Sugar-Free Candy Land
Something I dug up from a couple of years ago.
As my green, plastic gingerbread man stood stranded in Candy Land's Molasses Swamp for three whole turns, I noticed something troubling. The lurid temptation of sugar and candy was all around us in the games that my children played. Fisher Price's Sweet Streets lined the floors with pastel-colored candy shops and ice cream parlors. Strawberry Shortcake paraphernalia was not only everywhere, the artificial smell of chemical strawberries infiltrated the air.
It was upsetting to watch my 3-year-old son Charlie pretend to gobble up the gooey gumdrops along the Rainbow Trail. Charlie was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when he was 1. There will be no gobbling of gumdrops for Charlie.
Why isn't there a game out there that my son and millions of his diabetic brethren can relate to? Isn't it long overdue? Perhaps Hasbro should get with the times and come out with Sugar-Free Candy Land?
Casinos also trouble me. What about when Charlie is older (7 or 8) and develops a severe gambling addiction? The slot machines will only serve as a constant reminder of treats that will spike his blood sugar. Cherries, plums, oranges - all filled with high levels of sugar. Why not have images of sauerkraut, barley and kippered herring? Imagine the joy when winning the jackpot on SOY BEAN - SOY BEAN - SOY BEAN!
It's bad enough that I have to toss a blanket over my daughter Maeve's head when she wants to eat a "real" cookie. In a distant corner of the house, she hides from Charlie like a ghost, her little head bobbing under the heavy blanket as she crunches in the darkness.
While the other kids get lollypops after visiting the doctor, we give Charlie a tongue depressor with cotton balls taped on the top. "Use your imagination," we tell him. "Mmmmm, grape!" I say, the cotton pulling on my tongue like a spider web as I give it a good lick.
His birthday parties come to an awkward and silent halt when a thwack of the pinata produces a downpour of chopped broccoli.
In the kitchen, I'm forced to stick an entire Hershey bar in my mouth as Charlie rounds the corner.
"Where's Maeve?" he asks.
"guh ree uh froe rer rumph," I tell him, the chocolate blocking the airway to my lungs.
"What's in your mouth?" he asks.
I finally swallow. "Tuna fish."
"Yucky," he says.
"Yeah, it's yucky. You wouldn't like it."
Halloween is not exactly a blast for a diabetic child. It's like winning a 10 minute supermarket shopping spree - overstuffing your cart with 200 pounds of ground beef, prepackaged cheese, detergent, etc. only to be told you get to bring home just one box of Kleenex.
At some point in his young years, I fear he will lose interest in Halloween altogether and view it as pointless. Maybe if I made his diabetes more known in the community, neighbors would offer him pretzels rather than smorgasbords of Starbursts and Skittles. Maybe next year we'll dress Charlie up as a 3 1/2-foot-tall sticky pancreas, holding a sign that says "out of order." I think it best to be subtle. I wouldn't want to embarrass him.
After Charlie's diagnosis, I said there was nothing funny about diabetes and vowed never to write about it. I also thought he would never get used to the daily routine of numerous finger pricks and insulin shots. He's just a little boy. Things change. Charlie's strength and bravery overwhelms me.