With little ones, it's easy: Shortly after trick-or-treating, the candy just "goes away," as one mother described it, fluttering her fingers in the air.
As for the rest: The vast, cascading, half-stale, brightly colored heap of what my grandfather called "tooth-rotten bellywash" goes the next day to Daddy's office, where it vanishes.
"It's child abuse, I'm serious!"
That's the verdict of a child of mine. If you are 9, you keep nine candies, and so on.
Under this dispensation, they can gobble sweets while they're out trick-or-treating. This provision gives the children an incentive to keep the biggest pieces of plunder, which also happen to be the ones that most closely resemble actual food.
"You are so mean," the 5-year-old has been explaining to me every time the subject comes up.
"But it's our candy!" the children have been complaining, pre-emptively.)
This year Americans will be spending $5. I am the spoiler of everyone's Halloween, a treat tyrant who appears actually to enjoy denying children what is rightfully theirs. The effect is of a tidal wave bearing down on children, a veritable tsunami of candy corn, Reese's Pieces, Tootsie Rolls, Wonka Nerds, and Gummi Brains. The trouble is, they ate it."
(I say "parents" in the hope that some blame will attach to my husband, but, oddly, it never does. Once home, after they've spread their hauls out on the carpets and have gone through the delirium of sorting and trading, each child gets to keep his or her age in confections.
Apparently, I am the No Fun Mom.8 billion on Halloween, according to the National Retail Federation, and from what I can see, an ever-increasing portion goes to candy.
Little wonder that the No Funsters among us try to come up with regulatory systems that will allow children to enjoy Halloween without drowning them in high-fructose corn syrup.
"Only some of it," I have been retorting.
This year we've restored a family policy governing how much candy children get to keep after Halloween, and no one's happy about it. So does, say, one repulsive jelly eyeball.
Older children require sharper tactics: Some parents forbid hoarding, some pay children not to eat what they've collected. It's become fashionable for dentists and orthodontists to offer loyalty-building Halloween candy buybacks.
Aw, I hear you say: Drive shaft Why not just let 'em keep their candy? Last year, we did. In their candy-crazed eyes, only one of us is the Sugar Nazi.com. Never have we seen such industry: The children stayed out later and brought back more candy than ever before.