Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Sugar Fairy

Halloween is one of our family's favorite holidays, however it presents a prickly problem for the child who is food allergic. Since Mayan was old enough to participate in the festivities, we had to come up with a solution to allow the fun of trick or treating but not make her feel left out when it came time to consume the goods. I am not sure where the idea came from, possibly on-line, but since then, every October 31st, our family gets a visit from "The Sugar Fairy."

The Sugar Fairy, you see, needs sugar to feed to her sugar babies--they will die without an adequate sugar diet. Halloween is the night the Sugar Fairy harvests sugary candy treats, and leaves the children other gifts in return. In the past it is usually some wooden toys, a specialty allergen-friendy chocolate or cookie, and a toothbrush. Yes, that's right, in our house our children trade their candy for a toothbrush.

Depending on how you look at it we are either really great parents or really terrible parents.

Last night, we headed to a Halloween Party and stopped off at Nomad to pick up Blake and eat some dinner I brought from home. In order to keep their costumes clean, I was feeding bites of rice and beef and green beans to the girls. Isadore would dance over to me (she was a kitty ballerina) and would say "trick or treat!" and I'd feed her a green bean, then she'd laugh and sing "We get vegetables and toothbrushes instead of candy!" This is when it hits me, in a comical sense of course: Wow, what terrible parents we are! We have tricked out children into being perfectly okay with trading CANDY, the glorious nectar of childhood, with TOOTHBRUSHES, the traditional object related to the bane of childhood experiences: going to the dentist. If nothing else, we must be wickedly genius!

After stopping at the store, to purchase the treats for the later switch-a-roo, we arrive at the party. Now there are "big girls" there--three gals that Mayan and Isadore know and are about 9 years old. These girls know all about Halloween. It was the dads who were in charge of taking the group of kids around the neighborhood, and from what I hear everyone had a fine time. (The moms hung back and enjoyed the lovely spread of food and beverages.) When the group returned, Mayan and Isadore informed me they were headed upstairs "to sort our candy." It occured to me that this must be what the other kids do since this was not custom in our home--why would it be, of course, the Sugar Fairy normally accepts one big unsorted pile. Blake and I obliged, and retreated to the kitchen for some grown-up conversation. As we are laughing and joking, and eating it hits me: My daughters are up there with their candy and their big girls telling everyone that "We cant eat our candy...we give it to the Sugar Fairy for her Sugar Babies, and get toothbrushes instead!" with sweet grateful smiles on their sweet little faces. I remind myself that, it may not be perfectly clear that this practice is not exactly considered normal. I had this vision of Mayan coming downstairs, hands-on hips, with Isadore at her heel, arms crossed and eyes narrowed, sassily barking "Hey, we've just been informed that we're getting the shitty end of the stick on this Halloween deal! Toothbrushes are for suckers!"

I sent Blake up to check on the happenings. He briskly came down a minute later, looking for the camera. "That good, huh?" I asked. "Oh, man, you have to see this," he explained. "It's like the Nasdaq of halloween candy." Sure enough the girls were up there literally auctioning off candy, items spread out and sorted to a startlingly organized fashion. I heard River say "Alright, next up we have, 3 snickers bars and 2 three Musketeers!" Among the bunk bed and girly perfume bottles, we had a little Wall Steet, only the traders we dressed as a zombie-cheerleader, a goth, a China doll, and a Starship Enterprise officer.

The mommy in me wanted to make sure Mayan wasn't getting taken advantae of so I leaned in a said "Hey Mayan, make sure you are getting a fair deal..." Tanaya, the oldest, looked at me somewhat surprised and said "Are you kidding? She's been tough." Hee, hee, her father's daughter. We snapped a shot and left them be.

So much for my vision of the girls getting thier hearts crushed by seeing the "real" Halloween candy experience. Of course, I should have known better. This whole "Sugar Fairy" thing has always been given with a heavy dose of "wink, wink, nudge, nudge." Mayan only participates because she wants to delight in the imagination--when pressed she will admit "I know it's only you and Papa." But she enjoys playing along--she told me when I came back to the car after going into the store "Mom, I think I saw the Sugar Fairy in there!" The truth is Mayan has adapted amazingly well to her special "the-food-sensitive-kid" affliction. She rarely fusses or feels bad for herself when she is around things she can't eat. I've always made a big effort to make her things that are comparable to the food and treats served at social events we attend, but I just can't cover all of my bases 100% of the time and there are times she goes without. The most impressive part to me is that she respects what her body is telling her--she is not avoiding food becasue I tell her not to eat them but becasue she knows she is healthier when she avoids her trigger foods. I know this because I have overheard her many times or been told by friends that have had her in their care. When presented with strange foods, she states "Oh no, I can't--I'm allergic." Somehow, and I can't really take the credit, she has learned to embrace that which makes her different. The events of last night only compounded this revelation for me. I really think that although Mayan wants to fit in most of the time with her peers, she has the confidence to stand out when it counts.

As soon as we got home the girls left their brimming baskets on the counter and I hustled them upstairs to get into pjs so I could make the switch. Like a mad women I stuffed a produce bag full of the mini-candy bars, lollipops, and tootsie rolls, and hucked them in top shelf of the pantry. In each girl's basket I placed a brand new Hello Kitty toothbrush and a bag of corn-free, fruit-juice-sweetened, no artifical color gummy worms and jelly beans. Just in time to hear the approaching feet running down the stairs.

The girls were very pleased with their treats--they made big fuss over the Hello Kitty brushes ("Mine is a cowgirl!! Oooooh, Isadore yours is an asian kitty with a dragon!") I let them have some jelly beans and a gummy worm each. Blake had tears in his eyes when he saw how grateful and excited they were for their goodies. I guess we have managed to not strip the joy from the holiday that is notorious for letting children stuff face and bug out on refined sugar. In fact, as I went to kiss them goodnight Mayan showed me the thank you card she was making for the Sugar Fairy. It reads:

thank you shoogirfary for all the goodys. ar the toothbrushes magic? and the gumy worms taste grate. happy holleween shoogirfary!

It's accompanied by a picture of the fairy and her wand hovering over two baskets each containing one toothbrush and one bag of candy, appropriately labeled.

Happy Halloween to you too, dear, Happy Halloween.


Nicole said...

You are the best shoogirfary ever!

leahsmom said...

Your creativity is admirable. I dont believe the girls are missing out. They had their fun and got thier reward at the end. And that book you were thinking of writing could be in this experience. Keep up the good parenting and know that it is about love. Mom

Lee said...

I think you mentioned this last year either on your blog or on MDC, but I was inspired by it and am doing something similar for Jake! Only I am calling it the Halloween ghost, but maybe I'll change it to Sugar Fairy since that sounds nicer and the explanation about the babies more reasonable. Anyway, it was no problem for me to switch out the candy this year, yay!

Marketing Mama said...

That is totally awesome and I would say your kids are super lucky to have you as parents. The sugar fairy is a genius idea. I love it! :)

angstmonkey said...

Sorry for having one of the "big girls"

angstmonkey said...

Ok, Someone hit post before I was done. It was supposed to say..... Sorry for having one of the "big girls" I am glad she didn't corrupt your girls that much.

elliesmadre said...

That is such a sweet story. Eleanor got to pick a few pieces to eat today, and the rest she traded for a new (to her) gift. I had traded someone for a playsilk cape a few weeks ago. She was so excited to run around the house with it! And of course she ate her few pieces right away.

Rebekah said...

We're not shoogirfary's at our house. It's a great idea, but we just didn't throw ourselves in front of that bus soon enough. But this is a terrific post. Plus? Worms taste grate!

The Noble Fat N Happy One said...

we do sugar fairy too :)
lots of cheapo target hello kitty socks this year :)

and you are right, being alive beats the alternative eh?

sorry bout your kitty *hug*

Meshem said...

Hey Sis! Happy belated B-Day! Hope it was fantastic.

Bro Unc Meesh

Mayan Grace said...

OMG i want sugar!!!

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