I was never a big fan of Halloween as a kid. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the candy part. But creating a costume? And trudging around a frigid Colorado night? So. Much. Work! And I’m so very lazy.
I come from a big family so I always had a box of costume bits to use. Mom never bought costumes for us, but over the years we accumulated a box of stuff like a witches hat, or bunny ears, or a funny tie, or a scary mask. But my favorite costume was the ‘hobo.’ It consisted of my dad’s stinky fishing jacket with the gazillion pockets, his misshapen felt fishing hat, and, if I was really lucky, a bubble gum cigar.
This costume was perfection for it’s ease of use. All I had to do was be the first to dibs it, pull it off the hanger two minutes before trick-or-treating, swipe at my face with a bit of charcoal from the barbeque and I was good to go. Plus it was toasty warm. And if I got some spectacular confection like a full-size candy bar, I could hide it in one of the many pockets so my, ahem, mother (yes, I knew it was you!) wouldn’t steal it.
We didn’t have many rules about Halloween candy. In fact, I can only remember one: ‘don’t eat anything until you get home.’ I’m fairly certain that was because my, ahem, mother wanted to scope everything out. We’d dump it all in well-defined piles on the living room floor and then the negotiating began. Picture the floor of the NY Stock Exchange on Black Tuesday, with all the traders eight years old, crazed by their stockpile of forbidden delights.
I read about a mom who has this rule about holiday candy — “Your Halloween candy must last until Easter and your Easter candy must last until Halloween.” Blech. I’m sure the idea is that the kids don’t gorge themselves on candy, but I think what it would really do is just create the every day sugar habit for them. After a couple of months of eating a piece of candy every day — even the crappy ones like candy corn — I bet it becomes strictly mindless. Besides, gorging on candy is kind of a rite of passage, isn’t it? It’s certainly a life lesson parents don’t get to teach very often. If kids don’t learn it at Halloween, maybe they won’t learn it until the cops bring them home from their binge drinking escapade. Just sayin.
Binge drinking aside, there are some painless things you and your kids can do to stay healthy and happy when October 31st rolls around every year.
1. Feed them a real dinner before trick-or-treating so they’re not tempted to snack from their loot.
2. While you’re sorting through their haul, taking out anything that’s unwrapped or that they’re allergic to, take out the stuff that’s bad for their teeth, like sticky caramels or suckers that soak their teeth in a long, sugary bath. (I’d never wish food allergies on anyone, but I did appreciate my son’s peanut allergy around Halloween. Without even asking I’d get all the Snickers and Reeces, plus whatever else I could convince him had nuts. It was a sad day when he learned Skittles didn’t have peanuts.)
3. Make them share with the non-trick-or-treaters in the house. Then throw that away.
4. Let them choose 10 of their very favorite candies. They can choose to eat them all at once, or a piece every day, or however they want.
5. Have a ‘buy-back program.’ Give them a small piece of healthy dark chocolate for every piece of sugar-and-chemical bombs they throw away.
6. Only buy individually wrapped dark chocolate to give away. Keep it in the freezer until Halloween and if there are any leftovers, you can have them!
Halloween only comes once a year, but it does mark the beginning of the dreaded Eating Season. Start out right and teach your kids to coexist with candy and with Halloween.
Do you (or did you) have rules about Halloween candy? What was your favorite candy as a kid? What is your favorite now?