Pop: One a day for my kids is OK

Susan Goldberg relaxes her rules and allows her sons to have one caffeinated drink a day.
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Photo: iStockphoto

Thunder Bay, Ont., writer Susan Goldberg is a transplanted Torontonian and one of two mothers to two boys. Follow along as she shares her family’s experiences.

If you asked my children what they liked most about their week in Florida, I’m guessing the answer would be, “We got to drink pop EVERY SINGLE DAY!”

Of course, they love other things about Florida. They love the pool, and they love the fact that they can spend hours in it every day. They love it when my dad takes them out—looking all proper and adorable and preppy in their little polo shirts—to the driving range and teaches them how to putt. They love the way my stepmother and extended relatives dote on them, cook for them, ply them with treats. (“These chips are for you,” said my Auntie Phyllis, handing Rowan an enormous bag of them. “You can have as many of them as you want and then you can take them home, and I don’t care what your mother says.”) They love mini golfing and eating at restaurants and ice cream and the science play centre. They love the fact that geckos and salamanders run across their paths the way chipmunks might at home. They love the extra screen time and the fact that there’s cable here.

(And, for the record, I love how NOT COLD it is here.)

But what I’ve heard about most is the pop. At the pool clubhouse, anyone can help themselves to as much Coke and Pepsi and Mountain Dew and ginger ale and iced tea and lemonade as they want. It’s there for the taking: cold and frothy directly out of the machines and into Styrofoam cups the size of my head.

Read more: Caffeine and kids > 

The pop is like a miracle to Rowan and Isaac. They can’t get over it: all that sugary, caffeinated, carbonated beverage just waiting and available at the push of a button. And I have to admit that I can see just how mindblowing it could be for a kid: free candy water! All the time! I think back to my childhood fantasy of owning my very own, always stocked, gumball machine, and I get it.

Given their druthers, I think that Rowan and Isaac would stick their heads underneath the spouts and glug soda directly from the machines for hours. Of course, their vision of soda consumption and my vision of soda consumption are just a little bit different. Because I am their mother, I have done what mothers do and have imposed limits. They may have one, ridiculously large, Styrofoam cup of soda each day. And the truth is, they’re pretty happy with this deal. They should be, given that in the past week they have consumed approximately 10,000% more pop than they do in any given week.

Read more: Sports drinks: Health concerns parents should know about > 

Of course, I never said anything about when they could have soda, and so, by about 8:30 each morning, they are front and centre at the soda machines, debating and discussing the day’s choices like soda sommeliers. Will it be just straight-up cola? Ginger ale? Yesterday, Isaac chose a medley of flavours, combined in a single cup. The verdict? Thumbs up. “I just… never knew just how good Pepsi was,” Rowan sighed the other day.

And then, while they drink, they interrogate me about pop. “Mom,” Isaac asks, “would you let us drink pop if it was healthy?” “What’s your favourite flavour of pop, Mom?” “Mama, why don’t you like it when we drink pop?” “Mom, do iced tea and lemonade count as pop?” Yes, I tell them, they do. At least they do for our purposes.

Frankly, I’m happy they’re done drinking their pop of the day by 9 a.m. It gives them some time to work off the sugar and keeps them relatively hydrated for the three or so hours they then spend in the pool. It also means that I can be done talking about it first thing. And as much as a tiny bit of my soul dies each time I watch them down their cups full of sugar and chemicals, I know that we’re on vacation, that the pop fountain will dry up the minute we leave, and that, for a week, I can suck it up.

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