Confessions of a Former ABC Gum Addict

Momservation: It may be time to rethink your junk food rules if your kids are diving on the ground for stray M&M’s and Skittles.

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I have a confession to make. I was an ABC gum eater.

Yes, Already Been Chewed gum picked off the ground, from under bleachers, and pulled from hot sidewalks.

Before you throw up in your mouth, does it help to know I was only four years old at the time?

It doesn’t help with my kids either. Every time I tell the story of my ABC gum days they roll on the ground shrieking with disgust, mortified their mother has such a sordid past, begging me to stop sharing the details.

But I share this shameful tale to help others. And to have fun torturing my kids with embarrassment.

It all began because my siblings and I weren’t allowed to have any sort of junk when were kids. No gum. No candy. No soda. No real chocolate. No exceptions. Not at Gramma’s. Not at friend’s houses. My Aunt Sandie, taking pity on us, would sneak us to McDonald’s then make us swear not to tell our dad.

That’s because my dad was a health food fanatic and nutrition nut to the extreme. Actually, exponentially. We did Whole Foods long before there was Whole Foods. We would drive 45 minutes to Santa Cruz to find health food stores where we bought peanut butter with the disgusting oil on top, wheat germ for dust pancakes, and 10,000 grain-bread that crumbled in your hands before it reached your mouth.

My cousin, Joe, who was allowed to drink so much Coke it flowed through his veins, once complained about having to drink Hansen’s cola when he came to our house, “Uncle Ron even has whole-wheat Coke!”

So there was no candy at Christmas. No candy hearts on Valentine’s Day. No tasty treats at Easter. Do you know how hard it is to watch your cousins gobble Peeps and chocolate eggs by the dozens while you were stuck with carob as a chocolate substitute and Tiger’s Milk Bars in your Easter basket?

It’s enough to drive a person crazy. Or to start eating ABC gum in a desperate attempt to get something you can’t have.

Pretty much cancelled out all the healthy nutrients force fed to me when I was sucking on germ laden, bacteria riddled foreign saliva, possible disease carrying discarded refuses of rubbery sugar.

Luckily, this disgusting habit was short lived when I moved on to stealing penny candy and got caught by my mom. After Mom confronted Dad he relaxed a bit on his strict rules of restriction when he realized it was creating a 4 year old thief with a garbage mouth.

After that we could have Halloween candy. But only for one night and then we had to throw it away. (Or so we thought until we found it stashed under Mom’s side of the bed.) And a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy was instituted for Aunt Sandie’s.

Needless to say, I don’t believe in depriving kids of junk food. It only makes them want it more and creates binging junk food junkies.  Like with most things in life, it’s fine in moderation.

If you come to my house now you will find a bubble gum machine, seasonal bowls of candy throughout, and an overflowing junk food drawer.

My kids rarely touch it because it’s never been out of their reach.

Unfortunately, the neighborhood kids do have a tendency to leave a little hopped up on sugar, weaving home on their bikes like they’ve just staggered out of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

7 comments

  1. Carri says:

    haha- I’m the same way with soda. I never got to have it, therefore I always wanted it! Thankfully the one time I offered it to my four year old she thought it was “spicy” and has never wanted to try it again! BTW- that picture makes ABC gum look almost pretty!!

    • kellimwheeler says:

      oooh, you’re lucky! The theory has kind of backfired with soda – at least for my son. I’ve got to control his soda intake. But the upside is he’ll do ANYTHING for a Slurpee.

      How about that ABC gum picture! I thought the same thing! Maybe it goes back to my old addiction, but I was thinking I’d like to see what those green ones tasted like… 😉

    • kellimwheeler says:

      Unfortunately I do think you’re going to have to loosen your “gum is not for kids” rule. I may have stopped chewing ABC gum (after all it was a struggle between ew and I really, really want that – ew, starts to win out when kids and cousins tease you), but I still wanted the chewy deliciousness of spearmint or Hubba Bubba bubble gum. My brother and I would scrounge for bottles to return so we could go to 7-Eleven. Imagine a 7 year old scrounging garbage cans so they can get 10 cents to rush to nearest convenience store for their gum fix. I used to buy the gum, chew it ecstatically all the way home, hide it in the closet, disappear frequently to my room to go have a quick chew – all totally terrified I’d get caught, but it never stopped me.

      At Halloween I traded all my chocolate for my brother’s gum. When I was 11 I bought a bag of Double Bubble from the Halloween clearance bin and thought the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous had nothing on me.

      My point being – if your son is so in love with icky ABC gum, I doubt this gum thing is just going to go away because you told him to just stop it. Do you really want to start at 4 with a kid that is willing to go behind your back to get what they want? I’m thinking a stick of gum now and then is not devastatingly compromising your values. Rather, you can use it in a Fair Trade Agreement – If I let you have gum as a dessert will you brush your teeth every night without being told?

      Good luck and keep us posted on how it goes!
      Enjoy the journey, Kelli

      • Transatlantic Mom (@TransatlantiMom) says:

        (replied on blog post http://bit.ly/yttNAi )

        Thanks Kelli I appreciate the advice. I think you make a great point about

        “Do you really want to start at 4 with a kid that is willing to go behind your back to get what they want? I’m thinking a stick of gum now and then is not devastatingly compromising your values. ”

        But I’m also afraid that it’s rewarding his sneaky behavior in giving him what he was trying to get. We’ll probably cave and get him the gum.

        My other concern is that he doesn’t see the ABC gum as “icky.” My 6 year old gagged when he heard about it – so it’s either an age based thing, personal preference – or we used the 3 second rule too many times lol :0)

        Another friend suggested baiting the house with ABC gum treated with no-bite nail stuff – not only would I be afraid of poisoning him, but can you imagine chewed gum all over the house?!

        I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

  2. kellimwheeler says:

    Thinking like a 4 yr old I would say his behavior isn’t necessarily sneaky, but more impulse control. The want overrides ambiguous (too him) rules of right and wrong. Think of a toddler who knows he’s not supposed to touch something, but he just can’t resist. Tie a reward of gum to a desired behavior since you know gum motivates him. For my son, when he was potty training, he just wanted to ride the bikes at Toys r Us. Dry underwear all day – ride the bikes at Toys r Us.

    As far as instilling the icky factor – try finding a kids’ book about germs. Kids are very literal so if you can find a picture book with a caricature of a scary ugly germ – show it to him and tell him those live in abc gum and will then find a home in him. I can remember as a kindergartener the stories about warm fuzzies and cold pricklies. The picture of the cold prickly stuck with me and I did not want to do anything that would result in cold pricklies.

    Ok, totally love the throwing ideas out and seeing what works thing w/ friends/playgroup moms, but talk about reinforcing bad behavior – an Easter egg hunt in my own home of abc gum! Do you think your friend would’ve actually tried that herself? Doubt it…

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