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Oct 29 2010

Halloween Terror: The Peanut Problem

By at 10:48 am

Halloween was terrifying last year. It wasn’t the fake blood or the creepy clowns or the overwhelming crowds that descend on our block every year (seriously—we get around 2,000 trick or treaters). It was the peanuts.

Benjamin, my autistic 7-year-old, is severely allergic to them. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t understand that eating them can make him stop breathing, but even if he does, he definitely doesn’t realize that they’re in so many chocolatey treats.

What I do know is he’s a crazy impulsive sugar fiend with a laser eye and a penchant for eating things off the ground. So I was aware of the possibility that he might, say, stealthily snatch a stray peanut M&M and cram it into his mouth. But in the spirit of not making him miss out on something potentially fun simply because watching him like a hawk sucks for me, I decided to venture out (costume-free) to the block party. Unfortunately, we didn’t get very far—someone had spilled a bag of peanut M&Ms on the sidewalk in front of our house, and, well, you can figure out what happened next.

As I think I mentioned, it was terrifying. But it all ended up okay: Benjamin was ultimately fine, and I no longer had to waste even five more seconds thinking about whether or not we should celebrate Halloween in the first place.

I grew up trick or treating, while my husband, who was raised orthodox, didn’t. When Benjamin was small we attempted to discuss whether or not our family should forgo a holiday with pagan roots, but we were both sort of ambivalent about it. We’d figure it out when Benjamin asked to dress up, we agreed. We didn’t know that by age 2 he would lose the handful of words he’d acquired, or that he wouldn’t utter another one until he turned 4. And by then he wouldn’t tolerate putting on a costume anyway, so why bother?

The issue didn’t come up again until a couple of years ago, when we moved here, to Halloween central. Suddenly, the pressure was on. While I really liked the idea of just sticking to Purim, it seemed odd to keep our kids holed up when there was a party going on outside. Besides, there are already so many things that make Benjamin different. Why single him out and ban him from an age-appropriate activity he might actually enjoy?

Thanks to a beige legume, I no longer had to answer the tough questions. At least that’s what I thought until the other day, when Zachary, my 4-year-old announced that he wants to “trickle treat,” and that he would like to do so dressed as Batman.

My husband can deal with this one on Sunday. I’ll be hiding out with Benjamin.

Read more from Jana at her blog ihateyourkids.tumblr.com

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