Coming soon, to a child you love: candy!
Lots of it, in heaping bagfuls, and with it the belief that somehow you can and must make a sensible, sensitive, child-centered, adult-led, informed, rational, gentle, crafty, flexible, caring and healthful plan regarding the booty’s lifelong impact on your child’s health, teeth, eating habits, food obsessions and body image.
That’s not too much to ask, right?
While Jews get off easy when it comes to Santa issues — or at least they used to, when they could just say, “Forget it, bubele, he doesn’t exist!” — Halloween is an equal opportunity holiday, bringing the candy conundrum to Jew and gentile alike. From what I can tell, both groups are busy trying to make the perfect game plan. But it’s possible that the Jews (being Jews) feel a tinge more guilt about whatever plan they’ve chosen.
“His very first Halloween, maybe he was 3 or 4, I made the hugest mistake I’ve ever made in my entire parenting career,” said Amanda Hass, a New York City publicist and mother of Jake, now 13. “I had him all dressed up in a train costume that I made myself. And the very first time that we knocked on a door, he was like, ‘Oh my God — they gave me candy!’ and I said, ‘No, no, don’t eat it. You save the candy and you bring it home and I get to look it over and we’ll figure it out later and….’ I don’t know what I was thinking! He was traumatized for life.”
As Jews have enjoyed a long relationship with psychology (and moms), I asked Hass to please put Jake on the phone: “Jake, what happened the first time you went trick-or-treating with your mom?”
“I think I was crying for a while and she sort of backed down.”
“Were you traumatized for life?”
And there you have it. As parents, we try to make things work, and oftentimes they don’t. Not such a big deal. But when staring down candy with a capital “C” that rhymes with P that stands for “periodontal issues” and “pulchritude,” it’s hard for parents to realize that.
“I thought I was doing everything right in terms of teaching my son what is an appropriate amount of candy,” said Debbie Koenig, author of “Parents Need To Eat Too.” But when she watched her son trick-or-treating for the first time, when he was 5, she saw him gobbling down 90% of everything he got. On a dime, she decided to invoke the “Switch Witch.”
The Switch Witch is a relatively new childhood character whose job description is strikingly similar to that of the Tooth Fairy. Except instead of taking away teeth and replacing them with money, she takes away candy and replaces it with a toy.