I'm Emily Reynolds.
So I do recall a time when the morning after trick-or-treating, I’d awaken and think to myself, “Only 364 more days of waiting again.” And now, the morning after Halloween I find myself thinking, “Whew! We made it through another one—but only 364 days of peace left again…until that wretched pagan holiday supplants all structure!”
I don’t mind the month leading up to Halloween. Really, it’s actually quite pleasant, what with fall-themed decorations, the making of carrot muffins and butternut squash soups, and ideas going back and forth between children about what costume each child would like to wear or put together. And I do love carving a good Jack-o’-lantern with my kids. I really do enjoy these parts of October.
But what I don’t enjoy, are the candy bombs that upset all routine and normalcy in our home each year. I shiver at the cranky meltdowns that ensue every autumn when we have to wrench a sticky Dum-dum out of a child’s fist at 7:30 p.m.—when that very child should be putting a tooth brush into her mouth--and on a school night, for several weeks of school nights in a row!
There just seems to be no end to the demon candy once it's gotten. The stuff appears out of the woodwork. "Oh, little brother, you've eaten all of your candy? No problem, take some handfuls of mine." (Nooooo! Wait! I mean, really, we're glad that you're sharing, child, but we were hoping at least one of you would be through with your candy reserves--by St. Patrick's Day.)
Somehow each year I think to myself, “This year, we’re going to get things under control for Halloween.” This year, we’ll stay home and bake donuts and make popcorn and watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! But this is a (pumpkin) pie crust fantasy—that only a day-dreaming mother (or so my husband keeps telling me) of great naiveté would have. I'm clueless, but hopeful.
But none of my children would prefer this fairy dream of mine. In fact, my kids let me know quite regularly of the horror stories regarding the occasional friend whose parent is wise enough to rule out trick-or-treating in their home. You sage, courageous parent—wherever you are—blessings on your head. I'd like to shake your hand. And take a page out of your book. But my kids would never forgive me. Which is worse...a cavity or two, or a lifetime of one's children telling one's grandchildren how deprived they were as kids? They'll already be sharing horror stories enough about their chore-doing and myriad other issues. I'll let them have the trick-or-treating.
But in the meantime, the actual holiday is coming, and I haven't settled on at any really enticing alternatives to offer my littlest two, who get effected by the sugar the most. They at least might be persuaded into staying cozily at home! Otherwise, they'll end up a cranky, grouchy, Jolly Rancher-crunching-all-day-long mess for the few weeks following the 31st. Until my husband and I realize we've dealt with enough children refusing to do chores because of sugar crashes, and we begin confiscating candy at an exponential rate--pushing the loot deep down into the recesses of the closest garbage can.
Though it's not the most graceful parenting strategy--using candy as leverage for kids who feel sudden entitlement from the newly-gained control over eating hardcore sugar at will--it has worked, I'm embarrassed to say that I have and still do threaten things like, "Not a single piece of candy until you've practiced that piano." I know, I know--psychologists always say, "Don't use food or sugar as rewards!" But did those same psychologists deal with several children needing to fold laundry, clean toilets, load the dishwasher, and play outside, and feed chickens? On top of doing any homework? I don't think so. Those PhDs sat in clinical offices all day, while their maids scrubbed their floors back at the ranch.
When you are the maid, you need help! If a body makes a mess, and many little bodies certainly do, they have to learn to clean up after themselves. A trick-or-treating bag full of Milk Duds and Kit Kats make kids run circle around the house for ten minutes, then collapse on the couch, grumpy and only wanting one thing--more candy! (They're not wanting to pick up the trail of shoes, jump ropes and stuffed animals they'd just strewn in their wake. Oh, the sugar lows!
Don’t get me wrong, though, my family and I eat our fair share of slightly-sweetened cereals (the word “slightly” makes a parent feel not so guilty, right?), ice cream, and desserts after dinner usually twice a week—plus birthdays and holidays, or when having guests over. But kids with pillowcases full of candy at their disposal for free-reign consumption at any given time of the day? The thought makes me shudder. I'm feeling my eye start to twitch.
As a new mom, I loved Halloween! I bought Halloween candy the first week of October. And then bought more the week before the 31st, because I'd consumed half of it already. I dressed up my kids with glee and took them all over the neighborhood. I have to admit, trick-or-treating really gave us an excuse to connect with neighbors and see them in their homes, and feel...well, neighborly. But as an old, worn-out mom, I sneakily try to get away without buying any candy--until one of the kids reminds me on Halloween Day. So a bag of Smarties can fit the bill now, 'cause I know I won't touch them.
In fact, scooping up handfuls of Double Bubble penny candy and tossing them into the garbage after Halloween gives my endorphins a pleasurable zing! Even throwing full-size candy bars (highest on the scale of candy value) into the trash--with impunity--fires thrilling sensations of peace and freedom in my soul. Makes me want to skip around outside, humming in the cool autumn air.
What’s more, how did this strangely morbid, gratuitously-dark pagan holiday (which celebrates motion sensors setting off gyrating skeletons on people’s doorsteps to startle innocent mail carriers) survive through the ages? It’s the candy, I tell you, the sugar addiction. Free refined glucose for the begging! But as we all know, nothing is free. There’s always a price. It’s just usually the parents who have to pay it, in this case--over the next few weeks of November!
It’s great to dress up and eat treats with friends. I love decorating with happy pumpkins and cute black cat decor. It’s just I don’t like the idea of buying back candy from one’s children, or watching a society spend $2.6 billion on candy a year to see it pile up in the landfill, or rot our children’s teeth for weeks on end as they plow through their reserves. (All when we work so hard to help and remind them to brush their teeth carefully every other day of the year!) We are so funny as a society, aren't we?
And really, when millions of people are suffering from hunger and disease all over the world, maybe we should be giving our kids Unicef boxes again instead. Or at least passing out leaves of kale at the door. :)
In the end…I did love trick-or-treating myself, as a kid. I looked forward to it all year long. But there was never a more cleverly-enticing alternative offered. (Unsanitarily bobbing for apples? Hey, siblings share germs anyway, right?) Any ideas? Post them below…Please! I'd love to hear your better suggestions...
Here’s mine: I’m going to ask my youngest two if they’ll have a mini read-a-thon with me after we roll out pumpkin cardamom donuts together on the 31st. (And watch other people go trick-or-treating in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.) As for my other older kids…they’ll probably still go trick-or-treating with friends. Which is great! I don't want to squelch all their youthful enjoyment. Other things like pop-quizzes and hours of homework do that well enough. But perhaps I can convince them to just hit ten houses each, then watch Charlie Brown afterward. Ha ha! Nice try, stodgy Mom! Probably not happening! But a motherly, vegetable-loving heart can try…
In any case, come back to my blog this Friday for six sweeter (rather than scarier) holiday gems—highlighting not so much this-weird-Halloween-culture-we’ve-constructed-as-a-society, but perhaps more of the ordinary kindnesses that make life sweet (with a Halloween twist). See you around then, on Friday October 4th with a great picture book list!
And, I suppose, I'll have to say it, Happy Halloween!