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Sugar Shock

Photograph by Getty Images

As a mom, you look forward to so many firsts: first smile, first word, first “I love you.” First candy binge was not on my list, but it’s coming. It’s coming fast.

Last Halloween, I took my almost 2-year-old daughter trick-or-treating for the first time. She was dressed as Pebbles from The Flintstones, and I went as a tired mommy. (We were both very convincing.) I’d never given her candy before, and I didn’t really want to start. I think of sugar like alcohol—all kids are going to try it eventually, I’d just rather it be later than sooner.

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It turned out I had nothing to fear. With the spectacle of other kids’ costumes, leering jack-o'-lanterns and elaborately decorated homes, there was so much for my novice Halloweener to explore that candy didn’t even make her top 10. She looked at the little wrapped pieces dropped in her plastic pumpkin bucket like they were collectibles, not edibles. Just to be on the safe side, I put her candy away before she had a chance to dig in. And by “away,” yes, I do mean in my mouth.

This year, there’s no way I’m getting off that easy.

My daughter’s candy awakening began at her last doctor appointment. The pediatrician (really, doc?) offered up a lollipop—her first ever—and since then, that’s all she talks about. She pretends crayons are lollipops. She invents new lollipop flavors, like mashed potato (don’t pretend that doesn’t sound good). She fantasizes about her next lollipop encounter as if lollipops were crush-worthy boys.

I’m equally afraid of demonizing something that can then become an obsession.

Then came the first preschool bake sale. I couldn’t deny her a few treats. After all, with every purchase, we were contributing to the school’s scholarship fund. The candy dam pretty much burst at that point, chocolate flowing everywhere.

And I feel bad about it.

I’m the mom—the gatekeeper between my child and unhealthy stuff. Couldn’t I have held the barricade a little longer? The problem is, as fearful as I am of cavities, I’m equally afraid of demonizing something that can then become an obsession.

I have a cousin who wasn’t allowed any candy growing up. You know what she did every weekend? Snuck through the woods to a strip mall drugstore and used her allowance to go to town on a bag of Baby Ruths. Nobody wants that to happen.

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So, on October 31, when my little pumpkin gets candy from the neighbors, she’s going to know exactly what to do—run shrieking in circles until she melts down like a Hershey bar on a hot day.

I suppose my best defense is the “one for you, one for me” method of candy limitation. Oh, it’s going to be a long, sweet night.

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