Halloween can be a challenging holiday for kiddos with feeding tubes and food allergies, filled with mixed emotions and confusing expectations. As a parent or caregiver it is hard to curtail the excitement within our kids leading up to Halloween night. The prospect of dressing up in their favorite costume and proudly parading through the neighborhood becomes heart wrenching, knowing our kids will have to fill their buckets with treats they are unable to eat. To completely skip out on a night like Halloween is unrealistic and feels virtually impossible, despite being the safest option for our children. With encouragement from friends, classrooms, churches, scout troops, media, and even siblings, nearly every kid wants to participate in trick-or-treating. But then we, as caregivers, are left with the task of trying to pick up the disappointment pieces that scatter throughout the evening:
"Can I eat this mommy?"
"Is that candy safe for me daddy?"
"No thank you, that type makes me sick."
"I wish houses had things I could eat."
"How come sister gets to have all those different kinds of treats?"
"I am tired of only getting Dum-Dums in my bucket!"
By the time we all make it home, our deflated children don't have any desire to sort their buckets, make trades with their siblings, or even eat a piece of the minimal candy they received. The families who offer to "trade out" the unsafe candy for safe treats, prizes, or coins find this trade is little consolation for a night of constant reminders that their kids can't eat what everyone else can.
I first heard about the Teal Pumpkin Project 4 years ago (the first fall my son had his feeding tube). We were so worried leading up to Halloween night that our new Super Tubie would have a negative experience, feel left out, or not understand why he couldn't eat most of the treats, that I was honestly dreading the evening. It was such a relief to learn that there were others around the country who recognized the challenges children with food allergies and feeding issues face on Halloween night. Reading about the Teal Pumpkin project brought as much relief to me as a parent, as it does to all the kiddos with food allergies.
Preparing our teal pumpkin has become a new tradition in our family. Each year as we clean and carve the traditional Jack-o-lanterns, we also make special time to each take turns painting a nice round teal pumpkin to display proudly on our front step. Last fall we also found a cool plastic teal pumpkin to put our non-food safe treats in and set by the front door throughout Halloween night, next to the sign from FARE (Food Allergy Research and Awareness) explaining that we have both candy and non-candy treats to share. Our wonderful small-town neighborhood full of young families has been both curious and welcoming to the idea. Each year I get a few new families asking what is the teal pumpkin for (a perfect chance to raise awareness) as well as each year I see a couple more teal pumpkins on other neighbors' doorsteps. You should see my son's eyes light up when he trick-or-treats at a house where a teal pumpkin is proudly being displayed! That is a joy I once doubted he would ever associate with Halloween!
This week as you are putting together your final Halloween plans, costumes, and decorations, be sure to buy one extra pumpkin to paint, and a few non-food safe treats for the buckets. You may only have one or two kids who ask for these treasures, but trust me, it will make all the difference in the world for these kids... and for those relieved parents smiling at the end of the sidewalk!
Check out the FARE website and learn more about the Teal Pumpkin Project here. In honor of the Teal Pumpkin project, we are offering a discount on all our products through Halloween week including our teal Super Tubie capes! Check out our products page here and have a safe and joyful Halloween night!