It was a lull in the conversation that allowed us to hear it.
Five pairs of eyes immediately dropped to the floor, honing in on the orange and brown candy wrapper partially protruding from the plastic vent cover, now flapping not-so-quietly because the heat had come on.
My husband’s business partner had stopped by for a visit. It was as we were saying goodbye at the front door the fwapping incident occurred. We continued our conversation, but questions were running through my head faster than my hamster on a treadmill brain could keep up.
What the hell was a candy wrapper doing in the vent?
Who has been eating candy without us knowing?
Is this where all the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups had gone?
Instinctively I knew I was in trouble.
That and my three-and-a-half-year-old had just run from the room and hidden in his bedroom closet.
We said goodbye, and everyone left the front foyer except me. What was wrong with this family? Didn’t anyone else want to know what was happening in our venting system? I pinched the fwapping paper between my fingers and pulled. Another appeared.
Apparently, our house had turned into a bad birthday party magician, only instead of handkerchiefs being pulled from a mouth, it was candy wrappers from the heating duct.
My knees cracked as I kneeled on the cold tile to remove the vent cover.
Crammed into the ventilation system in the front hall of our house was wrapper, upon wrapper, upon wrapper. I began to dig them out. After the third handful, I hit the first mini-chocolate bar with only one bite taken out of it.
It wouldn’t be the last.
“Liam. You dress up in a costume and go to all the houses in our neighbourhood and the people give you candy. For free.”
My six-year-old was explaining the concept of Halloween to his younger brother.
“And you don’t even get in trouble for taking candy from a stranger, right mom?”
“Right, Adam. Candy from a stranger.”
The three-year-old was currently shoveling cereal into his mouth, eyes glued to the television. The little explorer girl with a backpack teaching him Spanish.
Why does Dora never blink?
I was keeping a close eye on cereal eating child, while sipping the nuked coffee I’d been attempting to drink since 6:22 a.m., having learned the hard way that Cheerios are the perfect size to shove up one’s nose, and it will happen faster than you can say Swiper, No Swiping.
That was the day we implemented the No Sticking Anything In Any Orifice rule.
The free candy phrase caught his attention.
“Candy? For fwee?” he asked.
“Yes! For free! And you get to wear a costume! I’m going as Terry Fox.”
Of course, he is. My older son’s superpower is being the asker of impossible Halloween costumes. The year before it was a truck. It took one week, three boxes, a roll of duct tape, and four hours of painting.
He trick-or-treated for 17 minutes.
The Day After Halloween
“Liam, you’re not allowed to take any candy from your Halloween bag without asking, okay?
I should have known better than to believe him.
Two Days After Halloween
“Liam! Why are there candy wrappers in the toy bin? You aren’t allowed to take any candy without asking!”
“Sowwy, mummy. I no take no more.”
I give him a side-eyed squint. This was going nowhere good.
Three Days After Halloween
The cost to bring in an emergency plumber to stop Niagara Falls from coming out of a toilet due to a clog caused by candy wrappers: $600.
One Minute After The Plumber Leaves
“Liam, come with me.”
We march to the front foyer where I put his Halloween bag on a hanger and place it out of reach. The kid is three. I can outsmart a three-year-old.
Back to December 2007
“Liam, come out of the closet now, please.”
One lone eye is peering out at me.
“Do you have any idea why there are candy wrappers stuffed into our ductwork downstairs?”
He’s taking a cue from an old Grey’s Anatomy episode. Deny, deny, deny.
4:00 a.m. The Next Day
The alarm goes off. I drag myself out of bed, but quietly. Our room is right above our kids, they can’t know I’m awake.
I wait in the kitchen tucked into the far corner where he won’t see me.
About 45-minutes later, I hear it. A soft thud as his feet hit the floor above.
I watch as he scooches down the stairs on his bum then tip-toes across the kitchen floor. He’s pretty stealthy for a kid, I’ll give him that.
He grabs a kitchen chair, slowly pushing it to the front foyer.
What the actual fu….?
Thank goodness we put those pads on the chairs so they don’t scratch the floors. Oh, and so a sugar-addicted child can push it 15 feet to his chocolate smorgasborg without making a sound.
We thought we were smart. We thought we could control the Halloween candy. We thought by hanging his Halloween bag filled with tempting treats high in our front hallway closet where he couldn’t reach it without asking for help would be the answer we were looking for.
We are idiots.
Every morning for the past month our sugar-searching three-year-old had gotten up before the sun, made his way downstairs, pushed the kitchen chair to the front hall closet with a quiet determination not normally seen in a child who freaks out over the amount of time it takes to zip a zipper, and partook in a candy buffet.
Knowing I would find the wrappers if he put them in the garbage, he decided to stuff them down the vent as far as his little arm could reach.
He would then push the chair back to its proper place, toddle upstairs and go back to bed while the rest of us slept without a clue as to the ninja missions going on below.
But apparently not all sweets are the same. Our confectionary connoisseur had a Halloween stash hierarchy. If he bit into one that didn’t tickle his fancy, down the vent it went.
My husband was mortified, but me? I was impressed. The planning that went into this candy caper went beyond anything I could have imagined. He had devised a plan, made sure it was fool-proof, and carried it out flawlessly.
In my wildest dreams I never would have come up with this parenting scenario.
Tantrums over wearing snow pants? Yep.
Refusing to eat any food that wasn’t beige. Been there.
Bath refusals. Beginner Parenting 101.
But planning and executing a month-long candy heist? Where was this in the mounds of parenting books I had read?
It was a tossup whether we should enroll him in a genius enrichment program or lock him in his room for the rest of his life.
Ultimately, we chose a middle-ground.
His candy was tossed into the garbage that very morning, with the exception of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Those were mine.
The following year we decided to nip his candy-coated robberies in the bud. The day after Halloween we hung his haul in our bedroom closet. I may or may not have participated in a little before sunrise sugar buffet myself.
Turns out, the candy apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.