Working their way through their Halloween stash, two kids in different parts of Canada have found a pin in their candy.
Seeing as every year I reassure parents that no child has ever been poisoned to death by a stranger on Halloween (that still holds true), a mom wrote to ask how I would respond to these pin incidents. Her feeling was that she wasn’t going to panic, but she did want her child to “be aware.”
I wrote back that this made sense … kinda. Certainly, kids should know that if they bite down on a needle — stop eating! But I’m pretty sure that would happen automatically.
What’s more: They won’t bite down on a needle.
When something such as this — awful and unnerving — happens once or twice in the more than $2 billion worth of Halloween candy sold throughout Canada and the United States, we still have to keep it in perspective. For instance: If one child falls off a swing, should we get rid of all swings? That seems to be the only solution we consider decent now. An entire school district in Washington state just vowed to get rid of each and every one. Yet most of us realize that that just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t even make sense to become more worried about swings, which have been with us since prehistory. They have not suddenly become more dangerous.
Similarly, we can dutifully tell kids not to eat a single bite of candy till they bring it home and we “vigilantly” comb through it, as an article about the pins in the candy suggests. But I believe we are actually allowed to say, “The chance is so infinitesimal. Let’s not worry about it.”
Those words are almost blasphemous in a world that warns about every horror that happens anywhere, no matter how rare or remote. But the alternative — actively fretting about each incredibly slight chance of disaster — is a warped way to live.
The “Be very, very careful!” message tells our kids they are in constant danger from everyone, everywhere, when in fact they are in almost no danger from anyone, anywhere. Fear turns neighbors into suspects and parents into bodyguards. Kids go from being happy citizens to being victimsin waiting.
Yes, it is positively stomachwrenching to hear of people so sick they’d put pins in candy. The more I think about it the more upset I get. That’s why sometimes the only answer is to avoid the news, which presents all dangers as present and pressing and turns us into fearful, angry people. As opposed to the media’s insisting on intense oversight, I prefer to intensely focus on the completely unremarked- upon news that at least 1,000,000,000 pieces of candy did not contain pins. That’s low risk! You are twice as likely to be killed by falling space debris. So to act as if all our kids have a somewhat decent chance of being harmed by Halloween candy is to get it really wrong.
That’s why I say: Eat your candy on your way home, kids. Sure, if it looks weird or torn, skip that piece. But enjoy the holiday — and the odds.
Lenore Skenazy is a keynote speaker and author of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids.”