The Great Pumpkin had a good run. Well played, Seth O’Neil

When the kids were little they had all kinds of dietary restrictions and candy was a big no. Wanting them to still have the joy of trick-or-treating, we made up a story (thank you Charles Schultz) about The Great Pumpkin, a benevolent character, who loved kids so much, and cared about their health so much, that children had the option of leaving their candy out for him on Halloween night and he would replace it with toys.

They loved it until last year, when Riley took me aside and said, “Mom, I don’t want to believe in The Great Pumpkin anymore. My friends look at me funny when I mention it.”

It was a poignant moment. She was growing up. She noticed friends looking at her funny and decided on her own what to believe. I hugged her and explained the ruse. How we wanted her and Seth to have all the joy of Halloween and not feel deprived. She understood. She agreed to let Seth believe as long as he would.

So I wasn’t sure about Seth this year. He’s nine. Did he still believe? Had his sister spilled the beans? There was no mention of The Great Pumpkin leading up to Halloween, no mention at all on the day. I was suspicious. And then I forgot with the business of getting them dressed up and out the door. I also forgot to buy toys to replace the candy if Seth did still believe. I figured there was about a 2% chance he was still in on it. They went out trick-or-treating and had a ball with their neighborhood friends.

After tucking them in last night, I suddenly remembered, and went into Riley’s room and whispered, “Riley, does Seth still believe in The Great Pumpkin?” She’d be the one who knew.

She rolled over, looked and me and said, “Yes, I think so. I think he does.”


I went into Seth’s room and said casually, “Seth, do you want me to leave your candy out tonight?”

He said, “Why?”

A long silence filled the air. I felt like he knew, but he was gonna make me say it anyway.

“For The Great Pumpkin,” I muttered.

He paused a moment, weighing his response. I could almost hear his thoughts telepathically.

If I say yes, I get a toy. 

If I say no, she’s not going to let me eat all that candy anyway.

“Um…okay,” he finally responded.

On the 2% chance he still believed, guess who was running to Target at twenty minutes to ten last night like a bat out of hell?

So, this morning, they came downstairs, candy was gone. Toys were there. One for Riley. One for Seth. Riley sucked her in breath and said, “THANKS MOM!”

Seth played cool as a cucumber, but the jig was definitely up.

“That Great Pumpkin, sure must be nice!” I said.

He smirked.

“That Great Pumpkin must really, really love you guys to care so much about your health!”

Big old grin on my boy’s face.

“And I bet she’s beautiful,” I added wistfully.

Seth turned and looked directly at me and smiled.

He knew. 100%.

And that’s the end of that.

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11 Responses to The Great Pumpkin had a good run. Well played, Seth O’Neil

  1. Heather says:

    I adore you for going to Target so late at night in the off chance he still believed. I love you for loving your kids so much to make the trade. I admire you for the grace in which you handled knowing your kids are growing up.


  2. this post made me tear up

    – dont know why
    100% awesomeness

  3. Lydia says:

    Since I have type I diabetes (since age 3), we did something similar but not quite as cool. I kept 2 pieces of candy and then the rest got traded for a highly-coveted toy. I did not feel like I was missing out one bit. As far as believing and all that, I figured it out in kindergarten, when I was 5! I wasn’t real into imagination, so that was the result. Still didn’t feel like I was missing out!

  4. Jan says:

    We were always quite clear with the kids: We’ll trade this much candy (most, but not all of what they got) for this toy that you really want. They were fine with it, especially since a lot of what got traded was either stuff they didn’t like or stuff my peanut-allergic son couldn’t eat (of course, I kept the snickers bars for myself!).

    BTW, I love the irony of Riley dressed up as a bag of M&Ms!

  5. Kathee says:

    What a sweet, sweet story. Now I am crying. I love the pictures. I have been reading your blog long enough that I can see how much your kids are growing up.

  6. Chris V. says:

    Wow… such love you have …. you are a wonderful Mom…. I just want a Snickers so bad right now….

  7. gretchen says:

    Not particularly germane to the topic of this post, but I gotta say this – Look at your girl! SHE IS GLOWING! What a pretty, happy girl. Good job, Mama!


  8. Dee Ready says:

    This is a lovely story. Lovely both in its happening and in its telling. Seth and Riley may no longer accept the story of the Great Pumpkin and the gift exchange but they have a memory of your graciousness that will last them a lifetime.


  9. kario says:

    My niece had a similar struggle with the whole Santa Claus thing. You see, she loves putting out a stocking, but has to play along and pretend she believes in order to do that.

    Love this!

  10. Kim says:

    I’d never heard of the Great Pumpkin–what a good idea! Love that Seth! Love the he wanted a toy more than candy! (not all kids would pick that!)

  11. Amanda says:

    Giant Pumpkin! LOVE IT!! You may adopt me 🙂

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