When my toddler whined for juice, I gave it to her. Okay, hear me out. I didn’t give her liquid sugar straight up. I bought all natural juice and diluted it with water. But still, I juiced.
Oh trust me. I wanted not to juice. But if I filled my toddler’s sippy cup with water only, I risked a major temper tantrum in the middle of the grocery store. My solution: avoid toddler tantrums in public places. So when we were out and about and my toddler asked for a drink, I juiced. I handed her a sippy cup of half water, half juice. Life was good. Or so I thought.
One time we were playing at a friend’s house when the host offered my daughter a drink. “Apple juice please,” my daughter said. “Oh, we don’t have any juice, dear,” the mother responded. “What? No juice?” my daughter and I said in unison. This parent clearly didn’t juice. “Milk or water, sweetie,” I said to my daughter as I with a shaky smile as I watched her spiral into a crying fit for juice.
I decided to question my decision to juice. Whether or not I serve juice at home, juice is here to stay. The juice box is simply too brilliant an invention to disappear so fast. At every birthday party, soccer game or any place where kid’s drinks may be offered, we see the kid version of soda – the juice box. Sure, I can buy organic juice boxes, sugar-free or even ones partially filled with water. Even still, it’s juice.
Should I pretend juice doesn’t exist and then hope for the best when one day someone hands my toddler a Capri Sun? Won’t that only make her want it more? I don’t let my kids drink soft drinks yet I notice my 5 year old has an imaginary friend named, Soda. Coincidence? Maybe so.
As much as I think it’s important for kids to appreciate the taste of water – straight up, I also don’t think it’s a parenting crime to indulge a toddler in a little juice now and then. That said there happens to be one problem with toddler “indulgences.” They start out as innocent now and then luxuries but quickly reveal an enormous iceberg of unwanted behavior lurking below.
My toddler crossed the magic line of indulging in a little juice now and then to ONLY drinking juice. Yes, my daughter had developed a juice problem and it was my responsibility to intervene. “We may no longer be friends,” I thought, “but at least she will be off the juice.” My goal was to limit her juice-consumption to meals or special occasions. Every day hydration needed to come from water.
I geared myself up for the fight of my life. And then I procrastinated and put it off another day. “I’ll get her to kick the habit tomorrow,” I thought as I poured more juice. Then one rainy day we were at an indoor play space when we ran out of juice. “More drink, mommy!” my daughter said to me holding up her empty thermos cup. “Now is as good a time as any,” I thought as I braced myself for the long overdue juice battle.
“I don’t have any more juice,” I said to my thirsty daughter. “If you want something to drink there is a water fountain over there.” Pause. “Can I fill up my thermos myself?” she asked. “Sure,” I responded, still gripping my chair, awaiting the anticipated tantrum. “Okay,” she said as she ran off towards the drinking fountain.
To my surprise and utter disbelief, my daughter filled her thermos not once, but twice, and in between came over to tell me how delicious the water tasted. “Huh?” I thought replaying the sequence of events in my head in order to figure out how my daughter all of a sudden transformed into a water-lover. “Once we get home,” I thought, I’m sure she will fall off the water wagon and demand juice.”
I played my role as parent on a mission and started filling her thermos with water every day. She whined and complained but I held strong. Then, one day the complaining stopped and I didn’t know why. I walked into the kitchen one afternoon and found my daughter standing on her step stool, the refrigerator door wide open and pouring herself some cold water from our purified water dispenser.
“Getting some water?” I casually asked my daughter as if finding her propped up inside of the refrigerator was no big deal. “Yup, I’m thirsty,” she explained, clearly proud of herself for satisfying her desire for a drink on her own. “Independence,” I thought. That was the key to getting my daughter to kick her juice habit.
Am I a bad parent because I let juice-drinking spiral out of control? No, I’m pretty sure this happens to a lot of parents, if not over juice, then something else. I don’t think good parenting is about being perfect. No one’s perfect. Maybe good parenting is about recognizing when your child’s behavior has crossed the magic line to become a bad habit and having the strength to change it.
Today, I don’t juice, but I also don’t NOT juice. We have found a balance and juice a little, just for fun.