Why This Mom Insists Her Girls Count Every Single Piece of Halloween Candy

Halloween candy
Love What Matters/Facebook
When Amy Beth Gardner's youngest daughter was 5 years old, she and her sister came to stay with Amy and her husband through foster care. While the new family of four began to get to know each other and settle into their new "normal," Amy began looking forward to their first Halloween together. However, she quickly noticed that whenever she mentioned the upcoming holiday, both girls froze in fear.

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Yes, Halloween can be spooky, but the thought of this candy-filled day shouldn't be scary enough to evoke legitimate terror in a 9-year-old and 5-year-old. Amy finally asked the girls if they had ever experienced Halloween before coming to live with them and was horrified by their answer.

"They took turns telling me about how they had once been given candy for Halloween only to have an adult take the candy and eat it in front of them while making them watch," she shared with Love What Matters Facebook page. "When the girls began to cry, the adult handed them the brown paper wrappers that had been holding the chocolate peanut butter cups and forced them to eat the empty wrappers -- a cruel way to give the girls a literal taste of what they were missing out on that Halloween evening."

halloween candy and photo of costumes
Love What Matters/Facebook

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Knowing the trauma that the girls had been through, Amy realized that she had to approach Halloween with them cautiously as she worked to gain their trust. "My instincts were confirmed when I noticed that the girls were discreetly counting the pieces of candy they received as they walked from house to house in their adorable costumes," she wrote. "When we got home, I pulled out two plastic bags and a black marker and explained to the girls that I wanted them to count their pieces of candy as they put it into the bags."

When the girls finished counting each piece of their Halloween loot, Amy helped them label their bags with the exact number of pieces of candy inside. Each time the girls took some candy in the following days and weeks, Amy helped them relabel the bags so it always had the precise number of candy inside. "For weeks after Halloween, despite our assurances that we would not eat their candy, the girls asked if they could recount the pieces before going to bed. I would sit and count their candy with them night after night, earning their trust one lollipop at a time," she wrote. "That was fall of 2014. They are now adopted and thriving in our home but each October the story of the one Halloween that they were forced to eat empty candy wrappers resurfaces in their young minds."

This year, though, as Amy was cleaning up after dinner, she noticed her youngest daughter looking for something in the pantry. As Amy finished wiping down the counters, her little girl approached with a bag of candy she'd gotten from a recent Halloween event. The child had wrapped the candy in paper and was presenting it to Amy as a gift. "As I pulled the piece of paper off the bag, I saw these words scrawled in her sweet third-grade handwriting: 'Mom, I want to give you a taste of how much love I have for you by giving you my candy,'" she wrote. "Let that sink in for a moment. This child, who was once forced to eat empty candy wrappers, went through her bag of Halloween candy to select pieces she thought I would enjoy and then gave them to me as a gift."

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The little girl didn't choose her least-favorite candies or only pick two pieces to give Amy. Instead, she filled the bag with her coveted treats and proudly gave them to Amy as a symbol of her love -- and it's something that every adult can learn from: 

"You have gifts to offer, too. But, like my daughter and her candy, I'm almost certain that your most valuable gift is connected to deeply rooted pain in your life. You and I have the opportunity daily to make the choice to take the terrible things that have happened to us and turn them into gifts to offer to this hurting world. My daughter's gift of candy was priceless because of what it cost her. She chose to give despite what had been done to her. What if you and I show that same kind of courage today as we take inventory of our own pain -- and allow the bitter to become sweet?"

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