The Big One

4.23.07: Baby turns one, and a chocoholic is born


Last Saturday, my baby boy turned a year old and we celebrated, in time-honored American tradition. Which is to say, with cake.

We gathered friends and family around the mile-high chocolate confection whipped up by our talented friend Peggy Hambright (, lit the obligatory #1 candle, sang "Happy Birthday," had him "blow" out the flame, and then served him a small slice and stood well back to observe the mayhem. And he did what all one-year-olds do: He rubbed it on his face, in his hair, on the wall, all over the high chair, and generally whipped himself into a sugar-fueled frenzy trying to get as much as possible of this delicious new food into his mouth whilst still saving plenty to squish between fingers and toes.

It was, of course, adorable. More importantly, it resulted in the desired cute photos for the baby book--exactly like the ones my mother took of me, at exactly the same age, doing exactly the same thing.

How interesting, I reflected, as I sat in the corner surreptitiously eating my own piece of cake a little later in the day, that we endorse such open adoration of sugar and fat in the very young. At the time when our children are forming their very first attitudes and opinions about food, what do we do? Encourage them to wallow in mashed banana? Let them play with cruciferous veggies? Snap photos as they frolic with eggplant? No, we cover them in icing.

But it's a special occasion! we tell ourselves. It's only one day! Sure, right. That's exactly what I intended. No doubt what my mom intended for me, too. Yet, somehow, I managed to develop a full-on sugar addiction at a very young age--my childhood memories are full of Ho-Hos, Now-n-Laters, Gobstoppers, circus peanuts, Peanutbutter Cap'n Crunch, Pop Rocks, Fudgesicles, Count Chocula, brown sugar Poptarts, and suchlike.

Sadly, these foods have followed me into my adulthood as well--and I can say with absolutely certainty that it's my big, fat sweet tooth that's standing in the way of my losing the last 10 (okay, 15) pounds of baby weight. I don't have to indulge it, but sometimes--out of exhaustion, stress, inertia--I do. Sometimes I can't help it; other times, I make that choice. They call it "comfort food" for good reason.

I thought about all of this while I sat shoveling alternative bites of chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream. Then I noticed Truman edging toward me, a crazy look in his eye. He lunged for my plate, whining and begging for a few sugary bites.

"You've created a monster," my husband observed. I couldn't have agreed more. In that moment I resolved to really make Truman stick to his own healthy foods. This might be the wrong, and totally inappropriate reason, but still: I simply can't have that stinking baby horning in on my snacks.

Hillari Dowdle will fit back into her favorite pants one of these days. Check this column every week, and you will no doubt be among the first to read all about it!