This is the first year my kids are aware of the existence of Halloween. My older daughter, somewhere north of four and a half, is in school for the first time, where Halloween themes began to permeate school activities two weeks ago. There will be a class party and a "Halloween Parade", which, I gather, is marching around the building in a costume.
And thus, this year, the lid has been blown off of Halloween.
Halloween has us in a tricky spot. Being, as it is about two things, 1. costumes and 2. candy, it puts us in a bind. Our girls love them some dress-up play. They dress up almost every day during their copious free play time at home, excitedly running to show me their latest disguises throughout the morning. My older daughter loves a stage; loves to exaggerate her emotions theatrically and be the center of attention (for better or worse). The costume aspect of Halloween is certain to delight her.
But the candy is a problem. It's not that I have anything against sugary deliciousness. It's not that I oppose special rules--or the lifting of rules--during special times like holidays. But candy is a real problem for my older daughter. Five minutes after ingesting sugar, she goes through something like David Banner goes through when he gets annoyed. But instead of the Incredible Hulk, she turns into the Anti-Nat. My sweet child becomes whiney, willful and completely out-of-her-mind hyperactive.
In our regular life, we've all but stopped eating cookies, cake, pie, candy--even things like muffins and scones have been demoted to very occasional exceptions to our daily diet. No one feels deprived of treats. Whole fruit doesn't have the same effect on my kid as refined sugar, especially when accompanied by milk or cheese. So my girls are used to getting a lot of fruit. Nothing makes them happier than a bowl of frozen blueberries.
But holidays--maybe especially Halloween bring all kinds of treats into their lives that my kids aren't used to. And now that she's in school, my four-year old is surrounded by kids who are used to occasional sugary snacks. But what may be fine for them (and for my younger daughter, in fact) just isn't good for her.
So the Halloween dilemma for me is how to participate and enjoy the holiday with minimal sugar. And without making my kid feel like the one who's getting left out of the fun.
My solution? Give up. Well, sort of.
It's not a peanut allergy. A piece of candy won't put my daughter in the emergency room. Her teachers know to expect a Jekyll-to-Hyde personality shift after sugar. And she's got enough school under belt now that they will know it isn't the "real" her if she acts horrifically at the class party.
Meanwhile, we won't be trick-or-treating, but we will be gathering at the neighbor's house for a low-key party of preschoolers in our condo complex. They will probably be cookies. There may be candy. I'll tank my kids up on cheese before we go and hope for the best.
I am beginning to realize that it's true what I have read and until now only understood theoretically--that parenting is a slow process of letting go. I hope that as she grows, my daughter will learn to make choices about food--and everything else, for that matter--that attend to her personal well being and specific needs. Learning how to do that will require some experience on her part. Hopefully, we'll make it through the treat-filled holidays this year with our sanity intact--and our blood sugar stable.
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