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Family Matters

A sweet, sweet October


I think it’s safe to say that when it comes to most aspects of family life in our household, my husband is the favorite parent. Or at least the most fun. He takes to the trampoline and bounces with no mercy, sending little bodies flying sky-high as they squeal with delight and I watch through my fingers. He makes PB&Js for dinner when I’m away. He performs father-child air guitar and head-banging duets to Metallica, the kitchen speaker turned up to a volume that rattles the window panes.
Our 8-year-old daughter recently — and I’d love to know where — overheard the term “buzzkill” and has, quite aptly, I’ll admit, applied it to her mother on multiple occasions. And while I understand that what may feel like a buzzkill to a third-grader and a kindergartner is actually just Mom doing a good job enforcing boundaries and upholding structure, I secretly look for ways to earn back a little bit of their favor. And, as I’ve learned over the past eight years, there is no quicker or more universal path to two young children’s hearts than some good ol’ S-U-G-A-R.
Yes, I said it. Sugar. Cavity-causing, hyperactivity-inducing, blood-glucose level-spiking sugar. Sugar in all its sticky, bubbly, crunchy, chewy, gooey forms. With every Little Debbie snack cake tucked into a lunchbox, affirmative reply to a request for a stop by Haymount Exxon for Colombo frozen yogurt on the way home from school, and “just because” batch of cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles, I am making up for all the times I made them eat at least two bites of salmon, said “no” to TV before bedtime, and insisted that they tidy their rooms before a playdate.
And while I do counter their sweet treat intake (not well enough, according to my dentist husband) with hiding spinach in their smoothies and setting a timer for a fluoride rinse every evening, there is one season each year during which I embrace the frenzy of candy consumption with the enthusiasm of Willy Wonka himself. All the while, my helpless husband stands by, shaking his head and muttering under his breath about tooth decay and the need to find a 12-step program for juvenile sugar addiction.
It’s Halloween, and it’s Mama’s time to shine.
Come late September, despite Fayetteville temps that rot our pumpkins faster than Jolly Rancher on a molar, I distribute a plethora of seasonally spooky candy dishes around the house. A friendly little witch-shaped bowl sits on the kitchen counter, her cackling mouth filled to the brim with Skittles. A ceramic Frankenstein offsets the fruit bowl, his open skull packed with the special Halloween edition of peanut M&M’s. And on the living room coffee table is a large glass pumpkin jar into which I’ll dump two bags of Brach’s “Autumn Mix,” the mallow-ish trio of orange pumpkins, classic candy corn and chocolate-bottomed harvest corn, which is arguably much more fit for fall-themed living room decor than actual human consumption.
I’ll take to our year-round candy jar and replace the little sugar-free lollipops that my husband purchased in a last-ditch effort to keep the cavity bugs at bay with my personal favorite fall confection: the enormous green apple suckers covered in hard, sticky caramel, their deliciousness worth the risk of a November root canal.
In the weeks leading up to Halloween, I delight in replenishing our candy jars and shopping for the most enormous, eclectic mixed bags of trick-or-treat candy that I can find. The ones that have pink bubblegum mixed in with miniature chocolate bars, red rope licorice interspersed with Tootsie pops.
When it comes to my candy bowl, I’ll have it all: hard and soft, sweet and sour, chocolatey and fruity. No palate will be left wanting. I will be ready for the costumed horde. When my husband reminds me of the fact that we’ve been visited by precisely zero trick-or-treaters in the almost 10 years that we’ve lived on our tucked-away cul-de-sac, I’ll simply tell him that one must always be prepared.
And before we know it, All Hallows’ Eve will be upon us, our children’s sweet teeth primed at several weeks’ worth of church carnivals, community festivals and school parties. As we pile into the car to head out to trick-or-treat in the grandparents’ more bustling neighborhood, I’ll remind my kiddos of all the important stuff: “Stay together! Look before you cross the street! Don’t take a handful! Say thank you!” And, for one night and one night only, I’ll defy our rock-solid parental united front as I turn around and wink at the occupants of the backseat after dentist daddy chimes in with, “… and don’t eat too much candy.”
After a spooktacular few hours of doorbell ringing, we’ll arrive home to a predictably untouched treat bowl on the front steps. “YES! More candy for us!” my kids will proclaim as I pocket a miniature Twix (or two).
They’ll sprawl on the carpet and dump their bulging bags to survey the night’s haul and engage in a serious swap session. Through a mouthful of chocolate and caramel, I’ll call out “Bedtime!” I’ll herd my two little monsters upstairs and demand that they scrub their sticky hands and mouths along with their painted faces. Before they fall into bed, they’ll beg, “Mom? Pleeease can we have one more piece of candy?” My reply? “Yes. But you’d better not let Daddy see. And don’t forget to brush your teeth.”
After all, who really wants to be a buzzkill? And, when the clock strikes midnight, it’s Nov. 1. Time to make room for the candy canes.

Claire Mullen, Family Matters, Halloween, candy