As soon as we got home from trick-or-treating, the kids spilled their loot out on the dining room table. They had refused to sample a single piece until we’d gotten home, preferring to view it whole and intact, untouched, in all of its glory.

I was surprised that they’d allowed their candy to mingle, but this was nothing to be discouraged, was it? We were all in this together.

Of course, this wasn’t the first time they’d been trick-or-treating. But this was the first year they seemed so…cognizant.  In previous years I would let them have a couple pieces and then I’d dole it out to them in one or two-piece increments as “treats” until they forgot about it or I ate it, whichever came first.

But this year, after watching UCSF Doctor Robert Lustig’s video/lecture, The Bitter Truth, and re-reading Dr. Kathleen DesMaisons’, Little Sugar Addicts, I was more cognizant too. More aware of the biochemical aspects of sugar, as well as its addictive qualities. Writes DesMaisons:

Sugar acts like a drug in the body—it affects the same brain chemicals that heroin and morphine do…[certain people] are born with an imbalance in three parts of their brain and body chemistry: they have low serotonin (the chemical that “quiets” the brain and helps with saying no), low beta-endorphin (the brain’s own “painkiller”), and volatile blood sugar. These three disturbances set them up to react profoundly to the druglike effects of sugar. And their sugar sensitive brain chemistry leads them into addictive patterns and more and more compromised eating.

I know, without a doubt, that this is true for me. And I’ve witnessed it in my children. So we’ve already cut down on some of the biggest sources of sugar, like juice and cookies and ice cream and Popsicles. We’ve asked my daughter’s preschool to stop handing out “snacks” like rice crispy treats and chocolate pretzels at eleven in the morning.

But sugar is nefariously tucked away in everything, from peanut butter and bread to Catsup and hamburgers. The only way to avoid it is to start reading labels with a magnifying glass and a scientific dictionary, and/or to cook for yourself at home.

The good thing about Halloween is that it comes only once a year, and its excretions are the crude and obvious kind.

“Get rid of the taffy,” I blurted, unable to control myself. “It’s terrible for your teeth!”

My children readily complied, knowing instinctively that taffy is one of the lowest forms of confectionary, just above hard candy.

But I felt vaguely like Willy Wonka’s father as I threw it in the trash. In the meantime, Oz was sliding chocolates from the table into his lap, shucking the wrappers, and stuffing them into his mouth. Great role modeling, I thought irritably. He winked at me and smiled a devilish, chocolate grin.

And that’s when it happened: Complicity. Rivalry? In any case, I didn’t want him getting more than me. My hand started moving like a snake in the grass toward the pile of candy, oodles and oodles of it, all there for the taking. The packages were small and diminutive, colorful and appealing, like little baby birds. Parakeets, who only wanted to rest on my finger and sing me a song…

And once I had one in my mouth, oozing the pure nothingness of nougat, I felt a surge of certitude and well-being: Of course it was right to “steal” my children’s candy! It was my moral obligation, a mother throwing herself over her child’s body in the face of manmade and natural (in this case, both) disaster! The less candy on the table tonight, the less sucrose and fructose struggling to metabolize in their helpless little systems.

At least, that’s what I was telling myself as I reached for the next one. I really do prefer Snickers to Three Musketeers. It seems to have more substance. Maybe it’s the peanuts? Peanuts are, after all, a good source of protein. That’s probably why I love Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and Peanut M&Ms the very most.

Felix and Buttercup were staring at me. They were apparently finished with the Sifting and Gloating, and were ready to commence with the Eating part of the ceremony.

“How many do you think you should have?” I asked, peanut butter sticking to the roof of my mouth.

“One?” wagered Felix, who is smart enough to start the bidding low.

“Two, if they’re really small?” chimed in Buttercup, who is always pushing the limits.

“That sounds about right,” I agreed.

And yet I couldn’t help but to feel crappy: Wasn’t the whole point of Halloween to transgress usual borders and boundaries? Get a little taste of the forbidden? Revel in the joy of excess? Let youth make its own choices and decisions, even if they are regrettable?

But it was only an hour until bedtime, and I didn’t want to have to lasso them down into bed.

Felix and Buttercup deliberated a few moments, ultimately deciding to split a rather small Kit Kat bar, one narrow chocolate-covered cookie each. Then Felix generously broke a Hershey’s Special into four separate pieces—one for each member of our family—like Charlie Bucket on his birthday.

I was so touched I nearly cried.

Then Buttercup noticed the empty wrappers strewn around on the floor and gave a little squeak. There was a moment of shocked recognition, and Felix began to shake his head back and forth, profoundly disappointed in us.

It wasn’t really a Jimmy Kimmel moment; they were much too stoic. But Felix packed the remainder of the candy away in a briefcase, and transported it to an undisclosed location, known only to himself and his little sister. And I didn’t say a word.

Briefcase full of Loot



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