Our family has had what’s perhaps a slightly unusual history with Halloween. Like most folks our age, Top Management and I seemed to come of age at just the right time for Halloween; just a few years after we were officially Too Old to go trick-or-treating (which isn’t to say that we didn’t continue for a year or so longer than we perhaps should have, as most kids do: it’s a sad, sad day when you realize you don’t get to partake of the free loot no more) Halloween seemed to take a nosedive, what with poisoned candy and all that. More and more people started having Halloween parties for the kids rather than risk letting them go out trick-or-treating and get razorblades in their Skittles.
Tangent: one of the many benefits of being Top Management and looking ten years younger than she is that she actually only stopped going trick-or-treating the year before Max was born and that was because we were living in New York City at that point and I felt that the ratio of crackhouse to candyhouse wasn’t cost-effective. It’s a tough ol’ world and at some point you just need to determine when the temptation of free Snickers is outweighed by the cost of being busted in a crackhouse. And that, perhaps, is when you know you’re an adult. Or maybe not.
Anyhoo, that Halloween lull seemed to last about a decade but trick-or-treating appears to be back in style again. Maybe it’s just because we live in a neighborhood that’s ideal for it—many houses close together—or maybe it’s just that folks finally realized that few people are clever enough to fit a razorblade in a Skittle. Or, if they do somehow manage that, that few are dense enough not to notice a big razorblade sticking out of a Skittle.
If I’ve just set myself up for a copycat crime, I’m going to be really upset.
I don’t recall what we did our first few years with Max. I think Top Management dressed her up and took her to a few parties or something. And then the first few years after that, when she was old enough to go trick-or-treating we were either in the hospital with her or she was too sick to go.
Our next-door neighbor’s birthday was on Halloween, though, so when she was, I think, four years old we went to that and then everyone went trick-or-treating afterwards. Now, by this point Max had never had ice cream or cake or cookies or any kind of candy. One of the ways they got kids to swallow some of the particularly nasty chemo was by sticking it in stuff like chocolate pudding. We’d been such hippydippy parents that we never, ever gave Max refined sugar and here we were trying to give her chemo wrapped up in the most processed of refined sugars.
It did not take. Which meant that not only did we have to figure out another way of getting the chemo in her, we’d also turned her off all sweets. Imagine that: a four-year-old who cannot abide sweets. We were an interesting family.
So we go trick-or-treating that first year and she of course has no idea what’s going on or what she’s supposed to do or anything, but she’s game and she follows the other kids’ leads. And at the end of the night—she was a little short on stamina back then, so the end of the night was about a block and a half—we end up back in our apartment with a decent-sized bag of candy.
Max is fascinated. She very carefully dumps it out on the carpet, then sorts through it all, making little piles for Snickers and M&Ms and Skittles (sans razorblades) and so on. And when she’s done, she’s so happy. And she gives it all to Top Management.
The next morning she asked for her bag again. Perhaps, we thought, she was regretting her largesse. And again she goes through it all and separates it all out in various ways—bags of Skittles and M&Ms here, candybars there, lollipops off yonder. And when she’s done, she again gives it all to Top Management.
And the next year, she did the same thing. Loved her trick-or-treating, although she still didn’t seem to entirely get the point. But when she was done, she played with the candy. And never took a bite.
Things are different these days. At some point Max decided that maybe she wouldn’t shudder and dryheave whenever someone offers her a bite of ice cream. And one thing led to another and she’s now a (relatively) normal kid, albeit one whose sugar limits seem much less deadly than most (cf. her parents).
So. Our kids still get fewer sweets than most kids, I think, largely because their parents have just awful sweet tooths (sweet teeth?) and are trying to ensure their kids don't turn out the same way. Also, as diabetes runs in Top Management’s family, we’re trying to minimize the chances of that as much as possible.
Still, they dig their candy. Which makes the resurgence of Halloween a semi-blessed event for them.
So out we went last night and pillaged the neighborhood for hours. But we’ve instituted three rules that make the holiday quite a bit easier. The first one is this: when your bag o’ candy gets too heavy for you to carry yourself, you’re done trick-or-treating for the night/year. After a year of carrying the overflowing bags for The Rose and The Bean, I decided something had to change. This new rule makes the night much shorter and quite a bit more pleasant, as they know that there’re only so many times they can casually mention how heavy their bags are. About three blocks was the limit for them, and then they were more than happy to go home and begin gorging.
Which is the other rule. Sorta the way some parents, upon finding their offspring investigating a first cigarette might force the kid to smoke the whole pack and thus learn ‘em a lesson but good, we let our kids have quite a bit of candy both Halloween night and the next day. Far, far more than they usually get and more than’s probably good for them. And the result has tended to be that by the day after the day after Halloween, they’re pretty much done with candy for a while.
Which, naturally, means that the extra goes to their playing-it-cool parents. Heh. See how that works? We're wily, we are. We think ahead.
This is on top of Rule Number Three, which is actually a year-round rule and was stolen from The Boy’s surgeon (and whom we never credit for this brilliant concept): The Daddy Tax.
Whenever the kids gets a donut at church or a cookie with their Happy Meal or whatever, Daddy gets the first bite. If Daddy's not there, Top Management gets the option, although she usually declines, the softie, which makes the chillen even more pleased by my absence than usual.
In the case of Halloween candy, they pretty much have to tithe to both their parents. Top Management tends to get most of the Skittles—which has the extra benefit of her extra-sensitive senses noticing the presence of razorblades—while I tend to swipe the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. It’s a fine, fine rule o’ thumb and one which I’m certainly glad my parents never instituted. But, I mean, seriously, what’s the point of having children if you can’t scam ‘em?