Ah, the witching season is nearly upon us once again.
And by “witching,” I really mean a rhyming word involving Grumpy McGrumpersons and Cranky McCrankypantses who just can’t keep from bad-mouthing children everywhere on Halloween.
You know the people I mean: the ones who put on their porch lights, have their bowl of candy ready, answer the door for trick-or-treaters and then grumble that the trick-or-treaters just didn’t live up to their standards.
My message to those people?
Cut. It. Out.
Allow me to address some of their standard complaints in more depth, so we can all understand why we need to nip those complaints in the bud.
Complaint 1: “Children are so rude.”
This alleged “rude” behaviour generally focuses on the mortal sin of – gasp! shock! horror! – forgetting to say “thank you.”
I get it. I’m a parent. I have been teaching my kid to say thank-you since before she even knew what it meant. Most of us have. But here’s the thing: Halloween is a scary, huge, momentous night for many children. It’s full of strangers and darkness and spooky decorations and sensory overload on all fronts. For many children, the act of saying “thank-you” to every single person they encounter throughout the evening is an enormous undertaking.
They may be shy or socially anxious. They may be neurologically atypical or have some kind of behavioural condition you can’t see. They may be overstimulated and overexcited and just plain forget sometimes.
It doesn’t matter. Not saying “thank you” doesn’t make them rude. It makes them children. Just smile, tell them to have fun, and move on.
Complaint 2: “Children are so greedy.”
This comment usually comes from people who hold a big bowl of candy out towards a child at the door and are then shocked when said child wants to grab a handful of it. Remember these are children who are, as mentioned above, overstimulated by the whole situation and undoubtedly gobsmacked by the idea that on this one day of the year, we tell them it’s a good idea to knock on strangers’ doors and get free candy. (Seriously, the whole set-up is more than a little weird, when you think about it.)
If you’re cool with kids grabbing candy by the handful (and honestly, I often am – I always buy way too much candy anyhow and they’re just saving me unnecessary caloric intake), then fine: Hold out the bowl and let them go to town.
But if you want them to take just one, you have precisely two options: Tell them to choose just one, or simply select one yourself and put it directly into the child’s bag.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy, as my nine-year-old would say.
Complaint 3: “They’re too old.”
This one’s a classic, and it can be directed at any child who isn’t visibly under the age of eight.
First of all, remember that you really have no idea how old a child actually is. There are tall 10-year-olds out there who could easily pass for teenagers.
And second? Yes, there will be some people coming to your door who are, in fact, teenagers. For my money, that’s a cool and awesome and wonderful thing, and I hope they keep coming.
We don’t want teens to spend all their time on screens. We don’t want them partying and drinking with friends. We don’t want them cooped up indoors. So, frankly, if a teenager wants to roam the neighbourhood with some friends trying to cling to one last vestige of childhood fun? We should be encouraging that, not scolding them for it.
Plus, cut them some slack. Being a teenager has been one helluva tough job over the past year-and-a-half, what with the social isolation and lack of activities that have come along with the pandemic.
Just for one night, maybe let them be kids for a little while longer.
And last but not least …
Complaint 4: “They’re not in costume.”
This may mean that the child in question isn’t visibly in a costume at all, or perhaps that the child has made what appears to be just a token effort to throw on a headband or a paper bag or a pumpkin T-shirt.
Whatever it is? Let it go. This isn’t a costume contest. You don’t know anyone’s stories. You don't know which kids are experiencing their first Halloween, having come from another place where the whole thing wasn't part of their culture. You don’t know which kids have a parent at home who’s happy to work on a creative homemade costume for weeks in advance, which ones have parents with the disposable income to just run to Spirit Halloween and buy something off the rack, and which ones come from families who have neither the time nor the resources to come up with a costume – however much they may want to.
You don’t know which kids are standing there feeling silently ashamed and humiliated by knowing they’re not “properly” attired and which ones honestly, genuinely, just couldn’t be bothered.
And you know what? It doesn’t matter. Just hand them a candy and be done with it.
Kids of all ages have had a rough past couple of years. The COVID-19 pandemic has robbed them of a lot of ordinary, everyday childhood fun. So on Halloween night? Let’s just let them have their moment. Whatever they’re wearing, whatever age they are, however they behave, this night is for them.
And if you really can’t stand it? Then turn off your porch light, keep your door firmly closed and eat all the damn candy alone in the dark.
We’ll all be better off.