Monday, October 06, 2014

Finding ways to celebrate without sweets

From Saturday's Briefing:

I know comfort food because of Gramma.
Having a rough day? A Big Red and Blue Bell float will fix you right up.
Celebrating some good news? We’ll stop at the convenience store for a popsicle or Drumstick.
In the middle of a family reunion? How about a slice of Mrs. Smith’s apple pie?
Gramma has been gone almost a decade now, but I’m a keeper of the flame, a firm believer in the family tradition of soothing and praising with treats.
You didn’t win the election? Frozen yogurt with toppings will cheer you up. You earned a place on the team? We’ll stop for a chocolate shake. You and your friends completed a monstrous project? How about some brownies?
My children have been absolutely agreeable with this candy-coated legacy. We don’t eat fast food. I don’t keep many sweets in the house. Why not fully embrace a system that guarantees treats every few weeks?
I’ll tell you why not. Because your 9-year-old vegetarian daughter gave up most desserts for her New Year’s resolution and, unlike 99 percent of everyone you know, she’s actually kept hers.
For almost a whole year now, she’s passed up celebratory treats and consolation desserts. My family tradition has been challenged. My go-to comfort choices have been shelved.
Not that I’m complaining.
It’s healthy in more ways than one to ditch food as a balm or a reward. Food is supposed to be fuel, and we should consume only as much as we truly need. (I’m pretty terrible at following this advice.)
Drowning our sorrows in rocky road doesn’t really solve anything. And there’s absolutely no relevant connection between, say, making the A honor roll and downing a Slurpee.
Besides all of that, does every piece of encouraging news warrant a reward?
Does every disappointing tidbit deserve a consolation prize?
Katie’s lifestyle change has made the answers obvious.
Not only does she not need a cookie for good news, but she also doesn’t need anything beyond the natural consequences of the good news. Same for the setbacks. The absence of comfort food has forced genuine conversations of heartfelt praise and pep talks. Every time I think, “We should celebrate with [fill in the blank],” I am forced to stop and regard my own motivations, to consider the intrinsic value of winning or losing, of reaching your goals or falling short.
Still, Katie is only 9, and there are events that demand some sort of celebration. (Or moments that not even the tightest hugs and most sincere words can make better.)
So I’ve asked for a Katie-approved list of possible treats. Her suggestions include:
  • New book
  • Squares of felt from the craft store
  • Extra minutes of nighttime Harry Potter read-aloud
  • New markers
  • New paint
  • Movie night at home
  • Time at the playground
  • Episode of Gilligan’s Island
  • New rosin for violin bow
  • Homemade Chex mix (“As long as it’s not burned,” she added without a trace of judgment and, yet, no doubt recalling my last batch.)

Free-spirited, creative, poetic Gramma (who cooked a mean batch of Chex mix) would no doubt approve.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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