Toddler Addictions

I want hockey stickLark, 420 times a day

No, my daughter doesn’t have dreams of playing in the NHL. She just has a charming habit of pronouncing her “p’s” like “h’s” some of the time. Hence, pillows comes out more like hellos, and hockey stick is actually code for Pocky. (stick.)

You may be asking yourself, “What is Pocky? That sounds vaguely familiar but I’m not sure what you are talking about.” This is Pocky:



Pocky is a chocolate-covered biscuity treat with questionable ingredients. (e.g. sodium hydroxide, the primary ingredient in Drano) In our house we prefer to call them hockey sticks, or perhaps Satan’s sticks, depending on how the day is going.

As an adult, I’m well aware of my own addictions, and let’s face it, being a grown-up is really about finding a balance between our pleasure-seeking behaviours and the reality of the responsibilities we have to shoulder on a daily basis. Having structure and societal rules around these things helps to keep us on track. Which is why we say no to the second piece of cake and don’t get drunk before work. We try to impose limits on ourselves when we know what we’re doing isn’t good for us. “I’m only going to watch one more episode, then I’m definitely going to bed.” “I’m quitting smoking this weekend. No, for real this time.” I know you know.

Toddlers, though. Toddlers are just figuring it all out. They’re putting two and two together, and they’re discovering that the world is full of delicious and delightful things that parents have been maliciously hiding from them, for like, their whole lives.

After Lark’s first taste of ice cream, she was completely amazed that we don’t eat this stuff all the time. So she started to ask for it all the time. At breakfast. Forget oatmeal. “I creem? Mummy, I want. I creem?”

At the end of the school year in June, I went to pick up a treat for Bean and his classmates to share on one of the last days of school. In a moment of desperation, I grabbed this jumbo pack of Pocky that was sitting helpfully by the checkout. As it turned out, only a few of the kids stuck around to play that day, and I was left with 50 chocolatey sticks to bring home and stash in the cupboard.

In retrospect, I could have just thrown them out. But that seemed incredibly wasteful, despite the fact that a closer inspection of the ingredient list made me cringe. I thought they would soon be eaten by someone around here – I just didn’t imagine that it would be Lark.

We all have that parenting moment that we look back on with regret. If only I’d never shown her Frozen in the first place. If only I’d never bought him those Pokemon cards. You recognize it with extreme clarity, the moment when the addiction began. And it’s all on you. There’s no group of bad kids that peer-pressured yours in the playground. YOU are the one that opened the gates, and there’s no turning back.

Lark had seen the big kids eating the Pocky at school. When we got home, she quietly watched me put them away in the pantry cupboard. She quickly summoned her cutest, most appealing voice and said, “Mummy, I have hockey stick?” head tilted adorably, eyes doe-like in the extreme. I melted. I guess one won’t hurt, I thought.

From there, the requests for hockey sticks started to escalate. She began to respond to the pantry door opening with Pavlovian regularity. I doled them out, one by one, wondering when we were going to come to the end of our supply. At one point, I tried pretending we’d run out, but she was too clever for me. I didn’t hide them well enough, and she stood on a step-stool to peer up into the cupboard. “There they are!” she shouted triumphantly, pointing to the shiny red package nestled next to the peanut butter. (And still I didn’t throw them out. What’s wrong with me?)

Finally, though, they were really all gone. I could tell her in truth that there were no more, and show her the empty spot on the shelf. The Pocky days were behind us, or so I thought.

A couple of days later, another packet suddenly appeared in the cupboard. I brandished the offensive sticks in my husband’s face, “Where did these come from?” I demanded, accusingly. “I bought them,” he said mildly. I was aghast. Why would he feed our daughter’s addiction like that?

So the near-daily dose of hockey sticks continued.

Until last Tuesday, when the most epic Pocky-tantrum of Lark’s life occurred. As I was making dinner, she began asking for a hockey stick.

“Not now,” I said absently,”You can have one after dinner.”

“No, NOW, Mama. I want hockey stick, NOW,” she replied more forcefully.

“No, sweetheart. Mummy said no,” I said gently.

Clearly, she thought, I wasn’t getting it, so she was going to explain what she wanted so that there was no doubt. I was treated to a wild display of tears, foot-stomping, rolling on the floor, incoherent shouts, and demands for hockey sticks in a volume that had to be heard by our friends in Australia. Craig arrived home from work and dinner was half-made, as I struggled to chop veggies with a weeping toddler wrapped around my leg.

To make the evening even better, I’d forgotten all about the appointment we’d made with a builder, who was coming over to chat about a project we’re doing next year. He showed up at the door right at that moment, looking a little apprehensive at the amount of noise emanating from the kitchen.

“Uh, do you want me to come back another time?” he asked.

“No!” I said with what I hoped was a cheery and not-completely-manic smile. “It’s fine. Really, it’s fine!” This, despite the fact that my daughter was attached to me like a barnacle and still sniffling, “I want hockey stick,” under her breath. And it was fine. Because I parked her in front of the iPad with her brother for the duration of our talk, thereby lining up the next addiction, obviously, but that was a worry for another time.

I guess the most difficult part for toddlers, is understanding why Mum and Dad say no when they should undoubtably be saying yes. Why is it okay to eat a Pocky stick after dinner but not before? Why can we not watch unlimited episodes of Caillou? Why can’t we go outside to play at 4:30 in the morning? To a toddler, these demands are perfectly reasonable, and being stymied in their desires seems to be the most base cruelty.

If toddlers ruled the world, it would be ice cream for breakfast and maple syrup for dinner. And Pocky sticks for everyone! At any time of day – convention be damned. No one would have to drink out of a wrong-coloured cup or wear a bib with objectionable sleeves.

Thankfully though, in reality, we are spared the anarchy of a toddler-administered society, and grown-ups (or pretend grown-ups like myself) call the shots. We need to be the ones to rein in the toddler addictions, and say “no” even though it’s one million times easier to say “yes.”

Lark is still asking for Pocky every day, but not going as completely mental when she gets a “no.” Thankfully, the well is running dry, and we’ll soon be free of them forever.

Seriously, this is the last pack. I swear.



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