful and pure about living in the moment like that. Brava, Stella. You are doing it right. Two hands. That’s my baby:

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Get in my belly!

 

Here are some other kids LIVING DANGEROUSLY:

 

Science writer, Kayt Sukel sent me this from Houston, Texas. She says, “I just gave my children chocolate AFTER they brushed their teeth so I could participate!”

photo
Nom!

Emma Healey sent me this photo from Ireland saying, “I took this as I was reading the thread on your post. It’s Christmas. Ice cream for lunch doesn’t happen everyday but it does happen occasionally which makes it all the more fun. This is my son Dylan and nephew Jamie. Today.”

Ice cream for lunch. FTW!
Ice cream for lunch. FTW!

Rebecca McFarland from Connecticut (and married to a man from Iceland) send this delicious post-s’mores photo:

smores
Happy.

Physician assistant Jen Starr from Boston sent this Nutella-for-breakfast photo:

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It’s so good.

Ross Williams living in New Zealand sent this delicious pic:

So messy. So good.
So messy. So good.

Jenn Kittle an expat in Germany sent these pics and message:

“In case you’re interested, my boys are five and a half and two and a half. My older son made it to the age his brother currently is with minimal sweets and not knowing what McDonald’s was. Then we moved to Germany where if you’re under 10 you get gummi bears at the check out line in the hardware store and sometimes from random old ladies on the train. Also I was culture shocked and pregnant so bring on the McNuggets!! Needless to say both my kids enjoy a healthy dose of sweets. However, left to their own devices they would probably only eat fruit with the occasional bread thrown in. My parenting food philosophy is similar to my screen philosophy, if they don’t learn how to manage it appropriately then you are setting them up to fail. Making sweets forbidden or unattainable really just makes them more attractive.

No chocolate pics but plenty of ice cream and Stroop Waffels in Amsterdam as big as their heads. And yes, they did eat all of those.”

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It’s as big as my head!
P1000996
Two hands. That’s how you do it.

Nick Downey wrote, “Never seen a kid make a mess of his face every time he eats like this one does.”

Cheese! Er, Chocolate!
Cheese! Er, Chocolate!

Adam Hall sent this “after” photo:

Chocolate washes out, right?
Chocolate washes out, right?

Mike Reynolds sent this one, “Here’s my littlest lady eating a big old Easter bunny.”

The head tilt is key.
The head tilt is key.

Jen Charrette, of Colorado (and avid cyclist) left this photo and message:

“Some of my favorite memories with my boys involve chocolate and sweets. When Kalden just turned 1 we were in a Mexican restaurant in Monterey Ca. My mom was with us and she loves Fried Ice Cream. We decided to give Kalden some and he laughed and squealed so much he drew the attention of the entire restaurant (in a good way). It was the cutest thing ever. A week later on the plane home a woman came up to me and asked if we had been (in said) restaurant last week. She remembered Kalden and said that moment made her day.

Now at 9 Kalden is the first kid to turn down sweets at parties and still has half his Halloween candy sitting in a bucket.

Same with Axel. He loved to help make brownies and share his big brother’s choc ice cream cone. I love the quote from Laird Hamiliton that I recently posted to my Pedal Adventures FB page

“I have friends who eat healthier than anybody, but it takes them all day. And if they don’t have their sprouted bread, they go into a seizure. I can eat a Big Mac. I’m not going to love it, but it won’t put me into toxic shock. It’s like if a car is too high-performance, then it’s sensitive to any kind of fuel. I like being more like a truck. If a little diesel gets in there, maybe a little water, it’ll cough and burp a bit, but it’s gonna get through it and keep running.” – Laird Hamilton

This may be deeper than you want to go on this point but a bit of chocolate, sweets etc…does not matter in the big picture but struggling and denying your kids the opportunity for joy or a moment you remember as a family is something you would regret. There is an interview with Madonna Badger (the woman that lost her 3 kids + parents in a house fire) on Super Soul Sunday and one of her “regrets” was all the fussing about organic food (and over-working ) and all those other things that really don’t matter. Being there, being loved, seeing joy in your child’s eyes that’s what matters. And sure if Stella is sitting there with Big Macs and Choc bars everyday than that joy is going to wain because of sugar and fat overload but that is not what is happening here.”

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Yay!
axelicecream
Yes, please!

From Mary Goodrich of Maine, “It’s vanilla but there was a lot of frosting which I totally let her eat and there was delicious sugary jam in the middle…also let her eat that”

vanilla
NOM

Courtney Sharma writes, “The moment when I realized he was a chocoholic too. Shame? Nope. I was proud.”

Just like mama.
Just like mama.

Jen Miller from Boston: “Our daughter enjoying churros and hot chocolate about 10 pm one night in Barcelona.”

jen
So sweet.

Akila just sent this over, “This is Amara getting ready to dive into chocolate creme brulee and vanilla creme brulee at the Picnic at Presidio in San Francisco, which is one of the largest picnics in the country. She preferred the vanilla (as did we). 

Part of the reason that Amara eats sweets is because we don’t cater to “kid food” and “kid tastes.” I was raised by Indian parents who never knew that there was such a thing as baby food or kid food. Babies there eat everything that adults eat, except in smaller portion sizes and mashed up more. And, that’s how we’re raising Amara. 

So far, it’s working well. The girl is a serious food lover. She “helps” me cook almost every day, by tasting every ingredient that I use, and she demands to try every single thing that we are eating. She’s equally happy eating mapo tofu in a Chinese restaurant as she is eating spaghetti and meatballs in an Italian place. She refuses fish sticks but will devour my husband’s $10 per pound smoked trout. And, she eats desserts when we eat dessert. 

We want her to love food. Food is life. Life should be sweet.”

Traveler-in-training
Traveler-in-training

Nutrition is important, but so is JOY. I can’t think of a better time in life to eat sweets than when you’re a kid. You have super high metabolism, you’re running around all day, and yes, you lose your mind over desserts in a way that’s a marvel to adults. The taboo on food is so powerful that 19 years after the “sugar causes hyperactivity” theory had been completely debunked, I still routinely hear parents tell me they don’t allow any sugar because it makes kids hyper. That’s powerful stuff.

I am still working out what kind of parent I want to be, but one thing I’ve decided is that even though it would be easier and maybe people would think better of me:

I won’t give in to the temptation to put on the “good parent show”

I know what my kids eat, and I’m comfortable with that, but I think it’s really unfair to everyone if we self-edit and just post the moments where our kids are perfectly behaved, in crisp new clothes, eating organic, local, sustainable carrot salad, while speaking accentless Mandarin. I’m not going to that to myself. Heck, I’m not going to do that to other parents.

Viva the mess! And let them eat chocolate! I swear, I will never judge you.