Halloween night, Tess and her best buddy (aka the spider and the witch) went trick-or-treating in a cold rain, returning with a modest array of candy and snacks that they dumped on the carpet and fanned out like peacocks. The No. 1 thing they were hunting down: the popcorn (homemade, plain) that a neighbor had tossed in their bags.
When they moved on to the candy, reaching for the Reese’s peanut butter cups, I asked if they wanted those or the Newman’s Own organic peanut butter cups I’d bought. Their choice. Both picked the dark-chocolate Newman’s. (Even Newman’s is more processed than I like, and it’s still a whole lot of sugar. But, hey, at least it doesn’t have non-organic soy or the controversial preservative TBHQ, like Reese’s.)
From there it was all about the mini Play-Doh tubs leftover from our treat basket. And that’s how they spent most of Halloween night, rolling snails from clay and leaving popcorn crumbs on the couch, candy bags ignored on the floor.
The next day, Monday, Tess had off from school for parent-teacher conferences. Same with yesterday. I put her candy bag in the kitchen and figured we’d at some point do our annual sort-and-toss (or sort-and-save for gingerbread houses). Monday I worked while Tess amused herself. She stayed in her pajamas and basically owned the place. Books, TV, important writings on her trusty clipboard, Play-Doh cookies made with Play-Doh sprinkles, a fort constructed with blankets and couch cushions. Happy kid.
Her Halloween bag sat on the counter, next to the paper bag of candy one of the grandmas brought to Sunday brunch (including a candy bracelet that Tess had worn and nibbled post-brunch). Twice Tess raided the stash. First to get a flashing magic wand (also from grandma) for her fort. Then to get a plastic pinball game a neighbor had given her.
She didn’t touch the candy. She didn’t even mention the candy. Except to point to the four giant gumballs in the handle of the pinball game and ask: “Didn’t you say we were going to do experiments with these?” (Which I did. And which we will. I especially want to do this with the gumballs and this with the Skittles.)
Tuesday we were gone most of the day. Today she went back to school. And still the candy hasn’t been touched.
My point? Well, I guess it’s this: Kids can enjoy Halloween without stuffing their faces or making it all about the candy. Their childhood won’t be ruined. They won’t turn all binge-y and weird and scarf every multicolored sugar nugget the minute they get the chance. Heck, you can even limit the candy, and talk about why you limit the candy, then leave the whole shebang on the counter and it might just attract zero interest.
We’ll still do our sort-and-save. But I’ll probably wait until Tess asks about or goes for the candy. Because at this point, it’s become a candy experiment of a different kind.
What was your Halloween like? And for the teachers out there: How has school been this week? Turns out that teachers dread the day after Halloween. (As do school nurses.) Makes perfect sense now that I think about it, what with all those little chemical time bombs walking around. But I didn’t see the light until I told a friend — a middle-school teacher — that my daughter’s school was closed for conferences. She looked at me like that was the most genius idea she’d ever heard. Then she shook her head sadly and braced for the day after.