There was a lot of commentary this Halloween about older teenagers going trick-or-treating, and sure, it’s mildly annoying when they don’t bother with a costume and shove a pillowcase at you, and grumble “trick or treat” in their gravelly almost-men voices, but I indulge them anyway. Giving out treats is insurance against tricks.
Here’s your Skittles. Go forth and egg no more.
It’s not the “too old” crowd but the “too young” crowd that really bugs me. Forget the teenagers wearing their football jerseys for costumes. It’s the parents who dress their infants up and push them around in strollers, and hold out their plastic jack-o’-lantern buckets and say “Trick or Treat” because their kids can’t even say “Mama” yet, let alone hold a bucket.
Two things: If your kids aren’t old enough to walk the neighborhood on their own two feet, they’re too young to go trick-or-treating. That goes double for kids who can’t yet say “Trick or Treat.” I’m onto this scam: Those parents are using their kids as decoys to get a stash of mini-Snickers. Seems to me that if they can afford a costume, they can afford to go buy their own dang candy. And if they’re actually allowing their infants and toddlers to eat that candy, well, they’ll get what they deserve. Good luck peeling them off the ceiling before their suddenly over-filled diapers start squirting at the seams.
When my kids were too little to go trick-or-treating, they got the same treatment I did as a child: a cute little costume to wear while helping Mom pass out candy to the trick-or-treaters. And you know what? They loved it. They never complained. Why would they get upset about staying home when they have no frame of reference about Halloween? For all they know, Halloween means passing out candy to the parade of little monsters and princesses that come calling. Cool beans!
You see, parents, your kids only know what you tell them. If you don’t tell them how much fun they’re missing, they won’t whine and cry about it. Don’t give them a heads-up on unknown pleasures. This strategy will serve you well when it comes to sex and beer. Don’t tell them. They’ll find out soon enough in middle school.
As for Halloween candy, once my kids were old enough, oh heck yes — this food Nazi let them trick-or-treat for as long as their little feet would carry them. I’d let them spill it out all over the floor, and eat what they wanted (and also pilfer the Smarties when they weren’t looking). I didn’t have any angst over it because my kids rarely got candy. Halloween was their big chance to indulge, and they didn’t really burn through their stash that fast. They knew Easter was still a long way off.
Yes, trick-or-treating means candy gluttony. But .. it’s one night out of 365. It’s part of average American childhood. It’s fun. Lighten up. Fun is its own reward, and the older you get, the less there is. So, let your kids enjoy it while it lasts or they’ll be dressing up your grandkids like little tigers and princesses on Halloween, and pushing them around in strollers and begging for candy.
Trick-or-treating. In the larger arena of stuff parents need to worry about, it’s no biggie. Some would disagree. Like “Cheryl,” who contacted her local radio station in North Dakota about her intention to give letters instead of candy to those trick-or-treaters she felt were too fat to indulge in candy. The letter says, “You are probably wondering why your child has this note; have you ever heard the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’? I am disappointed in ‘the village’ of Fargo Moorhead, West Fargo. Your child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season. My hope is that you will step up as a parent and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits.”
Judgment is the ugliest monster of all. Cheryl declared herself worthy to judge others, and authorized herself to punish those who don’t measure up to her high standards. As for those of you who insist on healthy snacks only for children, I hear ya, but that isn’t what this letter is really about. If Ms. Healthier Than Thou really intended to make a point about healthy snacks, she could have passed out dried fruit or popcorn. But that wasn’t her intention. Her intention was to hurt and to shame. She took it upon herself to scold the children who (she assumes) aren’t being scolded by their parents about their tubby little tummies.
And so, a lifetime of eating disorders and low self-esteem begins. Fill up your bags on that, kids, just in case life doesn’t dish enough out to you on its own.
Let’s clarify. There are some things that could kill you if did them just once a year: Not wearing your seatbelt. Having unprotected sex. Playing with a gun. Helping a stranger find his lost puppy. Not on that list? Gorging on candy.
Assuming your kids don’t have food allergies and aren’t diabetic, they could wolf down their entire Halloween stash, and the worst it’ll do is put them in the spin cycle for a couple hours and give them a tummy ache and the runs, which will teach them that eating too much candy is a bad choice.
“Remember when you barfed Butterfingers for an hour?”
Of course she does. And she’ll have an apple instead, thank you.
Logical and natural consequences are the best teachers on Earth. Nasty, judgmental letters intended to leave children in tears are not.
Cheryl, I hope someone egged your house.
— Email Debra DeAngelo at firstname.lastname@example.org; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com