As a little boy it seemed I was as crazy as Linus from Peanuts…waiting up late into the night for “The Great Pumpkin” on Halloween. While Linus missed out on going Trick Or Treating while waiting in the pumpkin patch, I collected gobs of candy with my friends. Then, my sister and I would come home to trade candies with each other and divide the stash. We’d gobble up the ones we knew our parents wouldn’t let us keep, set aside the ones we really wanted, and make a pile for The Great Pumpkin. You see, our parents told us that The Great Pumpkin was real and that he was the ghost of Halloween. If we left candy for him in a dark corner of the house he’d sneak in, eat the candy, and leave Halloween gifts in return. If this seems strange to you…its because it is. I haven’t met another family that does this. It seems odd making a sugar-coated sacrificial offering to a ghost like a lamb to slaughter, but as kids…who were we to question our parents. Besides, how different is it really from leaving out cookies for Santa? Parents knew best. We just lumped The Great Pumpkin in with the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and so on. For weeks after Halloween all our friends would be pigging out on candy, getting stomach aches, and of course…going to the dentist. My sister and I? We had new gifts like bat-shaped erasers, Frankenstein toy airplanes, and spider sweaters. We still had the candy we really wanted too…but not the ridiculous piles our friends had. It was both frustrating and cool at the same time.
As a parent I totally get it and fully pulled this stunt with my 2-year-old, Max, on Halloween who has recently discovered chocolate and sugar-craziness. I told him the same story, built it up for weeks, and explained how like Santa he needed to be a good boy because if he behaved badly The Great Pumpkin would eat his candy and not leave any toys in return. The outcome? I got to take candy away from him that I was worried about for choking reasons and teeth concerns without being the bad guy. Thank you oh Great and powerful Pumpkin!
Max hit up the neighborhood hard on Halloween like a mobster collecting candy tributes from our neighbors. This kid was on a mission. When we asked him a few weeks ago what he wanted to be he told us, “I want to be a robot astronaut spaceship!” Okay. So, my wife made a jet-pack out of the Styrofoam from an old wine-shipper, red solo cups for after burners, and painters tape for buttons. She then created a robot control pad vest with winged shoulders, complete with name badge and more buttons. He wore his football pants and we added an American Flag and glow sticks for the final touches. Max, per his request, was a robot astronaut spaceship for Halloween.
At the end of the night we went through all his candy and found all the duplicates which I lined up in front of him. He then counted them out, placed 1 in his pile, and placed the remaining candies aside for The Great Pumpkin. He sorted things down to 15 pieces of candy for himself and had a Three Musketeers as his 1 chocolate before bed. He also offered one to me and said, “I’d like to share with you Dada.” It was very touching, but I respectfully declined and told Max, “This is your candy and I want you to have it.” I ate a good amount of The Great Pumpkin’s stash once Max went to bed and in its place I left little trinkets from the Dollar Store like toy wrenches so he can work in the garage with me, a cut-out robot mask he can color in, toy cars, and other fun little things. In the morning Max could have cared less about the candy he sacrificed and instead was excited that The Great Pumpkin had brought him something to trade. I had a stomach ache from a few too many Snickers Caramels. I’m a sucker for caramel.
So…The Great Pumpkin worked! I got to take Max Trick or Treating without worrying about what to do with all the candy he acquired, rewarded my son for behaving well, and got a sweet candy bowl for my office that I can’t seem to keep my hands out of. The variable I hadn’t counted on? Grandparents! They spent all those years keeping candy out of my mouth because it was bad for my teeth and now that I have a son they feed him a lollipop every time they come over! Being a grandparent looks awesome. All the fun with hardly any the responsibility. I suppose once your kids have kids its awesome to sit back, say “I told you so,” and spoil your grand kids with candy every once in a while. It’s what my grandparents did to me. Life is good…it seems like it just keeps getting better.
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