Yay! It’s that time of year again – the time of year for candy to be everywhere. That’s the whole point of Halloween, isn’t it? Get as much candy as humanly possible. It freaks us out big time, which is appropriate for the season I suppose. It freaks us out because we are allergy moms. Most of the candy floating around in the yummy-sphere has at least one thing in it that will make our children incredibly sick, like going-to-the-hospital-because-they-can’t-breath sick. This fact, coupled with our super-human power to retain stress like we retain water, makes us want to just turtle our families up in our homes and not participate in anything fun, at all, ever.
If you are in the same situation, you may be scrambling to figure out how to handle things come Halloween night. Do you keep your child home from parties and/or trick or treating? Do you let them dress up and go out but make them stand there holding your hand, not participating in the fun and looking like a weirdo? Do you ask every house you stop at to produce the bag that the candy came in so you can check the ingredient list? Are you that much of a killjoy? Probably.
Fear not friends, there are some ways to participate. Some of these things might freak you out. You might have better ideas. You might think I should have child services called on me. You might say “screw you, you can’t make me go out for Halloween”. That’s cool, girl. You do you!
First, remember that there is such a thing as safe candy. Of course, we allergy moms know to check all the labels on everything all the time because we are paranoid that way and because we simply have to. Our kids’ allergies are all so different. So remember to read the darn label and do your due diligence no matter what you hear or what you read online. My son with an anaphylactic dairy allergy, for example, is able to eat any of the following candies as long as they remain wrapped up until he shoves them into his gob: Smarties (the circular U.S. candy, not the chocolate UK kind, obviously), Skittles, Starburst, or Dum-Dums.
There are tons more options out there, for every allergy child. These range from super specialized (aka pricey) items to the cheap and cheerful ones that you can find in the checkout line. Some of them are ideal because they are easy to get, cheap and our kids love them. So research up and find something for your child too. You also have options like apples (super lame) and non-food trinkets (less lame for the kids, but super lame for parents cuz we get to step on them in the middle of the night). Regardless, whatever will make your kid happy will do.
Deliver safe candy to friends and family
This is a pain in the tush but it can be one of the most seamless ways for your child to participate fully in the Halloween “experience”. Just deliver safe candy to your accomplices the day before Halloween in a sealed Ziploc snack bag and ask them to plop it right into your kid’s bag when he shows up at their door. Guess what: people LOVE making your kid feel normal! It’s amazing. This leads me to the next item . . .
Have good friends
Most people want to help you give your child a nice experience on Halloween or on any other day for that matter. Allergy kids deal with a lot of disappointment and most people want to help alleviate that. Sure, some folks are heartless monsters, but there are lots of people who will go out of their way to make your child feel included. So be ready and incredibly clear with suggestions when your friends ask how they can help. Focus on these lovely, amazing people. Thank them and suck up to them by giving them a little something nice – cookies, babysitting services, beer, coffee . . . ooooooooo, coffee-beer!
Host a Halloween party
This is hands down the worst suggestion ever but if you are super Halloween-y, give it a go. Throw a party for your friends. Guess what – you get to decide every detail of the party, including what foods are there and what foods aren’t. You also get to pay for it all and clean your house. Woohoo! In order to avoid very well intentioned people bringing their own forbidden candy, ask everyone to instead bring a pumpkin to carve, or a dollar-store toy to enter into a costume contest, or whatever else you can dream up. Keep it simple, unless you are one of those people who actually follow through on your Pinterest board. (My boards are strictly to look at). Get some safe candy, let everyone come over, carve pumpkins, give out prizes, have a pumpkin hunt with those adorable mini pumpkins, and then make everyone leave. Bam.
Play a candy-switching game
This is an all-time favorite allergy-avoidance strategy in our circle. What’s not to love? Our kids get to rid themselves of the candy they don’t want (or can’t have) and they get to barter with mom and dad. Perfection! Last year, we found a few accidental chocolate bars in our son’s bag when we got home from trick-or-treating. My quick-thinking (and superfine) husband decided to make a game out of the situation. Sit your child down at the table with a small pile of safe candy from the emergency candy stash that you keep for just such an occasion. Now, begin a complex battle of wills. “So how many Starbursts would it take for you to part with that Snickers?” “10”. “How about 2”. “No, 12”. You see where this is going. Anyways, you can have great fun arguing and, in the end, the chocolate bar gets thrown away (secretly into your stomach – you deserve it) and your kid walks away with his safe spoils. Success.
So, ladies (and gents), don your scariest mom-face and get to work. Friends, hug your allergy-mom friends a little longer when they stop by your door. They are tired.
And yes, these ideas take some extra time and extra cash. They can be annoying if you are already having a tough week. But we are used to being annoyed as allergy parents, and we are used to being tough, so no big deal. If we want our children to participate in historically un-safe food-related activities, we are going to have to put in a little extra effort. And if you are still saying “nope, nope, heck no”, good for you! I’m still going to think you are an awesome mom.
Rachel is a Masters Degree-holding feminist who also happens to be a full-time allergy mom and Residential CEO (aka stay-at-home parent). She lives in the South Metro with her husband and two “energetic” sons and shares her experiences of living in (and, more importantly, feeding) a madhouse at The Cheeky Me-Gan on Instagram @cheeky.me.gan