Friday, November 17, 2006

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.

"Duna gish."


"Duna gish."


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.


At 11:28 AM, Blogger Vivian said...

I loooooove this post. Charlie is a lucky, lucky boy.

At 11:39 AM, Blogger Carey said...

Thanks, Vivian. Very nice of you to say.

At 3:10 PM, Blogger Poet with a Day Job said...

I am almost in tears over the 3 1/2 foot sticky pancreas (laughter, and straight up crying). Thank you for reminding me how sugar-obsessed our society's not like you can forget, but this spin is yet another reality check.

At 3:37 PM, Blogger Chops said...

I like the revised Casino senario, but the SOYBEAN-SOYBEAN-SOYBEAN solution contains too much progesterone which can, well, lead to other issues. Maybe 3 smiley faces instead?

At 5:38 PM, Blogger Kerri. said...

I have to admit: I was at Foxwoods casino this past weekend and I played a few slots. The fruits weren't making me feel bad about diabetes, but instead bad about the fact that I had just sunk almost $20 bucks into a machine for no return... but I digress.

My mother also used to take out the frozen broccoli from the box and hide ice cream sandwiches in there instead, so when I opened the freezer I only saw vegetables. Nevermind the fact that she hid packages of cookies in her bedroom closet, underneath some folded sweaters. The lengths you parents go to in efforts to protect your children is astounding. We love you for it.

Terrific post, Carey.

At 9:57 AM, Blogger Sandra Miller said...

Wonderful post, Carey.

We've got to laugh at some of this stuff-- or we'd be crying all of the time.

Charlie is indeed a lucky boy.

At 5:10 PM, Blogger mom said...

I forgot how good that story is.
I love the postings from your new "diabetic family". It's very heartwarming........

I love you, Mom

At 8:25 AM, Blogger Shannon said...

I love giving this advice although it's too late.

We trade Brendon's candy for some sort of toy that he'd really like to have.

I hear you on the Candy Land and the obsession with food....

My mother-in-law would criticize me for not giving my kids enough vegetables (even though I do!!), but then she buys them a McDonald's play set.....go figure.


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