My son is six and therefore at the age where picking the perfect Halloween costume means the difference between being cool and uncool. This also means his desired costume has been changing weekly. We’ve gone from Frankenstein, to Chewbacca to Mummy to Clown. My favorite costume is still the little puppy dog with the floppy ears and spots that he wore at age three. Of course it would barely accommodate one of his legs now, much less his whole body, but I like to hold onto this memory as a reminder of his innocence.
Costume importance aside, Colin’s allergies to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and wheat require a heightened awareness this time of year. But just as important, my husband and I want Colin to feel like any other little boy on his night of hallowed haunting. Because of that we’ve always approached the trick or treating event on Halloween in an open way. We grab his candy container of choice, a flashlight and EpiPens; then we join the troops of grandly dressed kids and adults in our neighborhood. The big rule is that we don’t eat candy while on the trail. And frankly, this is not very dramatic. It’s just like all food rules for us. The great thing is that the rest of our romp through the neighborhood is just like everyone else’s. Colin has a great time. And so do we as parents; watching him stand side by side at each door with his friends just being a carefree kid.
Once at home we sort the candy into three piles—OK, Not OK and Not Sure. This is part of the fun. And, it turns out to be a great confidence builder. Colin knows he will be able to sort for himself as he becomes more independent, even on Halloween night. He is free to take from the “OK” pile. The “Not OK” pile goes off to Dad’s work and the “Not Sure” pile becomes my sleuthing project. I spend the next couple of weeks reviewing ingredients online, calling candy companies, etc. It takes a little time, but it’s worth it. Colin checks in on the status of my work and through this he is building lifelong skills for living with food allergies. Colin is learning how to determine what is safe or not.
Our unrestricted trick or treating tradition isn’t necessarily for everyone with food allergies of course, but it works for us and we look forward to Halloween night and thereafter each fall.
These days, Halloween celebrations aren’t limited to the one night though. It’s a candy-fest for the entire month. For other October days we try to focus our celebrations around activities that are less food oriented and schedule them after a nice, healthy meal at home. This is not just healthy for us, it’s good for everyone! In fact, many other families find this the best way to celebrate fall. After all, we are what we eat.