Getting Sugared Up on Halloween


We took Emilio to a Halloween party for kids at a local bar/cafe. Lucas had found a very official-looking NASA space suit at a thrift store in California--it just happened to fit Emilio perfectly. After we already had the suit, he said he wanted to be Spiderman, but we had no time to make him a Spiderman costume, so he had to be spaceman instead. It took a little cajoling (with the sweet sweet promise of sweet, sweet candy) to get him to wear it. But once it was on, it didn’t seem to bother him as he had many more important things on his mind. As Emilio is only three, and has not been in day care or preschool, he is still not used to large crowds of people. His normal super gregarious and expressive self shuts down and he becomes extremely shy. When he feels nervous he tends to put a finger in his nose, or mouth. It issomehow utterly heart breaking to watch this shy, sweet, innocent Emilio emerge amidst the sugar-driven chaos of Halloween. We witnessed the same thing, which was even more hectic last year, when we spent Halloween with some friends in Los Angeles.

The photo above depicts a game all the children were playing called freeze, where all the kids dance to music, and when they turn the music off, the kids are supposed to be still. If they move, then they are called out. Emilio did quite well at this game, as he did not move the entire time they played. He just stood quietly in his spaceman suit, with his finger in his mouth.

Now, let me explain that all that I have described above is pre-candy. Then the trick-or-treating happened. The adults at the party were given bags of candy to offer to the children who approached them. (No stoops and ringing doorbells like we had in Brooklyn). Once Emilio had gathered his loot, he was allowed to eat three pieces of candy. Within minutes of a few pieces gummy candy and a lollypop, Emilio brightened considerably. His eyes became wild and he was suddenly chatting it up with strangers about the robot boy he saw. Then he noticed that cartoons (vintage Scooby Doo) were being projected on a screen. For the rest of the evening, he sat, sucker in mouth, eyes glued to the soundless screen. During the car ride home, as he continued to suck on his lollypop (it took him the better part of an hour to finish it) came the question of whether there was gum in the center. As he is still too young to have gum, due to potential choking hazards, we were concerned about it. He refused to let me take the tiny bits of gum away from him, but eventually he spit them on the floor. Now, the issue of gum has special significance to Emilio. Because it the only treat he knows of that we never allow him to have, it has come to symbolize all that is good and great in the world of being older. He has often said, “If I grow up, maybe I can have some gum.” When Lucas and I repeat this line to each other, and he hears, he says: “hey that’s my question!” We didn’t realize it was a question, but I can see now, how it is.

After years of making a big effort to avoid giving anything sweet to Emilio, except for rare special occasions, we have come to a place with parentingwhere his asking for treats is a constant occurrence, and our giving in is much more than we would like. How I miss the days when he ate only plain yogurt, didn’t drink juice, and never asked for treats. Now, the first thing he says when he wakes up is: I want something sweet. We never give him candy (except for this Halloween) and we don’t keep any treats in the house. But now he’s wised up to the sweet things available at home and he will ask for honey, with yogurt. (Yes, in that order.) It’s a little scary how it has come to this. It is difficult in a country where strangers give sweets to Emilio every where we go. Sweets and children seem synonymous. Now, I can’t go blaming Mexico, but I know I must not be the only parent who struggles with issue of sweets (as well as video watching). These two things are some of the most addictive substances in the world, are unhealthy and have psychoactive effects. Yet... they are so hard to resist, bring such joy, and make great bargaining tools. A daily parental dilemma for sure.

One of the benefits of my recent two week long intestinal bug, is that it got me to stop eating anything with sugar. Now I am not as much of a sweet tooth as some people, so it wasn’t that difficult to give up. But, what I did notice, is how beneficial giving up sugar has been for my mood and for regulating my blood sugar. Due to tiniest fluctuations in my blood sugar levels, I am susceptible to dramatic mood swings. Cutting out sugar has stabilized me more than any other trick I’ve tried (5 small meals a day, eating nuts, whole grains, etc.) I am going to really stick with this. Now I have to find a way to break Emilio from his obsession.

Happy Halloween!