This is one of those posts that I agonize about writing, because I know it’s bound to rile people up and possibly make some of you dislike me, at least a little bit. This one’s particularly hard, too, because it’s going to directly challenge something that a great number of people I HIGHLY like and respect believe in, advocate, and do in their own homes.  But I have to say it.  I’m just being honest, here:

I don’t like the Switch Witch.

Ditto for the “Great Pumpkin,” “Tooth Fairy,” or whatever other euphemism you might have heard for this Halloween phenomenon.  It’s gained great popularity in recent years, and many, many of my dear friends in the blogging community – not to mention a large number of you, my readers! – have embraced it wholeheartedly.  To all of you I say, I’m sorry that I can’t get behind your witch.  I love you dearly and encourage you, as always, to keep doing what works best for you in your own homes.  There are as many ways to feed kids and manage the junk overload as there are stars in the sky.  There are as many “right” answers as there are families.  If you love the witch and you do the witch and your kids think the witch is the best part of Halloween and you want to kick me in the shins and tell me to go away, I understand.  Enjoy your witch if that’s your thing.

But I’ve been asked about this a lot lately.  So I feel duty-bound to explain why it’s NOT my thing.

Give me all your candy.

Give me all your candy.

I don’t do the Switch Witch in my home because, in my view:

  1. The Switch Witch elevates the value of the candy.  That’s right – to my way of thinking, at least, the very thing that removes the candy from the equation makes the candy inherently more valuable.  Why?  Because in order to make taking the candy away from your kids a fun, special, and passable enough solution that they will look forward to it each year, you’ve got to have the Switch Witch leave something reasonably desirable.  So when the Witch leaves a Lego set, a much-desired video game, or those fun art supplies your kid really likes, what you’ve implied is that the candy is SO valuable that it equals the value of those items.  The candy in this situation is like GOLD.  It’s candy-as-currency, and I’m not comfortable with giving candy that much power.  I’d rather that the kids enjoy a few pieces and forget about it as it grows stale in the drawer – which is the natural devaluing of the candy that takes place as the kids disregard it and realize anew each year that they don’t actually need candy in their daily lives.
  2. The Switch Witch can feel like “Us vs. Them.”  All I have to do is think of L.’s school to know that this is a possible side effect of the witch.  We live in a neighborhood that’s squarely positioned between “generally quite well-off” and “not at all well-off.”  L.’s school has students from various cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.  There are kids at that school whose parents can afford to do the Switch Witch, and kids whose parents can’t.  What message does the witch send to those kids?  That the other kids are good enough to get awesome toys from the Switch Witch, but they’re not?  They all dressed up and went trick-or-treating together.  Why is the candy “good enough” for some kids but not “good enough” for the others?
  3. The Switch Witch undermines learning how to navigate a junk-food world on your own.  If we’re realistic about this, we know that our kids will eventually have to make decisions about WHETHER to eat the junk food they’re offered, HOW MUCH of it to eat, and what their alternatives might be – without our help or input.  Halloween is actually a perfect teachable moment if you look at it in this context; but the Switch Witch doesn’t help much with this eventual learning, in my view.  What she does is put a temporary band-aid on the problem; she makes opting out more appealing.  But what happens later on, in a non-Halloween context, with no Mom or Dad there to employ a Switch Witch or another trade-off?  How do kids who have little to no experience with managing junk food excess when it’s offered to them negotiate a big onslaught?  Some binge.  Some get unnecessarily anxious.  Some do just fine.  There’s no way to know how your kid will respond, of course, but one thing is certain: There won’t always be a Switch Witch around to decide for them.

Does any of this mean that I think we should let our kids just go hog-wild on Halloween candy with no moderation or oversight?  Not at all.  There are simple strategies you can employ to keep the candy excess in check – among them, keeping the trick-or-treat route on the shorter side, encouraging kids to sort their candy and execute trades between themselves until they have a culled stash of only the things they really want, and limiting the consumption of the candy they’ve collected to only those occasions on which you would have allowed a sweet treat, anyway.  But for kids to learn how to manage that candy and keep it in its proper perspective, I think they’ve got to experience it.  Not have it replaced with something better, not collect it and use it as currency, not feel externally rewarded for giving it up.  Just experience it, and move on from it.  Be gone, Switch Witch.  You have no power here.