Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to trick-or-treat. My parents were sure I would either get poisoned or captured by a witch’s coven. Now as a parent myself, I allow my children to participate in the tradition, with careful supervision, of course.
Halloween was a lot of fun last year. I took all four children out and left my husband at home to deal with our own visitors. My daughter was a fairy princess, and the three boys were pirates. I put an eye patch on my youngest, thinking he'd never wear it—two-year-olds just don't do the more intricate details of costuming—but he actually kept it on a whole hour.
We headed for the first house. This being my toddler’s maiden voyage, I didn't know what he'd make of it—but it only took one house for him to get in the groove. From then on, he marched with purpose, holding up his bucket and saying, "Tricky treat!" It was so cute.
By the time I was too tired to keep going, each child had around two pounds of candy. My toddler had a death grip on his bucket and wouldn't let me carry it for him—he kept saying, "No, is my tricky treat." It took a little extra strength for him to get his haul back to the van, but he made it.
While wandering around in the dark and keeping my children from falling into ditches, I had a lot of time to think. For instance, why do we trick or treat? We go to the store and buy huge bags of candy. Everyone else in the neighborhood has gone to the same store and purchased the same candy. We leave our own candy at home and run all over the place, mooching off everyone we know, in the dark, and usually the cold. We're told not to take candy from strangers, and yet we're all dressed up in the hopes that no one will recognize us. And, when we're done, we end up with the exact same type of candy we bought ourselves, which we handed out to other begging, costumed children. Where is the logic in this?
The kids think it's fun. They like to dress up and beg. I for one would rather stay home and eat my own bag of candy. I mean, it's mine. I got it through legal means. There was no groveling involved. I like it better that way.
Despite my own possible hang-ups about begging food off people, we’ll be going out again this year. I can’t deny the positive memories we’re creating for our children. You’d think their focus would be entirely on the candy, but it’s not. In fact, most of the time, my children don’t even eat all their candy. They forget about it long before it’s gone.
Instead, they talk about how fun it was to see everyone’s costumes, how cute my toddler was (he got more candy than any of the other kids, and no surprise—he’s a charmer) and how much they enjoyed the fact I came with them this year. I usually send my husband, and my kids were thrilled I’d taken a turn. They talk about how the houses were decorated, and they talk about what their costumes will be next year. The candy is a very small percentage of the overall thrill.
So how can we help create a positive experience for our children in the midst of all the hyper-sugared chaos? Here are some tips I’ve discovered.
1. Feed your children a good dinner before you head out for the night. Include lots of protein. This will not only help keep them warmer, but this will combat the sugar-induced hyperactivity which is sure to set in later.
2. Go out as soon as it’s dusk. The later at night, the more you’ll run into those who are interested in pulling pranks.
3. Of course, stay in familiar neighborhoods and only go to the homes of people you know and trust. Accompany your children rather than allowing them to go out by themselves.
4. When you get home, allow your children to choose a small amount of candy to eat that night. We usually allow three smaller pieces or one large piece. Then put the candy away and dole it out one or two pieces per day until gone. You can use it as a reward for chores and good behavior, and in this way, you’ll keep your children from becoming sick from eating all that sugar at once.
5. Put a lot of emphasis on the fun of being together and dressing up. Whenever you talk about Halloween, mention the good experiences you had the year before that weren’t candy-related.
6. Depending on the dynamics of your family and the needs of the individual members, you might want to consider steering clear of haunted houses and frightening costumes, focusing instead on the cute, fun aspects of the holiday.
7. If your children are sugar-sensitive, you can buy sugar-free candy at nearly any grocery store. Take them trick or treating as usual, but then substitute what’s in their bucket for what you bought. This way, they still have the fun but not the side effects.
As with any occasion, you can put your own spin on it and celebrate it any way you like. If you’re concerned with the spooky aspect of it, as my parents were, you can avoid that in your own celebrations. Just remember that holidays, whatever they might be, are about building family traditions and foundations, regardless of how you choose to celebrate—or not celebrate—them.
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