Ah, Halloween in the United States (and probably other countries I’ve just never been in for Halloween). I’ve been hearing lots of parents talking lately about how much they absolutely hate this holiday. It’s not the pumpkin-carving, or the decorations. It’s not the haunted houses, or even the scary spiders hanging in the stores that freak their kids out (although I’ve certainly heard that once or twice from a parent). No — it’s the food issues that come up during this time of year. I’m just going to put it out there: Halloween brings up our “stuff” as it pertains to food, control, and our kids.
Every year, I am involved in conversations with concerned parents who dread having to navigate the candy/sugar/food-like substance waters with their kids. Some are happy with what they’ve devised to work for their families, but others feel like they need help. One mom on a local listserv I’m on asked for help from the community. In response, she was slammed. Shamed, made fun of, and scolded. It really angered me. The responders all told her to “get over it”, “stop being a party pooper”, and “just suck it up”. The thing is, I hear from clients who get the same sorts of support (or lack thereof) from family, friends, and community when they try to instill healthy habits into their families’ lives. THAT’S JUST NOT OK.
I’m sorry, but parents like this are NOT doing something horrible “to” their kids, and I’m tired of seeing the bullying from other parents. If you are happy with what your family does in the health department, great. If you’d like to share your experience, please feel free. If, however, you feel some reason to make someone else feel bad because you think it’s ludicrous that they might want to make a different choice, please move right along. We don’t need to hear from you, because that attitude is serving no one.
I was the only responder out of 25 responses to this parent that encouraged her to follow her gut, and that if she was really uncomfortable about the way she felt society was not supporting their family’s health values, that she could do something about it. Was this easy for me to do considering we don’t trick-or treat? Maybe. But am I responding to other people who have completely different health values from mine and telling them they’re ridiculous? No. I am not.
PLEASE — support your fellow humans should they decide to go against the mainstream way of being. You don’t have to understand it. You don’t have to agree. But it is their choice. And guess what? You may see it as, “oh their poor kids, they’ll be RUINED if they grow up to age 18 without ever having been given a bag of candy corn”. They might see it as, “The only thing I’m depriving my kid of is early diabetes”, or, “my kid is allergic to dye, so yeah, I’m depriving her of blisters in her mouth”.
Now if what I just said pissed you off, I’m sorry. But not that sorry. For those parents who feel that they will only have approximately 18 years to take care of their kids, and that at that point it will be up to their kids to do whatever they want to do for the rest of their lives, that’s a tall order. Many parents believe that they are actually helping their kids — not hurting them — by teaching them early on that they have options, and by providing them with nourishing foods, schedules, and lifestyles. These parents may also believe that they’re providing their kids with way more than a healthy household. They are also providing their kids with the knowledge that they don’t have to do what everyone else is doing, or eat what everyone else is eating, or have the same diseases that everyone else has.
So for those of you who do trick-or-treat — great! Have fun, and take a flashlight for when it gets dark. For those of you who don’t — you are NOT alone, no matter what others say. Have fun doing something else….fun movies with popcorn in the dark during trick-or-treat time is our family’s favorite past time. You can do this, and you are just as awesome of a parent as anyone else. Never doubt that.