[Editor's note: This is the third of an occasional Tyee series by Linda Solomon about life with two boys and no TV.]
"It's better to let your kids sit down and eat all the candy they can eat for 24 hours, then give their teeth a good brushing, than to spread it out over days," my dental hygienist claimed.
"Are you kidding?" I asked.
"No," she said.
I never know what to do each Halloween with the cataclysm of candy that appears like a crisis. So, although the concept of giving my kids free grazing rights at the candy mountain seemed a little insane, I decided to give it a try.
I mean, it's one thing to have a three foot tall Darth Vader running around the house breathing like he has a lung obstruction and poking you with a light saber in the solar plexus. It's another thing to have him fueled up on stacks of Coffee Crisp while he pokes you in the solar plexus.
But my dental hygienist has been in the profession for many years. She's gazed into the holes of a lot of rotten teeth.
'I told you...'
Loot collection started at Charlie's house on 20th between Ash and Heather, a block from Douglas Park.
The yellow house with the high set of stairs leading up to it looked appropriately "scary" to my four-year-old. My 10-year-old was blasé, while the new puppy trembled at the sight of a prone set of clothes stuffed with hay.
Karen, a pretty woman with long blonde hair and a native Vancouverite, invited us in and asked if I needed a glass of wine.
Yes, I said, I needed one.
We shared a look of understanding.
The boys congregated outside with their light sabers and scythes. There were two Darth Vadars, one Anakin Skywalker, a Grim Reaper, a ghost, a knight, a pirate and a hippie with a hard plastic afro.
The kids yelled for us to get moving. I drained my glass, scooped up the trembling pup and joined the band of parents and children.
A few blocks later, my four-year-old couldn't carry his bag. It had gotten too heavy. The fireworks boomed out over the neighbourhood and he wanted to go home, because the noise frightened him.
"Can I have a piece of candy?"
"I told you," I reminded him. "You can eat as much candy as you want until dinnertime tomorrow. Then it all goes away."
"As much candy as I want?" His blue eyes lit up. He was baffled and amazed. His smile nearly filled his face. He no longer minded the adolescent-fueled Shock and Awe firework explosions nor did he fear them.
His hand disappeared into the bag and came out with "jellied body parts."
He tore into the bag and stuffed them into his mouth.
"Can I really have another piece?"
I repeated the game plan. In the car, he sucked a purple lollipop down to the stick. I heard a crunching of paper as I pulled onto our street and turned to see him eating a Kit Kat. This was followed by another Kit Kat on the way up to the apartment accompanied by many groans of pleasure.
The night's haul
Once inside, he poured his candy onto a chair and examined it.
He had 14 Kit Kats, 12 Reese's Cups, 16 sour patches, eight Coffee Crisps, a box of Pez's, 14 O'Henry's, three small Hershey chocolate bars, four packets of gum balls, six pieces of Bazooka bubble gum, a Willy Wonka brand candy, peach fizz. The candy began to blur.
"Can I?" he asked, and dug in.
By the time my older son got home, he had already consumed two Reese's cups, six Smarties and a waxed root beer.
They ate, then they ran up and down the halls of the apartment, then they beat each other with the light saber and the scythe, then they cried.
Then they ate more candy.
After this, they sorted their candy into piles and my older son negotiated deals with my younger son to rob him of his best pieces.
When I tried to intervene, my younger son warded me off.
My older son explained that they were drunk on candy.
I told my children it was time for them to go to bed. On the way to brush their teeth, they worked on stuffing more candy into their mouths.
They finally fell asleep, but not for long.
Down to it
At 5:30 a.m., I heard loud laughter and an ear splitting, "Mooooooomeeeeeee."
I wondered if my dentist was still sleeping and thought of phoning him to ask if she was certain this plan was the best.
I wanted to ask him if she'd done this with his kids.
I wanted to find out if they'd turned out OK. No, actually, I wanted to find out of they were still alive.
They had been eating candy already for half an hour.
It was the morning from hell.
As I put eggs and toast on the table, my older son was licking a lollipop.
My younger son ate another jellied body part and wailed as I insisted he put on a coat that his coat was too cold, that he would freeze if he wore it.
Somehow we all made it in one piece down to the car and I transported them to their respective schools.
I spent the morning recuperating...from the morning. Two hours later, I went to pick up my preschooler.
He ran to his candy pile and began eating. At this point, I cheated. I couldn't help myself. "You can only have five more pieces," I said.
He accepted and gleefully ate on.
My older son came home and started eating into his pile.
I had to go out and when I got back, my older son flashed me a big grin that indicated he had something he wanted to tell me that he knew would mean trouble.
But he couldn't hold it in. "I threw up a few minutes ago," he told me with a proud expression.
He was nibbling on one of his last Reese's cups. I wondered what he was so proud of but decided not to question him.
"And you're still eating candy?"
My younger son lay draped over the chair, his eyes rolling back in his head. The remaining candy had become like the large muddy river is to the rhinoceros. If he couldn't eat it, at least he could wallow in it.
"Alright," I said, "that's it. Hand it over."
I got a bag, they reluctantly poured it in and then we all did a tribal dance to ritualize the journey of the candy to the garbage bin.
We made loud moaning noises, held our tummies, and danced around the living room, louder, faster.
The chant, in case you should ever want to try this ritual yourself went like this:
"Ooga booga ooga booga..."
I held the bag of candy over my head, bowed down with it, swung it high.
As the clock struck 5 p.m., I strolled to the garbage bin in the hallway of the apartment building, opened the door, and threw it out.
Things stayed pretty frenetic through dinner. My younger son jumped up and down around the kitchen as if all that candy had turned his feet and legs into a pogo stick.
My older son sang "Fuzzy Wuzzy Was A Bear Fuzzy Wuzzy Had No Hair" 189 times without stopping.
Just when I was going to get my dental hygenist on the phone and make her listen to Fuzzy Wuzzy sung a hundred times by a jittery 10-year-old, he turned to me with an exhausted face and said, "Can we go to bed now?"
"Of course you can, Sweetie," I said.
Never had the endearment seemed so apt.
That was that, I hoped. But of course, with children, that is never that.
My older son woke up in the middle of the night and thought he needed to throw up again.
Again, I thought of my dental hygienist. Where was she now? Had the experiment worked?
Perhaps it saved me a few hundred dollars in dental bills down the line. The strategy of eating it all in one day, brushing really well and then being done with it might be best for their teeth.
But was it best for the child?
Well, neither kid asked once why I'd taken the candy away. Neither wished he had it back. Twenty-four hours of Halloween and they were done. Sated.
Still, I'm left with the reminder that the voice of authority is not always the voice of reason.
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