Did I do something right?

If I were to categorize my blog posts, I’m guessing 10% are literature and bookishness, 70% are teeth-clenched comedy about how I barely made it through the day with my adorable and irrepressible children, 10% are raw and unfiltered posts in which I admit to being completely overwhelmed by life, death, and the days when those two coincide, and 10% are crowdsourcing pleas in which I seek solutions for managing to stay alive during one of my indomitable children’s…um…phases.

I don’t know yet that I’ve posted enough “I do believe I might have done something right” posts to actually register on any NaptimeWriting highlights reel. This Halloween might be different.

Berkeley upcycles its trash into art. Hard to feel like I'm #winning next to that.

Berkeley upcycles its trash into art. Hard to feel like I’m #winning next to that.

I woke this morning totally panicked about our Halloween policy. The first few years, with just Peanut, we adhered to a “have two pieces a day until it’s gone,” policy, and despite relieving the bag substantially in the evenings, Halloween wore on WAY too long into November. Once we had two children old enough to carry a treat bag, we offered the idea of trading candy for books or toys, but Peanut, the oldest, would have none of it. We settled on a friend’s approach: two days of unfettered access, then all the candy goes away.

This year the kids loved the plan. They knew unfettered access still meant they had to eat three meals a day, all veggies and protein. They knew this was non-negotiable.

But they were like crazed maniacs on Halloween night, sprinting from house to house to maximize their haul. The four-year-old dashed up stairs, knocked on doors, beamed his brightest “HappyHalloweenthankyouandhaveagoodnight” as he grabbed all he could hold. And at 7:00 November 1, both kids were leaping on my bed, hollering, “go make eggs so we can have protein and then eat all our candy!”

I freaked out a bit.

I texted my most awesomely conscientious mom friends to ask their policy. One allows a single piece a day, and sneaks out the egregiously colored stuff. Another negotiated a trade of all but four pieces in exchange for a book.

Mmmmmm. Homemade caramel.

Mmmmmm. Homemade caramel.

I mentioned those candy-management options to my kids, who laughed and, I’ll be honest, openly judged those parents aloud for being “too unfair.” (I talked to them about fairness and candy and starving children. My grandmother would be proud.) After wolfing down their eggs, my sugar-fiend cherubs agreed to take the most toxic of their stash and trade it for the brands I trust. I stocked up on candy made with natural ingredients, colored with fruit, sweetened with organic sugar, and made sustainably so I could give their dad the stuff that will color your liver for months. (What? It’s not rude to give your ex toxic candy, right? Not the stuff with razor blades; just partially hydrogenated oils.) So some of what the boys devoured at 7:35am was candy that they’d already selected from my Alternative Treat stash.

But the haul was still grotesque. Gorgeous to the candy-loving child/teen/adult in me. Disgusting to the parent I have been posing as for almost nine years.

While they ate we talked about red dye #3 and red #40, blue #2, yellows #5 and 6. Coal tar, guys. Those colors, in more than 30% of your candy, are made from coal tar. Some are banned in other countries and some are banned in the U.S. in cosmetics, but not in food.

“Don’t care,” they shrugged. “it’s two days of the year. We never buy this kind of candy, we always eat well, and we worked hard to get it.” My eight year old genuinely said these things.

They wore me down. Not because they’re right, but because I am easily pushed off the perch from which I fear going too far toward the self-righteous Berkeley I both celebrate and disdain. I’m also freaking exhausted from all the negotiations and battles and teachable moments about brushing teeth and not calling names and being kind and embracing difference and standing up for anyone who’s being pushed around and treasuring people over things and …I’m seriously just exhausted. I was willing to look the other way while my kids are coal tar artificial colors, child-slave-labor chocolate, and highly processed high fructose corn syrup.

So they got as much candy as they wanted between meals today.

For the record, they were miserable cretins all day: whining, annoying each other, throwing fits, and flitting around like hummingbirds. I kept telling them that their behavior told me next year should be the Halloween of Two Pieces Total.

And then tonight, the big one called me downstairs when I finished the four-year-old’s bath. He showed me more than 60% of his remaining candy in a pile. Candy he likes as well as candy he likely wouldn’t have eaten. all the duplicates and several brands he knows his dad likes. All lumped in a big pile to trade. “What would this get me?” he asked. It was such a significant gesture from a candy hoarder (he keeps a stash of candy that remains uneaten from random holidays stored in a clandestine backpack; and he asks once every few months if he can eat one of his bits of treasure), such an unbelievable change of heart, that I told him he could pick a book and a toy for his efforts.

The little one, apparently done freaking out about how his socks never quite line up across his toes correctly, stomped down the stairs and surveyed Candy Central. He saw what his brother was trading away, and he shoved his pile at me. “I’m done with this. I don’t even want to trade. I’m just done.” He kept one bag of organic, vegan gummy bears.

"Don't worry, mom. We don't need candy, we have kale. And we don't need toys, we have cardboard."

“Don’t worry, mom. We don’t need candy, we have kale. And we don’t need toys, we have cardboard.”

Both my kids had way too much candy today. They each likely had 30 pieces of candy.

But they’re done. Done. They don’t care any more. The novelty has worn off. They want LEGOs and books, instead.

I don’t want to say this too loudly, or anything, but I might have inadvertently done something right this Halloween.

14 thoughts on “Did I do something right?

  1. yahooo for you! AND if you keep this up, you’ll find that your wee ones actually learn not to do the same thing next year. the little guy still ate himself almost sick last night but older sister who has three more halloweeens under her belt had a handful or so of candy and was done for the night. and no negotiating/arguing/bargaining for days to come! HAPPY halloween!!

    • Learning what’s enough by trying too much? That sounds sort of familiar…where have I heard that? Oh, right. Play-based preschool where they get GOBS and GOBS of art supplies to learn what glue can really do. ;-)

      Happy Halloween!

  2. Hooray for the unexpected wisdom of children! I kind of felt the same way as your kids after a morning of preschool trick-or-treating and cookie parties at the library and candy everywhere. I personally ate too much–while somewhat restricting my kids, because I’m a hypocrite–and by the end of the sugar-fueled morning, I was all, “GIVE ME ALL THE VEGETABLES.”

    There’s something to be said for learning a lesson about gluttony first-hand. A lesson I am obviously still learning at 35.

    • I learn that lesson way too often. I’m hardcore sugar addicted. Thankfully, I’m in the middle of a two-month sugar-free, wheat-free, soy-free, dairy-free challenge. So I ate my almonds and ignored the candy.
      I’m sure I’ll unlearn moderation the second I’m free from my sugar-shackles. Maybe?

    • I love it when people cheer for me! Can I hire you to follow me and just erupt in applause now and then?

      I’ll totally do the same for you. We all need some cheerleaders in our lives.


  3. I’m with you — free reign for a couple of days and then it goes. Yesterday was hell but so far today seems better as they’re playing happily at the moment. This is also my first year doing this. I bordered on control-freak management tendencies regarding candy in previous years and it mostly stressed me out. I’m trying to be more chill about junk food in general and we do plenty of talking about food coloring and other additives, but it’s tough finding the right balance.

    • Amen.

      It stressed me to limit but it stressed me to watch the bacchanalia.
      Everything stresses me. Let’s be honest.

      But they have tried a lot of things and put them straight in the trash after one bite. Because most of that stuff is gross. And they notice. So that’s a big deal, right?

      • I think that’s a huge deal. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well my kids have self-regulated with the candy this year. My husband is not thrilled with my approach, which has made this weekend a bit taxing, but I’m doing my best to focus on what’s good. My oldest has taken to reading the ingredients list. He can point out coloring and high fructose corn syrup like a champ. Most of the time he still eats it — perhaps I’m deluded but I’m calling it progress.

        • willingness to read labels becomes habit of reading labels becomes education. What they decide to do with their information, ultimately, is what being a free member of society is. But he’ll have it.

          That’s definitely progress.

  4. OK, mama and YES. Let them overdo and they won’t do. Also this: I sat with my kids and made them watch The Bitter Truth: The Story of Sugar and holy heck if they weren’t scared to death about the brainocide and pancreacise and general bodycide of sugar havoc on bodies. Skeered? You betcha. “I dont’ wanna feed the bacteria in my body , mama.” Good boy, now give mama that Kitkat. xo

    • LOL

      That’s the way to do it, sister!

      My kids eat so much better than I do. Because they have to. And I LOVE me some caramel. And if you LOVE and it’s not harming anyone else, and you’ve earned, and…all the reasons. Caramel is the answer. ;-)

  5. Bravo! I’m taking notes. I don’t really have a strategy for the candy overload and this is the first year where I feel like I need one (up until now my oldest has tended to forget about her stash by day 2). My only strategy is to eat it all myself when they aren’t looking and that is not going to end well for any of us.

    • That’s what I did when I limited consumption to two pieces a day…laughed secretly at the poor kid while I ate myself sick at night.

      So nobody but me learned the lesson of sugar-induced misery those years? And I had to relearn it each time? I’m sounding more and more dumb as this post goes on…

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