As a kid, I loved Halloween. The rustling fall leaves, the crisp fall air, the spooky feeling when it starts to get dark. And even as an adult, I loved getting dressed up for Halloween parties (my husband, then boyfriend, didn’t like dressing up so much, but I made him do it so that we could have “couple costumes”). I was a fan of scary movies. I liked being scared.
But things are different from my new perspective. Last year at Halloween LM was only two months, and in the height of my foggy-mommyness I didn’t think much about it. But this year, although he’s still too young for real trick-or-treating (we’re going to walk out with his older cousins, but I won’t be asking for candy for him lest I fall into number five of The Five Worst Things About Halloween), he has been to a couple kiddie Halloween parties and is dressing up. And I’ve started thinking about what Halloween will mean as he gets older.
First, let me say that my love of all things scary has gone out the window since having a child. Just the thought of bad things happening sends me into panic overload. I know the theory is that we like scary movies because they allow us to play out our fears while in a safe environment; but for me they are just too much. That high school kid who just got butchered? He was someone’s son! That girl running from the killer? She’s someone’s daughter!
So even in theory Halloween has less appeal to me now than it did when I could revel in blood and guts. But practically speaking as well, Halloween is fraught with parental anxiety. Is trick or treating safe? Once he goes out alone, I won’t be able to protect him from the psychopaths who might snatch him as he rings the doorbell, or who might poison him with candy. What if he gets hit by a car? It’s a super-worrier‘s nightmare.
And is Halloween even appropriate for kids? I guess at a certain age they start getting fascinated with the gross and gory. But snacks shaped like eyeballs and fingers? Isn’t that too macabre for kids to handle? What about skeletons and ghosts – do kids even comprehend death enough to understand what they mean, or will questions about them arise?
The costumes, too. There is much to be said about how inappropriate many girls’ costumes are, but as the mom of a boy, I’m thinking more about pirates carrying knives, knights brandishing swords, Luke Skywalker with his light saber, and other weapon-wielding outfits. Do I really want my son playing with props whose real versions are meant to kill people?
Whoa, you say. Relax. It’s just a fun holiday when kids get dressed up and run around the neighborhood in a suger-overload that will eventually bring them safely back home to crash in their beds. And you would probably be right. I’m jumping the gun, as I have been known to do, because I’ve still got years before I even have to think about these particular worries. And as LM grows, I’ll get to know what he can and can’t handle, and maybe all these things that seem so scary to me now won’t be then – they’ll just be a normal part of his growing up.
And his growing up is probably the scariest thing of all.
What do you think of Halloween as a parent?