I once believed I could mold and shape the eating habits of my children. Sort of a Svengali nutritionist. Good luck. Welcome to the real world of strawberry flavored milk and glow in the dark macaroni and cheese. I soon realized that with food, children have their own internal calling and the words they’re usually hearing aren’t broccoli and tofu.

Oh sure, we’d be in charge of the foods our children ate in our house but it was that Big Mac world on the other side of our dining room table which was of concern. The world of trading lunches, birthday party sugarfests, snacks after little league games (Isn’t 9:30 a.m. a tad bit early for double fudge brownies and ice cream?) and the beckoning call of fast foods. My lofty principles quickly eroded, as I became more concerned that they had sufficient ketchup with their fries to satisfy their daily vegetable requirement.

My changing standards were also apparent when I became more concerned with not what my middle son ate but would he eat. When he was an infant I was convinced he’d discovered fasting as a means of nonviolent political expression. A miniature martyr. Perhaps he didn’t like the size of his crib. It would have been way too logical to believe he just didn’t have a very large appetite. No. I was convinced he had ideals, conviction, and dedication.

I then determined we’d given birth to a medical marvel. My child was hardly eating but was active and energetic. He wasn’t a carnivore, vegetarian or macrobiotic devotee — he was a breatharian simply sailing along into uncharted territory on a boat with no supplies. Somehow he did just fine.

I’ve also recognized that children view food on the “pleasure principle”, as saturated fats and cholesterol are not real high on their list of concerns. They have a unique approach to food that generally operates under the singular tenet that “if it’s sufficiently sweet, I will like it.” I’m convinced that I could give my older son cardboard with a lot of syrup and he’d tell me these are the best pancakes he’s ever tasted. His desired food pyramid resembles an ice cream sundae. The more nutritionally bankrupt something is the more he enjoys it. The law of sugar and demand. His favorite song would be sung to the tune of “This Old Man” and go like this:

his little boy,
He’s turned one.
He tasted ice cream on his thumb.
He’s now asking for a triple scoop cone,
And wishing Candyland were his home.

his little boy,
He’s turned two.
He loves going to the zoo.
It’s not the elephants which bring him glee.
It’s the zoo’s slurpees and cotton candy.

his small child,
He’s turned three.
He wants sweet things constantly.
He zooms around like a Tasmanian devil clone,
Beware, this child’s entered the Sugar Zone.

This big boy,
He’s turned four.
He loves cookies, begs for more.
“What’s for dessert” is his constant refrain.
Three innocent words we’ve come to disdain.

This growing boy,
He’s turned five.
Pleads he needs sugar to stay alive.
I thought rice and veggies would do just fine.
He claims doughnuts are his lifeline.

This little man,
He’s turned six.
For breakfast he needs his sucrose fix.
Cereal with green marshmallows is quite the sight,
Claims its vitamin fortified so it’s all right.

This old dad,
He’s looking for fun.
He wants half the energy of his son.
Is it the sweets that make him go?
Maybe — so pass me more of that cookie dough.