We have a Christmas tradition of baking, building, and decorating a gingerbread house, packed with as much candy as we can squeeze on. The candy is purely for decoration, not for consumption, but inevitably there’s some snacking along the way. I remember the Christmas when Bisi was a year and a half; we were all in the living room and I realized she had wandered away. I found her sitting on the kitchen table, in her fleece footed pajamas, grabbing pieces of candy off the gingerbread house. “Yum,” she said. I think it was the first candy she’d ever had.
Of course, these days picking candy off gingerbread houses is much more freighted. For her, it’s almost impossible not to do a little snacking, or to lick a bit of the sugary icing used as glue off her fingers. We asked her to put aside a few pieces she wanted to eat, and calculated the insulin for it, but judging by her blood sugar numbers some extracurricular snacking went on.
While we were making the gingerbread house this year, almost everyone who came in to help was grabbing and eating some candy too. Who can blame them? Christmas is all about extracurricular snacking. But it kind of undercut my argument to Bisi that the candy was for building materials, not for eating. To me, this highlights one of the tensions of diabetes, which becomes especially apparent around the holidays. We are asking and hoping that Bisi will be disciplined about eating all the sweets around her–the Christmas cookies and chocolates, the candy canes, the many kinds of candy for the gingerbread house. We are asking her to be more disciplined than the adults around her, who can snack on things at will with fewer consequences than Bisi will face. It’s hard for a seven-year-old to understand. And sometimes, for Mark and me, it’s hard to understand too.