By Sallie W. Boyles
Did you trick-or-treat as a child?
Whether a fan of Halloween or not, grownups can understand its appeal to kids: dressing up in costume, gathering with friends, and going house-to-house to collect candy.
When I was little, Halloween was exceptionally fun.
For one thing, living in a small town and knowing our neighbors, we had peace of mind that the treats handed out were safe to eat.
For another, adults were less tolerant of children who whined or demanded, yet on the evening of October 31, they welcomed us to ring their doorbells and shout, “Trick or treat!”
Above all, other than the occasional apple or box of raisins, we received sugar-packed, store-bought candy—treats my peers and I were rarely allowed. Ending the evening with a full pillowcase or plastic pumpkin tote was … a-ma-zing!
That said, in my family, a child’s ownership of her Halloween candy was an illusion.
Upon returning home from trick-or-treating with my big (older-by-one-year) sister, we were permitted to choose a few candies before handing over the rest to our mother. Placing the stash in a high kitchen cabinet reduced temptation, although my sibling could climb like a cat!
While mostly out of reach and out of sight, the lollipops, caramels, gum, candy corn, etc. were never out of mind. Thus, as if under a spell, we’d gravitate to the kitchen throughout the day and stare longingly at the candy cabinet. When the adult in charge at last permitted us each to pick out one piece, we would usually grab a longer-lasting option—e.g., a chewy Tootsie Roll or bubblegum ball. Likewise, we accepted our meager daily ration with the consolation that our supply would last a l-o-n-g time.
Such wishful thinking! Within the week, our mother would say, “There’s no more candy.”
Wondering how all those treats could have vanished into thin air, I once asked her, “Did you eat our candy?” My mother immediately set the record straight: “I most certainly did not!” And neither did my father. Oh, I felt so guilty for merely thinking it!
In subsequent years, our mother informed us she’d given the remainder away and didn’t want to hear another word about candy. What could we do but let it go? Besides, we children had too much to explore and experience than to waste time lamenting our dearly departed Halloween treats.
When we were old enough to practice self-control, the candy could stay in the pantry within reach. Indeed, the operative word was practice. Inevitably, my sister, a.k.a. the candy monster, would sneak extras (and convince me to do the same), so our mother would once again perform her vanishing trick on the leftovers.
When no longer under our parents’ wings, my sisters and I were left to define and implement self-control on our own terms. Since I used to crave chocolate, I’d limit how much I brought home. Ironically, my candy-monster sister lost her sweet tooth so had no problem keeping a bowl of her favorite assortment on hand for visitors without tempting herself.
“Everything in moderation,” our mother would say. Applying the adage to all consumption, not just eating sweets, she’d affirm, “Too much of any good thing is unhealthy.”
Her wise words would certainly pertain to media. As with the numerous flavors and varieties of candy, the range of available media—from straightforward news to outlandish entertainment—can be satisfying and even deliver benefits … on the way to becoming addictive. For all the complicated reasons why that happens, the solutions are as simple as responsible consumption and/or abstinence.
I’ve found that when I perform the right tricks to make the junk I’ve been consuming vanish from my life, I really don’t miss it at all. There’s so much more to life!
Sallie W. Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady
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