November 1, 2007

What is Halloween to my Toddler? Me?

Today is November 1st and would you believe I have already heard 3 Christmas Carols on the seasonal cable music station? That's just ridiculous! Next year, maybe I'll dress Lucian up in a Santa suit and take him out door to door trick or treating on Columbus Day. We'll have Turkey for dinner and be done with it all! Jeeemuhneeze! I hope you and yours had a nice Halloween. We had fun and it was low-key. We took Lucian out to the local Mall where it was air conditioned and lots of other kids where there. We wanted to show Lucian that other kids' parents do this too and that we're not nuts and he doesn't need therapy...yet. Technically, it's his second Halloween but it's the first one where he could walk around in a costume. Opa Davis got him an adorable dinosaur outfit. We called it the Lochness Monster though in honor of Oma Davis' trip to Scotland where she "spotted Nessie." Nate and I put on the quickest costumes in the history of costume wearing — at least for us that is. Nate donned a pair of horns he got from a Renaissance Fair and went as "Mephistopheles Incognito" and I put on some heavy black eyeliner and red lipstick threw on some black clothes and put some white hairspray in my hair. I knew there was a reason I've been growing may hair so long and the left over spray from 2 years ago came in handy. Someone even asked if it was a wig. That comment alone made it worth the effort. So I'm not sure exactly what I was supposed to be but I'll just say for now, "One of Nate's Goth High School Students."

A friend of ours responded to the email I sent out, (above) and I thought it was an interesting comment that provoked me to write the following thoughts about Halloween.

Here is her comment (edited)

"...I am really glad you guys chose to take him to the mall to hang out with the other kids. I know it's not my place (especially as a non-parent) to rant about Halloween, but I am always shocked at the number of parents who bring their toddlers to my doorstep, usually in a stroller, and collect candy. If the kid is eating it all, that's bad news. If the parents are collecting it so they can eat it, that's just wrong. It drives me crazy. It's nice to see that SOME of my friends with children under the age of 2 are sane, level-headed people. :) ..."

And this was my response (edited):

Right on! I couldn't agree with you more.

We did in fact have some Halloweeners (as my Grandmother calls them) come to our door just before we left for the mall and it was young mother, her sister (?) and 4 kids and one was in a stroller and of course, she wheeled him right up to the door and held out his bag for him. I thought that was really strange. What is he going to do with it, he can't even walk yet? You'd also be interested to know then the exchange in conversation as we brought Lucian to the door and tried to teach him to hand out the candy to the other children. The mother comments on how cute Lucian is and I mention that we are getting ready to go out but that we weren't exactly sure yet which was a good place to take him and that we were most likely going to go check out the mall. (Please make note that this exchange happened around 6 pm while we were still eating dinner so that means that they get their kids out to hit the streets early! I'm guessing that candy takes the place of dinner on this particular night? Hmmm. I'm hoping that isn't the case!) Anyhow, so this mother proceeds to tell me in a "helpful advice sort of way" that "...oh, the mall is lame, they only give you 2 pieces of candy at each store and they usually close up early. You're better off to go to the stadium where it's all totally free and they hand out lots of candy and it's open till about 10 pm." I thanked her kindly for the advice but mentioned that it was our son's first time in costume and he wasn't yet 2 years old so he really didn't need the candy. Then it dawned on her, oh, yeah, maybe the mall would be a better place for a toddler like ours. (as the woman with her wheeled away with the stroller)

Duh! Hello!?? And then they wonder why their kids are obese, do poorly in school and have dental problems. Hmmm. I wonder what could be the connection?

I am very sad that Halloween just isn't what it used to be when we were growing up, but I'm really trying to make the best of it and find a new way to enjoy the quality (if there is anything left) of the holiday. I've really been trying to think of what is the true meaning of Halloween simply because I'm trying to prepare myself for when Lucian asks me one day, Mommy, why do we do this? I don't want Lucian to think it's all about the candy and cheap store-bought costumes. I don't yet have the perfect answer and I doubt I ever will, but I can at least tell him that Halloween is about being creative and indulging in a little fantasy and imagination. It's about being silly, having fun with friends, good story-telling, social skills and manners. Halloween is also about making good decisions when there is a lot of controversy out there on what to wear and how to act. The candy is just a perk.

I wonder how many kids today really know the true meaning of trick or treat? My mother explained to me when we were growing up that even when she and her siblings were kids, in the 50s and 60s, they were expected to tell a joke or sing a song or recite a poem. When my sister and I were young and trick-or-treated we weren't asked to perform a trick but we did go inside many of the people's houses to visit and "entertain" and pose for polaroids and we always said thank you most graciously. It was probably one of the best opportunities to show off the manners we had been taught. The costumes we wore were always hand-made or "dreamed up" and put together in some creative way. We spent lots of time getting makeup applied just right and costumes were well thought out. My mother would stay up late curling or styling a wig or ironing out wrinkles in outfits if necessary so that everything looked nice. I only recall a couple of times where we actually wore those sweaty plastic masks with the elastic string.

I can't tell you how tempted I am to request that trick-or-treaters who come to my door actually perform in order to get candy. I would love to ask for a cartwheel or a handstand or a song or something before letting go of a wad of candy into an outstretched bag that is already splitting at the seams. I would just love to see the look on their faces. Sadly, I don't want to anger a parent or risk getting my home destroyed because I made some kid mad, so I just give them their candy and they're on their merry way to forget I ever existed. Perhaps that is the trick — that we survive the holiday with our home untouched by vandals for giving them treats. It's like the pint-sized Mafia, is it not?

I was really sad that we didn't make his first costume but we just didn't have the time this year. At least his costume was hand-picked out by his father and grandfather (with my help over the phone) and it was a very nicely constructed outfit and didn't appear to be cheaply-made. It fit him well and it was relatively safe. The head obstructed his view a little but we were walking with him the whole time and we took the hood down several times when it appeared he was uncomfortable and needed more room to move. Plus it wasn't something disgusting or gory or stupid or thank God he's not a girl and we'd have to worry about all the sexy stuff out there. A Dinosaur seemed just right for his little toddler self.

Well, I have lots of opinions about how children should act and dress and what kinds of mixed messages can be sent at this time of year and sometimes it's hard to know if you're doing the right thing or not. I just have to hope that we make good choices for him now and maybe when the time comes, he will make good choices on his own. It's a combination of how we were raised and how we survived with what we see others doing that we do or do not agree with and what we think could be better. We can only hope for a good combination based on trying the best we can with what we have that will result in a well-rounded person who makes wise decisions.

So, that is my rant on Halloween. Now, what to do with all of this left-over candy?! I hope it freezes well and will last us till next year so we don't have to buy it again!

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