Raising Kids in a Candy Store

Does that title sound like a near-impossible feat? For a while, it felt like it could be. Our humble little store has always included several shelves of candy. Mostly we carry candy bars, and we also have ice cream treats and some various sodas on hand. Wouldn't that be a wonderful place for a kid to grow up? Little ones would think so.

Several years ago, I had a conversation with my then five-year-old nephew. He loved to go shopping, and felt that he didn't get to go often enough. Since he lived in California, and I hadn't seen him since he was very little, he really did not have any recollection of me, and had no idea of where I lived or what I did. When I told him that I lived in a store, his eyes got wide. I could almost see the intrigue going on in his mind, with visions of me living in a place like Target or Wal-Mart. Oh, how far from the truth!

But the reality of it was that, once we started to have children, we were raising them with candy on the shelves of their own living room/store. It was easy with the first one. We just didn't feed him any of it. He had no clue what it was all about. But by the time he was nearing two, he was just dying to find out what all those kids were getting from the shelves when they came in to the store. One day I caught Robert literally climbing the shelves like a ladder, just to investigate what was up there. The secret was out. A year or so later, Greg found a bag of candy under Robert's bed. He had taken one of our camping stuff sacks and had put some candy bars in it. When confronted by his father, he readily admitted to it, saying, "I eat them, and I love it." So much for keeping the secret from him.

What the oldest child has to discover on his own, the younger siblings just get to know by osmosis. Paul and Addie just seemed to always have known about candy, as I don't recall any moment when they didn't. Not wanting to totally admit defeat and call it a lost cause, I knew that I needed to come up with some way of controlling how much candy and treats they would consume, as well as how often I had to endure the pestering about it. So I landed on the idea of Tuesday treat night. Each Tuesday, they could ask for and receive one treat of their choice. Sometimes it was candy, sometimes pop. I noticed that some had favorites and other times it was purely random. For a while, I regularly stocked Reese's Nutrageous, as Paul seemed to gravitate towards those, while Robert was often an ice cream sort of guy. If they happened to forget that it was Tuesday, we occasionally relented and let Wednesday fill in. But if they were gone on some outing and missed it, they just had to wait until the next week. It worked well for me, and I figured that I had the situation nailed for the summer. Once fall returned, we could stop the treats until the next year. But that was not to be, they informed me, as this was to them a year-round gig. I gave in on that one. It seemed reasonable enough.

It must have worked, because through the years, there were relatively few cavities in our household. Paul gave up drinking soda altogether when he was thirteen, and Addie rarely had any herself. Robert may still like ice cream, and I do wonder if he has a particular hankering for it on Tuesday nights. For the most part, Tuesday treat night seems to be a thing of the past, but I am happy that for that time in our life, we were able to find a compromise that worked well for all of us.