Just A Spoonful of Sugar Near Bedtime Can Turn Your Toddler Demonic

It was 10 pm and boy did we know where our child was. She was in her room screaming, nay screeching, for more than 45 minutes. We’d put her down about an hour before, but then suddenly it sounded as if some medieval torturer was there in the darkness of her bedroom flaying Sienna’s skin. Elaine was the first to go and check and reported back that Sienna was out of control, repeatedly yelling some word that Elaine couldn’t understand, not just pulling away from my wife’s comforting arms, but tearing herself from her grip and then cowering in the corner of her crib. I went in and she did the same with me, flinging herself out of my arms with a piercing yell as if my hands were balls of fire. She’d then stand up and hiccup some unintelligible word, incomprehensible because she’d reached that panic mode of crying where her breaths were coming so fast that they mixed were her voice.

Finally we understood:. “OUT! OUT! OUT! OUT!”

It was just a few hours earlier that Elaine, Sienna, my parents and I sat in an Italian restaurant enjoying good food and good times. It was just a few hours earlier that my parents gave Sienna a little bit of ice cream while Elaine and I looked at each other across the table and telepathically thought:

“This is a bad idea, isn’t it?”

“Terrible idea, but what can we say?”

“We can say, ‘No!'”

“But they’re grandparents and they just want to spoil Sienna a bit – see that spark of ecstasy in her eyes when she tastes that ice cream, watch her strain the belt of her high chair as she begs for more.”

“She’ll just have a little. It’s ok.”

“Ok. Just a little. Besides, we so rarely give her sugar, and it’s New Year’s Day.”

And that’s how a wee bit of this:


 Turned this:



Into this:



We hadn’t realized just how close to bedtime it was. That was mistake number one. We didn’t have the backbone to tell my parents we didn’t want them giving Sienna any sugar. That was mistake number two. Now Elaine, Sienna and I were all paying for it.

Back in her room I kept trying to grab Sienna so we could hold and soothe her, but it was like trying to capture a greased pig. Finally I got a hold of her sleep sack and yanked her out. She squirmed out of my arms and flopped on the floor. Then she got up, took a washcloth, and walked around and around the room “cleaning” things only to suddenly drop it, bend over and screech.

“Do you want a book?” I asked.


I picked up a book, sat down in her rocking chair and pulled her to me. She squealed and wriggled away. Then she told me to get out of the chair. She wanted Mommy in the chair, but still she wouldn’t calm down. No book. Back to walking around with that washcloth only to drop it and howl and stamp her feet. It was like something out of Paranormal Activity.

“Do you want your cow? Your lion? Bert and Ernie?”


Elaine and I looked at each other. We were both terrified and I’m so thankful Elaine was there because if I were alone, my anxiety would have taken control and had me bawling.

“What hurts? Your belly? Foot? Head? Hands?”


I don’t know how much time passed before Sienna finally crawled into Elaine’s lap and started sucking her thumb. I turned on Sienna’s lightning bug which spreads stars across the ceiling and plays peaceful music.

“Do you want to count the stars?” I asked, and counted out loud.

Soon enough Sienna lay down next to me and joined in. Then she asked for Mommy to lie down too and all three of us looked up at the blue nightscape and counted the stars. Finally Sienna let us put her in her crib and she lay down. She fell asleep well past 11 pm.

Elaine and I, shaken and stirred, retreated to our bedroom. I texted my mom about further limiting Sienna’s sugar intake, especially during the evening. She agreed to follow out instructions. We are, after all, Sienna’s parents. I know grandparents want to spoil their grandkids. I completely get the joy they feel in doing so and I assign my parents zero blame. We’d never experienced anything like what happened last night, so who knew a couple of tiny spoonfuls of ice cream that close to bedtime would be so disastrous.

Don’t be afraid to tell grandparents when we feel they should stop. And never, ever, under any circumstances, give your toddler sugar even remotely close to night-night.

Consider these lessons learned.