Would you let your three-year-old eat whatever he wanted on his birthday?

The mom on Café Latté asked a particulary erudite question, which many parents – especially the not-very-well-grounded-in-reality – must often ponder: “Should I let my three-year-old eat whatever he wants for his birthday – even if it’s only cake?”

Geez Louise! Are ya nuts?

Don’t you know kids require the RDA of essential nutrients? Try it and you’ll be scraping Junior off the ceiling for the next two days.

It’s like cutting off a mattress label: Do not remove under penalty of law. I mean, you can do it, but it’s not exactly something you’d want to mention at a job interview when they ask you to talk about your weaknesses.

Kids that age need a parent to make healthy choices for them. But then, so do some adults. I’ve heard moms at the grocery store tempting their children – not just when they’re shopping for birthday goodies, either. “Bethany, didn’t you say you liked the vanilla cream Twinkies the best?”

Meanwhile, mommy is salivating all over her Ugg boots.

I believe in healthy junk. Ask my kids. I grate zuchinni into the pizza toppings. So for their birthdays, yes, they alway got to eat what they wanted. And then I ruined it by adding back the RDA of vitamins and minerals.

For example, they could have whatever flavor birthday cake they wanted.

As long as it was carrot or banana. And then I’d leave out half the sugar.

I’m a big believer in “the buy in” – some prefer the phrase, “personal ownership” – of whatever it is you want your kids to do. The goal is to make them think it was all their idea. Here’s how it’s done.

“Mom, can I invite Jamie, Jessica, Molly, Emily, Gabby, Kerry, Brooke, Madison, Nora and Aubrey to my party?”


Then hand the kid a piece of paper numbered one through five. “Write down the names of the people you want to come.”

“You mean I can only invite five people?”

“It’s your party. You get to decide!”

You kid says, “I want hot dogs for my birthday dinner.”

You say, “What would you like to go with the hot dogs, peas or green beans? Uh huh. And what kind of dip to go with the carrots and celery sticks?” And write everything down, like a menu. Your child will believe he’s in charge while you’re putting your pinkie next to the corner of your mouth.

Here comes the really corny part. So that my kids didn’t turn out to be selfish pains in the a**e, I would stage a little magic wishing circle. That’s right. A woo-woo wishing circle for fairy children, dancing around and around.

I made him or her a crown and placed it on their head. Everyone gathered in a circle, with the child in the center. We passed a magic wand (with a satin star and streamers at the end, and yes I made it and yes I still have it today). Each person – even little ones – made a “wish” for the birthday child in the coming year.

The kids’ friends at that moment probably wanted to call their mothers. My intention was to put the focus on attributes instead of material stuff. I always kicked it off: “I am so glad you’re a part of our family, sweatheart. You are such a blessing to all of us. I just want this year to be one that helps you blossom into the beautiful person you are becoming.”

And then, one after the other, the party guests all bestowed their own heartfelt wishes: “I hope you get all the presents you wanted.”

It was the thought that counted.

After we lit the candles and sang Happy Birthday, the kids nibbled  their organic carrot cake and ice cream with specks of real vanilla bean. I wonder if they just pretended to like it. FFG

Photo courtesy of: Image”>″>Image: Stuart Miles /


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *