Monday, October 24, 2011

the candy holidays

Well, here we are - it's nearly halloween, then Christmas, then Valentine's Day, then Easter.  I call them the "candy holidays," because the celebration of them has evolved into a sickening candy-fest.  There is a special reason I dread them so much:  we have followed a strictly all natural diet, as closely as possible, for 8 years now.  My girls are very sensitive to artificial colors, flavors and certain preservatives.  Their reactions range from ADHD-type behavior to depression.  Sometimes both - think of some bizarre combination of Tigger and Eeyore.

I am very fortunate that they know what they can and can't eat, and stick to the diet on their own, even when I'm not around.  Over the years, they have learned to simply say "No thank you, I can't eat that" when they are offered ordinary candy.  The reactions they get tend to fall into two categories.

One category is pity.  Poor pitiful little deprived things, they can't have M&M's, or a sucker from the bank.  Sometimes people will feel so bad for them, they will try to convince them to go ahead and eat it, Mom won't know the difference.  (ha!)  What these people don't realize is that my daughters are not accustomed to artificial ingredients; that Red 40- and vanillin-laden excuse for candy will taste like a bunch of chemicals to them.  There are real, natural candies out there, and they beat the taste of artificially flavored candy by a mile.  But even if there were not alternatives to artificially flavored candy, I've never heard of a child dying of a candy deficiency!

Another category, believe it or not, is indignation.  As if by politely refusing candy, they are passing judgement on the eating habits of the rest of the world.  Lizi once stood in a buffet line, and asked the server if she knew the ingredients of a certain item.  When she found out the reason, the woman sharply answered "It's not possible to eat all natural all the time!  Everything has artificial ingredients in it!"  I admire my girls for their grace in dealing with such comments; but it is incomprehensible to me that they have had to develop such a skill!  Do you ever wish that grownups would just act like grownups?

Now more than ever, there are children all around us with various dietary allergies and sensitivities.  They don't need your pity, and they certainly don't need your wrath.  So how should you answer a child who can't eat what you would like to give them?  Just say "Oh, I see."  And smile.  Maybe give them a pat on the back and compliment their responsibility.  Or give them a quarter instead of that piece of candy.  Or why hand out candy at all?  Maybe stickers or little toys?  It's not good for ANY of us to make the "candy holidays" all about candy anyway, right?