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Our “tooth fairy” on Halloween

When I moved to Europe 17 years ago, I was disappointed how little they put stock on Halloween and the customs that go with it. The Europeans wore costumes during the carnival season (around February to April) but dismissed Halloween as pure “American frivolity.” I somehow got used to it over the years as I moved from one European country to the other.

That’s why it was a pleasant surprise when we moved to Switzerland two years ago to see that this little alpine country has somehow picked up the tradition of Halloween. At least in big, expat-infested urban areas like Z?rich. In our little neighborhood of about 30 row houses just outside Switzerland’s biggest city, the kids are very much into Trick or Treats (S?sses oder Saures in the local language) on October 31. In no time, my boys were part of the whole operation.

Last year, when they were 4, I told them they could tag along with their older friends as they went around the block so that I, mommy, could stay at home and distribute the treats. I, however, would fetch them after an hour, just before bedtime. Ours is a very safe neighborhood and almost traffic-free (all cars are parked in a common underground garage) and all the kids know each other.

When they got home that evening, my boys were so proud to show me their loot and we did the usual routine when it comes to sweets they collect (be it at Easter, birthdays, Christmas, or this time Halloween): they are allowed to choose and eat one or two sweets and the rest were kept in jars (properly labeled with the owner’s name) for future consumption. They are then allowed to choose one sweet each day after that. Eventually they will get tired of or forget about the sweets till they become spoiled or too hard to eat. Over the years, we have managed to teach our boys moderation when it comes to sweets. They are simply collectors, not consumers.

Imagine to my surprise (and delight) last year when I found, among the chocolates and the gum drops, toothbrushes! Two new kiddie toothbrushes, the ones that light up while being used, one for each boy. Now, who on earth could be so thoughtful to spend so much money on such an unusual (and extremely useful) treat? Is somebody in the neighborhood sending us parents a message? If so, then she or he has succeeded (at least with me).

Now, I am not one to fully forbid sweets on special occasions, not wanting my kids to have little Willy Wonka’s (of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) sad childhood experience. However, I do have my own strategy (as described earlier) to limit my kids’ sugar intake.

For Halloween last year, I just bought and distributed candies and then left it to the parents to sort out their sweet consumption policy at home. How irresponsible of me.

I never found out who gave each and every child in our neighborhood the toothbrushes that night. However, whoever “tooth fairy” or (should I say “toothbrush fairy”?) was, he or she was a person of wisdom and compassion. Definitely somebody who disapproves giving sweets to kids. Yet, instead of closing his/her door and denying the kids their fun, he/she gave something to help prevent the damage that sweets can do.

This year, I am following his/her example. Sort of. I can’t afford to give everyone toothbrushes. But I am giving out no chocolates, gum drops or candies this year. Instead, it will be granola and cereal snack bars and whole grain crackers that will go into the bags. Whatever I buy, I will be looking at the sugar and fat content .The kids will get their treats but healthy treats. Let’s see whether the other parents got the message as well.

As for our toothbrush fairy, I will tell my boys to watch out for him/her this year.

So I can say thank you.


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