When things are going smoothly, going well, when there are minimal bumps in the road, I tend to let those moments surround me like the bubble wrap of life and keep my hands still. I find I rarely write about them because I hold them close and savor them.Those moments are the last chip in the bag of butterscotch chips that didn’t make it into the cookie dough. You pop it into your mouth without a word, rolling it around your tongue as it transforms from cool and firm to smooth and creamy. You lose yourself in the flavor, knowing it won’t be long until it melts away, quite literally.
This week I had a Butterscotch Chip Moment while wearing googly-eyed bat antennae and standing in the middle of a leaf-strewn street. In the spirit of the season, let me share this bit of sweet with you.
Let me start by saying that Halloween has always been fun for me. I love dressing up, decorations, the silly drama of it all.
And Holy Heck on a Stick Do I Love Candy.
Then I had a baby, exponentially increasing the adorableness factor of the holiday.
The idea of Halloween is almost unbearably cute once you produce offspring. Tiny humans dressed in crazy get-ups solely for the amusement of grown-ups. Doesn’t get much better than that.
Then the kids get old enough to spout opinions on what they want to dress up as, recognize that you’re stealing all their candy, and become independent walkers.
Next thing you know, Halloween goes from, “Hey isn’t my cute baby even cuter in this fluffy lion costume” (spoken in between sucks on the lollipop you pilfered from ‘his’ bag of candy since you took a 6-month-old trick-or-treating and they can’t eat candy yet) to, “My kids can’t decide which costume they want I can’t spend any more money at Party City Get OUT of the ROAD kids! OMG I am so tired but I need to stay focused long enough to not lose my kids in this sea of princesses and super heroes on my street” in a blink.
Add on top of that our particular situation: My kids (and I) can’t eat chocolate.
(Please feel free to take a moment to absorb the horror. Most people need to sit with a cool damp cloth over their eyes in a dark room at the thought of life without chocolate. And yes, it’s just as sad a circumstance as you’re imagining.)
It is a metabolic intolerance, like an allergy but with violent vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramping, and blackouts. Chocolate is literally poison to us.
Now Halloween becomes an annual event where I deliberately send my kids door-to-door to accept poison from strangers.
(Sorry, did you just think to yourself, “Hey, Kim, why don’t you just not trick-or-treat with the kids?” Go ahead and suggest that idea to my kids. I’ll wait here with the Band-Aids and ice compress for you. If you even make it back.)
Toss this allergy into the bag with the typical parenthood struggle of wanting your babies to stop being so damn dependant on you yet not trusting them or anyone else to take care of them like you can and do, and I become a big irritable ball of stress come Halloween. It’s best for them if I back off a bit to let them learn to fend for themselves and make the right decisions, yet the thought of them accidentally getting exposed to chocolate terrifies me.
You see now why Halloween is even scarier for me than ever before?
Be that as it may, I put on my brave face and made plans to go Trick-or-Treating with our friends next door. Child tally, in case you’re actually following along here: my 3.5yo daughter and 5.5yo son, plus my neighbor’s 7yo, 6yo, 3.5yo and almost 1yo boys.
Cue the obligatory cute costume shots:
So the time rolls around and all of us parents are walking down the street, chatting while the kids do their thing. I’m staying in the street, trying to let the kids have their freedom while reminding them not to eat ANYTHING for ANY reason. Anxiety is keeping me from eating any candy from the bag I’m holding, but other than that I’m doing a decent job of not looking as nervous as I am about giving them so much Trick-or-Treating freedom. They’re being pretty good….they seem to be listening…time is passing…
Then I realize: we’re moving along reaaaaaaaaal sloooooooow.
So I ask the kids, “Why is it taking so long to say ‘trick-or-treat,’ grab your candy with a ‘thank you’ and run? Is something wrong?”
Turns out, my daughter was so worried about getting chocolate she had begun crying when someone tried to hand her a chocolate candy bar. That prompted the two oldest boys to begin politely telling every house that my kids were allergic to chocolate, then ask if they had any non-chocolate candy for them (and generously offering to take all chocolate themselves). The people in those houses were then rummaging through cabinets and drawers, looking for mini bags of potato chips or cool pencils or ANYTHING they could scrounge up last-second for an adorable Princess Valentine who couldn’t eat what was in their candy bowl, solidifying my faith in humanity but reaaaaalllly delaying the process. Meanwhile, my son was graciously accepting all chocolate items but deliberately not touching them, so I could remove them later.
With all my worrying about my protecting my kids, I forgot that they are trying to protect themselves. And their friends want to keep them safe, too.
My kids and their friends are growing up. They are looking outside themselves, and taking care of each other. They are in caring relationships.
They aren’t babies any more.
They are kids now.
Kids who communicate their worries and feelings. My kids and their close friends all understand that chocolate is bad news to them, so they all teamed up to ensure Halloween stayed fun and safe for all.
They’re growing up right in front of me, and effortlessly taking some of my worry away.
When I realized all this understanding and caring and friendship and self-awareness, I tasted my proverbial butterscotch chip. For years I’ve been gasping for air in the relentless sea of babyhood and toddlerhood, doggy paddling furiously towards kidhood. I’m there now, and didn’t realize it.
This chocolate allergy has been a huge thorn in my side, a valid medical worry when one has two very young children with minimal impulse control. My children are able to be in control now, and I had no idea.
I’ve been worrying about every little detail, not noticing that the big picture was changing before my very eyes.
It was upon that realization I felt the autumn sun warm on my face, the leaves of trees plump with color swirling around me, and the breeze of change hug me gently before it chased my kids and their friends down the street to the next house. I waited a moment with a smile on my face, listening to the squeals of delight as they scurried up a new walkway prepared to say the words that didn’t worry me as much as they did a just few minutes earlier:
“Trick or Treat!”