As we head into Halloween, I want to offer a few cautions based on 18 Halloweens as a parent.
First: Feed your kids dinner BEFORE they go Trick or Treating. This took me five years to learn. Children will not eat peas and chicken after 20 Reese’s peanut butter cups.
Second: Please do not limit your kids’ Halloween candy to five pieces or force them to sell their loot to their dentist on Nov 1. This is un-American. Simply terrible parenting. Kids consider Trick or Treating WORK. Hard labor, ringing those doorbells, chanting on cue, and lugging the heavy bags home. Don’t destroy their work ethic and trust in you. You will only encourage them to lie to you and binge in secret; no matter how honest your children, the lure of Halloween candy is like kiddy heroin. Your betrayal may force them into therapy for the rest of their lives. Believe me – a few cavities, or a massive stomachache, will be cheaper to treat than a decade of psychiatrist bills.
Third: Recycle! Halloween can be the day every child learns the bliss of recycling. Here’s how it goes: mandate that your kids stop home at least twice during the night. Dump all their candy on the kitchen floor. Have them pick out all the stuff they don’t like and will never eat (black licorice; anything healthy or organic) plus the worst offenders for tooth decay and premature brace removal (lollipops, Starburst, Laffy Taffy and Double Bubble bubblegum). Place these items in your Halloween bowl and present them to the rest of the nights’ Trick or Treaters, children who might actually enjoy your kids’ rejects and whose parents don’t mind taking them to emergency orthodontist appointments on the Saturday after Halloween. This is the best kind of generosity – the kind that makes you feel the glow of magnanimity, but doesn’t actually hurt at all.
Fourth: Stay home. Traipsing after your kids on dark, crowded streets is actually pretty nerve-wracking; the better job is to (wo)man the front door and greet everyone else’s offspring. Set up a Jambox with Halloween tunes (I recommend a loop of Monster Mash, Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny and Ghostbusters). Maybe a vanilla-scented smoke machine if you can afford to rent one.
If you are lucky enough to live in one of those idyllic neighborhoods that attracts impoverished non-resident “immigrant” Trick or Treaters from your town’s less idyllic neighborhoods, overcrowded apartment buildings or sidewalk-less suburbs, count your blessings and model benevolence and good citizenship for your children. Even when many of the alleged children are costume-less teenagers who already shave and are brazenly seeking free candy. For one night, these are everyone’s children.
Fifth: Keep your kids safe. This doesn’t mean searching apples for razor blades or avoiding kidnappers. Think old school: cars manned by terrible, or terribly distracted, drivers. According to State Farm insurance data, more children are killed in car-pedestrian accidents on October 31 than any other day of the year; 70% occur during jaywalking. Attach something reflective to the kids’ costumes (blinking bicycle lights work great). Drill them about the perils of crossing the street mid-block or even at the cross walk. And since Halloween falls on a Friday this year, get ‘em home early. After 9.30 Halloween always gets a bit squirrelly. It’s all older kids and drunken adults beyond that hour, even under the best of circumstances.Friday night Halloween? Trouble.
Last, but not least, do not, despite the immense temptation, participate in Jimmy Kimmel’s YouTube “I Told My Kid I Ate All Their Halloween Candy” challenge. I did this a few years ago. My youngest child still cries at the memory of my “trick.” Bad mommy.
Most of all, enjoy Halloween. For one night, we can all feel like kids again.