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Trick or Treating is Complicated, But Not Impossible, with Type 1 Diabetes

Halloween is creeping up, and I’ve already spent more energy on concocting candy strategies than on finding my daughter the costume she wants (“A bloody zombie bridesmaid? Really?”). As a mother of a T1 girl, something is looming on All Hallow’s Eve that is far scarier than the walking undead roaming our usually quaint town near Boulder, Colorado. We’re talking artificial sugar mayhem.

It’s been four Halloweens since Lela was diagnosed. One would think we would have our parenting strategies down when it comes to managing treats, but Halloween candy strategies only have a shelf life of a year or two before proving ineffective.

The first Halloween after diagnosis was easy; Lela was a toddler. The contents of her plastic jack-o’-lantern went bye-bye the morning after, and our distracted 3-year-old happily moved on with her life. Her expectations about Halloween hadn’t yet been adulterated by the comparative candy analysis that is imperative among older kids.

For the next three Halloweens, we allowed Lela to choose five pieces of candy from her treat bag to keep and to use the rest of her loot as currency for a new toy. One year, we almost introduced the Switch Witch, who would appear after bedtime on Halloween night and leave a present in exchange for candy left outside the door, but we were too worried about the possibility of interrogating questions we couldn’t answer (“Why does the Switch Witch only come to my house?”).

Instead, we eventually opted for a transparent trade: candy for coveted toy. It’s a strategy that seems to be working for us, I think, because we don’t criminalize treats the rest of the year. Most evenings, the three of us enjoy honest treats made from real food ingredients for dessert together. But that’s usually not what fills the bags of trick-or-treaters, even in a green neighborhood surrounded by organic farm stands and herds of grass-fed cows that say “Om” instead of “Moo.” It seems our daughter doesn’t feel deprived of sweets, which probably spares us from extreme reactions when we ask her to give up her post-Halloween superabundance.

So what’s a parent of a child with type 1 diabetes to do on Halloween? Letting a diabetic kid enjoy this classic childhood experience is not much different from other activities in her life:  you plan for it, you adjust insulin pump settings and keep expectations realistic. Maybe we won’t end Halloween night with blood glucose levels in range, but we will try our very best to follow the advice Lela’s endocrinologist gave us the day she was diagnosed: “Let her be a kid first, and then a diabetic.”

I have no doubt we will once more arrive at some kind of treat treaty this upcoming Halloween. This year, though, I’m afraid we will need to bargain on feistier negotiation skills. Make no mistake; our daughter is not interested in a cheap sugar rush. She doesn’t even like most of the typical Halloween candy. Rather, she’s become well aware of her candy’s trade-in value over the years. And if the previous years’ trick-or-treating results are any indication, we will once again have to follow her around with a grocery bag to carry her overflow candy.

Our second grader is now empowered by stellar math skills, and she has discovered the power of money after earning a nice little sum from her first summer job (feeding the neighbors’ cat while they were on vacation). I reckon she will count the number of candy pieces and try to convert it into cash, multiplied by a yet-to-be-discussed factor.

Lela is already rattling her saber, too. She really fueled my Halloween jitters last night when I nonchalantly asked her what she wanted to do with her Halloween candy this year.

“Roll around in it, bathe in it and then kiss every piece of it,” she said with a big smile.

Oh dear, this could get expensive.

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Sandra Henderson is a freelance writer/editor, reporting on clean technology, modern architecture and design, healthy living and more. She is also very lucky to be the mother of Lela Rose, an adventurous little girl who doesn’t let type 1 diabetes stop her from dreaming big and loving sports. The German expat shares her home near Boulder, Colo. with her husband, daughter, two cats and a wannabe diabetes dog—Zola, the chocolate lab pup.

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