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  1. Kids & Family

Tell Me About It: Daughter wants to draw the line at giving food-crazy dad dessert

Q: Among my dad's mental-health issues, the most neglected problem is his food addiction. He makes little attempt to control his food intake and is now diabetic and takes insulin injections. For the most part, I leave him alone about it because he is stubborn and has an intense need to be right. But when he comes to my house (one state over) and we send with him food for the road, or some of our leftovers, he always asks for dessert to go with it. I don't have any qualms with sending him meal-type foods because I can't control his portions of things he needs to eat anyway. But for desserts, the correct portion for him is ZERO. Is there a way I can politely refuse to give him dessert, both for the road and generally? Am I right to say no, or should I mind my own business?


A: If we're conservative, we can estimate that he has dessert daily 365 times a year. Someone who doesn't attempt to control his food intake probably has two desserts a day, or 730 desserts a year. Split the difference just to make it all sound more scientific, and we're talking in the neighborhood of 550 desserts a year.

Your anguished and principled stand would drop that number to 549.

I understand that anguish, completely, and sympathize with your basic need not to be the one handing him the poison he's using to kill himself. And if you decide that need is paramount, then I suggest you be exactly that honest about it when he asks you for dessert: "Dad, I know I can't control what you eat, but I draw the line at handing you the poison you're using to kill yourself."

If you decide that need is not paramount, and you'd rather approach this as a pragmatist — i.e., he's an adult and you're not going to change him — then put that 550th dessert in perspective as you serve it.