When my husband and I bought our first home, we were excited to finally live in a neighborhood with trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Having lived in a city apartment for many years, our interaction with cute goblins was minimal, and we were thrilled when we moved to our tree-lined street in the suburbs.
On Halloween morning the first year we lived in our home, I set about making sure I had plenty of the “good” candy, lots of apple cider, and fun decorations on our porch. We didn’t have kids yet, but I was excited to take part in the evening festivities just the same.
Because my husband has a sense of humor, he thought it would be hilarious to don an albino ape mask when answering the door to groups of teenage trick-or-treaters. As the night wore on, if he noticed a group of teens coming up the walk, he’d open the door with the mask on and yell “Boo!” — much to the delight of the older kids.
Because he was getting such a good reaction, when the next group of kids came trudging up our grass, he decided to take it one step further and run out the front door, arms flailing, and yelling at the kids. The teens screamed with delight.
Unfortunately, the tiny 2-year-old Winnie the Pooh coming up the driveway screamed too — and not because he was amused. My husband didn’t see him with his “Hunny pot” basket toddling up the driveway. Rightfully so, Winnie’s mom had a few things to say to my husband about how not funny his antics were. The albino mask has never been seen since.
Now that I have kids, I realize just how much of an asshole my husband was with his Halloween humor. Because we scared the bejesus out of a toddler Winnie the Pooh, I’m extra-sensitive to how we treat the kids who show up at our door on All Hallows’ Eve.
1. Remember that Halloween is scary for little ones.
You may think the gory, bloody scarecrow on your front porch embodies the essence of Halloween, but for little kids, it’s the stuff of lasting nightmares.
Consider taking the graphic, gory decorations off your front porch in the early hours of trick-or-treating so that the littlest of goblins can feel comfortable approaching your door.
2. Don’t be a dick if a kid doesn’t say ‘thank you’ for the treat.
Not every child is able to say “please” and “thank you” for a variety of reasons. Nonverbal children might be struggling to come up with the right words and feel paralyzed on a strange doorstep with scary decorations. Shy children might feel unable to speak if their parent isn’t standing next to them as they take their candy from the bowl.
Making comments about a child’s politeness isn’t the least bit helpful. Unless it’s your kid being blatantly rude, keep your comments to yourself.
3. Don’t tease kids about their costumes.
Kids love Halloween because it allows them to explore their creative side. It’s the one time of year when adults tell them they can be whatever they want to be, regardless of whether it makes sense to other people.
If a child comes up to your door and you don’t understand their costume, say to them, “Tell me about your costume!” or “I love that sparkle headband!”
Kids today face so many obstacles to feeling comfortable in their own skin, and the last thing they need is an adult smirking that their costume seems silly. And teach your kids not to belittle another kid at school, too. It takes a lot to show up at school in a made-up superhero costume or as an obscure character.
4. Be sensitive to allergies.
Regardless of how you feel about kids and allergies, the fact is kids are allergic to a variety of allergens, and they deserve to have a safe evening too.
You can do your part by putting a teal painted pumpkin on your stoop to signify that you have a safe, nonfood treat for a child with allergies. Or, you can go a step further and offer nonfood treats to every little ghoul who knocks on your door.
Allergies are a very real threat to children, and parents of children who suffer life-threatening reactions will thank you for your consideration that allows their children to safely participate.
5. Don’t wear a clown costume.
No one likes clowns. Period. And, given the heightened tensions around Bozo and his cronies this year, it’s more than likely that you will be on the business end of a group of angry parents if you decide to don rainbow hair and oversized shoes. For everyone’s safety, skip the red nose and white face paint.
Halloween can be a bewildering and overwhelming night for kids, and over the years, the focus seems to have shifted towards more adult-themed celebrations. As much as I love going to a costume party, I always try to remember that Halloween is mostly about kids having fun as they pretend and explore their creative sides. And when I open my door on Halloween night, I try to do everything I can to make sure kids have a good experience.
Being the grown-up who made Winnie the Pooh cry is pretty damned lousy.