It’s that time of year again. Halloween is just around the corner; that celebration of the horrific and macabre that somehow is also the perfect excuse for children to go door to door and beg for candy from strangers. I find it interesting that 364 days each year we preach to our children that they must never take candy from anyone they don’t know, and then on October 31st the rules change. We actually encourage it. There is no special day of the year that we let kids run with scissors. There isn’t a season of hitchhiking on country roads. And there is no annual celebration of dashing across a busy freeway. But on Halloween, parents universally decide that they really don’t care about their children’s safety any more.
There is even a new trend I’ve noticed over the past few years. The event is called “Trunk or Treat.” Churches, schools, or local businesses open up a parking lot where members of the community park their cars, open the trunks, decorate them and fill them with candy. Kids from nearby neighborhoods are encouraged to go from car to car, getting candy and treats from each vehicle owner. I guess there is the benefit of not having to wander through the streets; kids can stay in one location and still fill their goody bags with the same number of sweets. But what are we telling our children when we allow them to go car to car, accepting items from people they don’t know? it just seems to me that the practice is one step away from parking a windowless white van at the curb with a sign on the door that says: “My puppy needs a child to play with. Inquire within.”
Before you accuse me of pointing fingers, I know I am just as guilty as any parent of this questionable practice called Halloween. For years, I let my daughters dress in dark outfits and wear masks that obstructed their peripheral vision, then sent them out to run through the streets and investigate the homes of strangers. Somehow, no thanks to me, they always managed to find their way back home in more or less one piece. I didn’t think twice about it. I just looked forward to the moment they burst in through the front door, yelling at each other because the younger one was going too slow, and the older one kept leaving her behind. I would watch them as they plopped down on the living room carpet, their eyes bright and their cheeks ruddy from the cold, and they would dump out their candy to see what they had gotten. I, as the dutiful father, checked for anything that might appear unsafe, collected my “tax” from their collection of ill-gotten loot, then left them alone to trade and fight over what was left.
Those nights of child roulette are over for me, however. Now, my girls are both of an age where going door to door, trick or treating is no longer on their social agenda for the evening. They wouldn’t be caught dead in plastic, store-bought costumes, asking neighbors for candy. Instead, they roll their eyes at me when I suggest dressing up and tell me they are too old for that “kid stuff.”
I recall the days when my daughters were little, and they would put on rubber monster masks and jump out from closets in an attempt to frighten their mom and me. They stopped doing that a couple years ago when they discovered a whole new way to scare the crap out of us. These days, to torment me, they put on too much makeup, too little clothing, and say things like, “Dad, I’m going over to Joe’s. His parents are out of town, so we are going to hang out at his house tonight.” This usually results in an evening of me in one corner of my bedroom, curled up in the fetal position and banging my head against the wall. Wishing for the good old days when they were just running in front of cars in the dark.
Regardless of how old your kids are, what your family traditions are, or what methods you prefer for putting your own child’s safety at risk, I want to wish you all a very happy Halloween!