Don't miss a trick: Hand out candy or you'll run out

October 28, 2004|By KEVIN COWHERD

WHAT I'M about to share with you is the single most important advice an adult will ever get regarding Halloween.

It can make the difference between having a happy Halloween or one that leaves you broken and weeping, peering out from behind the drapes in the darkness while silently praying as the tiny, costumed armies of the night approach: Please ... don't ring my doorbell.

It's the kind of advice I wish I'd gotten years ago, when I was a young parent running up Halloween candy bills that rivaled a car payment.

OK, here it is:

When trick-or-treaters come to your door, do not, under any circumstances, let them help themselves to the candy.

Never, ever, let them plunge their fat little hands into the candy bowl and take whatever they want.

This is a huge mistake.

Believe me, you'll regret it immediately.

Within 10 minutes, your entire candy supply will be wiped out.

Stricken with panic, you'll then scramble around for the car keys and race off to Mars or Rite Aid or wherever for more candy.

But if you bring that candy home and allow the little monsters to help themselves as before, they'll wipe that supply out, too.

At this point, you will turn into that pathetic Halloween caricature of a stressed-out adult, desperately rummaging through the kitchen for something to give the remaining trick-or-treaters who come to your door.

For the rest of the night, you'll end up handing out stuff like rice cakes, apples and Fig Newtons, all the stuff kids hate to get.

So instead of leaving your door in high spirits, the little light will go out from their eyes.

Instead of leaving with a song in their hearts, they will leave bitter and resentful.

For some of them, the experience will lead to a lifetime of academic struggles in school and a series of unhappy relationships with the opposite sex.

For others, it will lead directly to a life of crime.

And it'll scar you emotionally as well.

At the end of the night, slumped in a chair with a glass of wine, shaken and exhausted from the whole experience, you'll think: I should have listened to that newspaper guy.

I should've never let those little brats control the candy flow.

My God, what was I thinking?

But by then, of course, that kind of brooding introspection won't do you any good.

The point is, it's better to be pre-emptive and avoid the brooding introspection altogether.

See, even though you're dealing mostly with little kids here - little kids with tiny hands - they undergo an amazing transformation when trick-or-treating.

Somehow, when presented with an open candy bowl and an invitation to "help yourself," a 5-year-old can suddenly acquire the hand span of Shaquille O'Neal.

I have seen 8-year-olds with hands the size of oven mitts pull out two fistfuls of candy that, when you count it all up, turns out to be 14 Hershey bars, Kit Kats and M&M's.

These little kids, they have no conscience about taking you to the cleaners, either.

Offering them a big bowl of candy with no restrictions on consumption - this is like announcing a free buffet to a room full of sportswriters.

So the only way to get through this trick-or-treat business is to personally dole out the candy yourself.

In my house, we give each trick-or-treater three or four candies, depending on the threat level he or she represents.

For instance, a 3-year-old Sleeping Beauty, accompanied by a smiling parent or grandparent watching attentively from the sidewalk, is a Code Yellow in our book.

This is strictly a low-level threat and can be plied with the standard ration of Three Musketeers or Skittles or whatever.

Whereas a marauding band of 13-year-olds appearing on your doorstep dressed as Ravens linebackers immediately pushes the threat level up to Code Red.

In that case, I might be inclined to push a few extra Snickers into their hands, in the manner of a nervous bartender in the Old West sliding another bottle of whiskey to the outlaw gang that just rode into town.

Either way, I'm the one controlling the candy flow.

It tends to lessen the brooding introspection - for one night, anyway.

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