I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was 17 so as a child I did not have conflicts about candy. By the time I was diagnosed, the celebration of Halloween with candy was in my past. The same for my sons, who are not diabetic and therefore we (mostly me) took them around the neighborhood each year and they got to enjoy the candy associated with the holiday.
I say this because I do know of the struggles that occur in many households with diabetic children. Since my mom was a diabetic I grew up around diabetic children and I always thought how fortunate I was that did not endure the awful struggles I saw between the children and their parents. There were many different ways of handling diabetes at this time of years. Of course pumps have smoothed the way a bit, but I imagine the struggles at some levels still persist even with pumps. As a parent I really feel for how tough it must be in some households to set strict rules about candy and then have to enforce them. My heart goes out to families who are struggling with this issue. I am so glad I never had to face it as a parent.
As a child I saw many ways that parents deal with this time of year, some better than others and there are many other ways I have never thought of. Here is a list of how I saw parents deal with Halloween and the unintended outcomes:
Perhaps my favorite was the almost no candy Halloween Party. I attended a few of these as a child and I always had the best time. I recall one in particular where we did apple bobbing and each of the boys of course was soaked while the girls were a little well less than enthusiastic. The parents at these parties had plenty of games, and thinking back on things I cannot say I ever missed the emphasis on candy that other parties seemed to have. What I loved was that as we left these gatherings each child was given a “special bag” prepared just for them. Of course we could not open the bag until we left the house. The non-diabetic children always got candy, while the diabetic children got money. Knowing this I wished for the diabetic bags that seemed more fun to me since I was an aspiring city financial director, even at 5 years old. The next day at school we would compare what was in our bags and I always thought, wow I wish those things had been mixed up. I could have used the $1.00 in the diabetic bag.
I saw parents who bought back their child’s candy. I always thought this was sort of cruel. Candy for cash was what one diabetic friend called it, and he hated the idea. This seemed to lead to a child - parent negotiation that never turned out in the child’s favor. The parent would let the child do all the trick or treating and then pay them with a predetermined amount of money. In my day it was usually $5.00 or $10.00. This usually worked only once, as the child would often attempt to squirrel away his candy, with the idea he could have the best of worlds, (the money and a fair amount of candy hidden for later). One kid I knew asked me to hold half his stuff ‘so mom and dad’ would not find out. This seemed to be an unneeded dance and the practice was always abandoned after a couple of years. Parents it seemed still had the argument because the child would still go super high from sneaking candy and the parents were out the money.
I also saw the reckless one night indulgence experiment. Remember in my day no one could check blood sugar directly. The scale was a urine sample with produced a result of negative to 4+. By the way as those of us who used these things soon came to know, it was easy to mess with the test. Dilute the urine, use water instead of urine, were my two favorites subterfuges. So with this social experiment parents would say ok its one day eat what you want. Then they dealt with the blood sugar later. This always led to disaster, I recall one friend who twice landed in the hospital with DKA after her one day indulgence and eating the stuff with reckless abandon only made the child want more the next day. Which led to the test strip doctoring which led to disaster at some point. This seemed to me to be an odd way of dealing of things.
Of course there also the total abstinence parents, these families just did not celebrate or even acknowledge the holiday. Kids of these families had the worst time at school. I recall one little guy who was so sad as kids told of their bounty, he just said no I am diabetic (or worse my sister) is diabetic we do not celebrate Halloween. These kids got to write the alternative essay in first grade. Instead of what I did for Halloween, they wrote about the meaning of giving or some sort of thing, no one else could understand.
I think what all this taught me was that parents of diabetic kids have a very tough road this time of year. Yes the invention of pumps makes it easier, and yes all diabetic kids get past this one day extravaganza of sugar worship. But the truth is, in countless households in the US and Canada, this time of year brings out a tough struggle between parents and children. Different parents and children have different ways of going about the business of keeping kids safe from skyrocketing blood sugars.
For that reason my heart goes out to the parents of our diabetics this time of year. Growing up I saw some very difficult struggles between parents and children over candy especially children diagnosed in early school age who up until that time celebrated the season with candy. I hope parents understand, there is no right or wrong way to make it through this time of year. I think the best advice I ever heard came from a teenager talking about how his parents handled this time of year. He said “my parents just loved me” and we got along as best we can.
For the parents out there, just do the best you can and trust that this too shall pass. After all thanksgiving is right around the corner and we all know that time of year is all about Aunt Jean’s famous cookies that she just knows are sugar free and are baked especially for little Nancy because she has the sugar real bad. Uugh it never ends.