Friday, October 31, 2008

Bah! Humbug!

I am a Halloween Scrooge. I admit it. Our children do not trick or treat. We do not give out candy. We usually do not participate in Halloween events, and I do not believe my children are missing out on anything. They get dress-up opportunities. They get way more candy than they need. We do lots of other fun things.

However, I am not so much opposed that we pretend Halloween does not exist or think anyone who chooses to participate is a heathen. I even let the children watch some of the Halloween cartoons on Nick Jr. and Disney, explaining to Elizabeth and Hope that witches, ghosts, and monsters are not real. They are pretend, just like monkeys who talk (Boots!) and the Backyardigans' adventures.

When I saw "It's a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" on our Dish guide, I recorded it to watch with the children. I have not seen it since I was a child, but I have memories of enjoying it, along with all the other seasonal Peanuts cartoons. We finished schoolwork on Wednesday and piled into my bedroom to watch together before Daddy got home from work. I was all warm and fuzzy about sharing something from my childhood with my own darlings. The opening scene of the cartoon shows Lucy yelling at Linus for writing a letter to the Great Pumpkin. She calls him stupid and a blockhead, words we do not use at our house (except when Mommy slips and must apologize... ). My 14 year old looked at me with raised eye brows, as if to say, "Hmmm. I'm surprised you are letting us watch this." Then there was the scene with Lucy promising not to move the football and pulling it out of the way, letting Charlie Brown fall on his back. Another look from Hannah. "That Lucy sure is mean," I said, meekly. For the next 20 minutes or so, we watched as children yelled at each other, called one another names, and used the terms stupid and blockhead a lot. Oh, and there was the scene where Snoopy plays the Red Baron, shooting down enemy planes, getting shot down, and crawling through enemy territory. Oh yes, pleasant TV time for my little ones. When it was over, I apologized to my children. I told them I really remembered enjoying the show. I guess my ears are much more sensitive now than they were when I was a child. It appears that my children's are, too. They did not complain, but they did not enjoy the show, and I am wonderfully glad. We will skip this episode in the future...but maybe we'll look for the Thanksgiving show next month and see if my memories of that one are more accurate. Maybe I'll preview it alone first.

But there's more to my Halloween experience. My dad lives in a neighborhood that gets hundreds of trick or treaters, and the city council changed trick or treating to Thursday instead of Friday this year. (I do not know why. Makes no sense to me.) Dad asked if I would come give out candy because he and his wife are under the weather and could not do it. Of course I was glad to help.

Oh, it was quite an experience. I want to share my many thoughts and observations.

I do not know if there is a maximum age for trick or treating, but I think there should be. If you have your car keys in your back pocket, you ought not be coming to ask for Skittles from me. If you plan to vote in Tuesday's Presidential election, you need not be knocking on my door asking for gum. Stop at the Double Kwik and pick up your own when you are filling up the tank.

If your child is not old enough to walk, you may want to consider waiting a year or two before taking him trick or treating. I gave candy to numerous moms and dads carrying tiny little babies dressed in tiny little costumes. Just who is going to eat that candy?

I saw more than one scantily clad young girl at my porch. I wanted to ask where the parents were, but on some occasions, Mom and Dad were right there on the sidewalk, beaming proudly at Sally's pretty costume. What is that about? Why would you want to dress your child like a hooker, or a sexy witch, or a cave woman with a lot of cleavage to show? Are you going to wonder why she wants to dress like that at school? Are you going to let her? Do you plan to encourage her to show as much skin as possible and teach her that boys love to look and that people will like her if she dresses that way??? Arrrgghh!

It is definitely a different era than when I was growing up (and yes, I did observe Halloween growing up). Would you believe that some kids were talking on their cell phone while they were out? They walked up to me, never missing a word in their conversation, held out their bags for a piece of candy, and walked away. It's hard to say thank you when you are chatting about what Bobby is wearing for a costume and what Jenny said to you when you bumped into her outside of the cafeteria today.

The parents are every bit as interesting as the children. One lady, with a lollipop sticking out of her mouth, walked up to me and stuck her hand out. "Trick or Treat," she said. I wasn't sure if she was serious, but she stood there until I put a piece of candy in her hand. She chuckled as she walked back to the other adults she was walking with. (I saw no children with them.) She looked back at me and muttered, "My kids are stingy and won't share." I am not making this up! Gee, I wonder where they learned such poor manners. It was so hard for me not to say, "Then go the friendly Wal-Mart and buy yourself a Snickers bar, Lady." I refrained. But I did not smile.

One child thanked me for his treat, then turned to his mom and told her he was cold and ready to go home. "Don't you want to go on up there to the fancy houses and get the good candy?" Honestly! She really said that. I just smiled and said, "Sorry, just Dum-Dum suckers here." What else can I say about that? I hope her cold little boy enjoys the cheap candy he got here in the ghetto. I hope his manners are a little better than his mother's.

Perhaps my favorite parent observation was the Mom driving around the neighborhood in a golf cart. Several parents let their children out, then drove along the street watching as the child went from house to house. Why park and get out to walk with your child? It's cold, after all. At least they were supervising. Lots of parents just let the children out and waited for them at the corner. Oh yes. I understand letting your child roam free, going door to door in a neighboorhood where you don't know everyone. When it's dark and crowded. Right. But one mom lives in this area and just got out the golf cart. She did not avoid the low temps, but at least she didn't have to walk with the crowds. Interesting.

In all fairness, let me say that there were some really nice children who were dressed in age-appropriate costumes, whose parents made sure they said please and thank you, who stayed on the sidewalk rather than running through the grass to cut in front of other children. I saw lots of kids who had appropriate sized treat bags or buckets, instead of the pillowcases some brought. (PILLOWCASES! Just how much candy are you expecting to get?) There were lots of children who only stopped at my house one time, unlike the double-dippers (those were usually the pillowcase goblins). Lots of nice children enjoying a night out.

My conclusion: For the amount of time, money, and energy spent on costumes, gas, and dental visits, it seems to me parents could get a lot more. They could buy some nice treats rather than going door to door in the cold asking for candy from strangers. They could do something crazier, like playing dress up at home, baking some cookies (or healthy muffins!) together. They could make caramel apples, take lots of pictures, and laugh together. What fun memories they would be making.

But then again, I am a Halloween Scrouge.


No comments: