It was an excellent Halloween. Pumpkins were carved, monster cupcakes baked, spider webs strewn across windows, plastic skulls and Harry Potter paraphernalia scattered about the house like confetti and costumes ordered from the exotic land of the U.S. of A. E & L had school Halloween parties in the morning, then came home to chill and sugar crash for the afternoon, then waited in painful anticipation, noses pressed against the front window in the gathering dark until the other kids were out (anytime after you see that first other kid is the right time, but not a moment sooner…have no idea how that first kid decides when to go?). And we were off, me and my boys all ready to trick or treat the whole neighbourhood and beyond, as we toiled our way to candy glory one house at a time.
It was a beautiful evening for it…mild and still (it isn’t unheard of for Canadian kids to have to battle their way through snow drifts on All Hallows Eve, so at about 12C it was gorgeous). The streets were alive with excited kiddies, amused parents in tow.And so we began, the boys dutifully taking turns ringing the doorbells (they’re 8 year old twins, each act between them is negotiated with all of the gravity and diplomacy of ambassadors on a highly sensitive foreign mission) and remembering to say “thank you” and “Happy Halloween” like good little citizens…me hovering in the background, camera in hand, trying to direct E (whose Dementor costume had long flowy bits) around the jack o’ lanterns, lest he should catch on fire (long polyester Halloween costume + candles in pumpkins at doorstep = 2 thumbs down from Smoky the Bear).
By the 4th house we trick or treated, their buckets were so full that we had to go home and empty them out. I kid you not, 4 houses each giving out enormous handfuls of treats, small bags of chips etc. and their pumpkin pails were overflowing. Thrilled and undeterred we switched to bigger bags, and headed out again. We had done less than a dozen houses (total), hadn’t even finished trick or treating the small bay that we live on, and their bags were almost full! We were using those large, fabric, reusable grocery bags! So we headed home again, the boys feeling that they were done with trick or treating and it was time to move on to other things, although we hadn’t even been out for an hour. And who could blame them, they already knew they had way more candy than we’d ever let them eat!
We compromised on a break, while I sorted the “safe” from the “bad” candies (they have anaphylactic allergies to eggs, peanuts and some other foods). This lightened their loads considerably (although I was thrilled to see how many people are giving out peanut free treats!), so they decided to finish off our bay. 4 more houses, another ½ a bag of candy each and we were really done…yet it was still early. We decided to do some “reverse trick or treating”, and the boys and husband took candy to some of their buddies who live on the other side of the neighbourhood (although I’m sure those kids also had way too much). Then we settled in for the night for an old tradition (watching Nightmare Before Christmas together), and a new one (E read us spooky stories with the flashlight on his face -kids’ camp-style, next year will be somebody else’s turn to choose and read).
All in all a most enjoyable Halloween…but it got me thinking about our culture of excess… In an effort to please the kids/ one up the neighbours it’s gone from 1 or 2 candies a house to handfuls, and it’s gone from kids spending a whole evening cavorting in the streets as they had fun and worked to fill up their little pillowcases, to a massive pile of treats after a half an hour and a few houses. It feels like we’re giving so much, that we’re taking away! We’re taking away the thrill of the hunt, and the satisfaction of a job well done…making it all too easy, yet all so much harder to appreciate. And this overwhelming glut at Halloween is just par for the course these days. The expectation is that kids will be given every good thing you can afford as soon as you can give it, from designer clothes to lavish trips to 100s of dollars in electronics for X-mas to being taken to each new movie and bought each new video game the minute it is out (and yes I am talking 8 year olds here!). I think it’s more difficult than ever to walk the line between participating in the culture in which we live (so that your kids don’t feel excluded and can relate to their peers) and utterly spoiling them. If we’re not careful we’ll end up with a whole generation of Dudley Dursleys on our hands!
Anyway I loved our Halloween all the same, and of course we participated in the excess as much as anyone else. Heck, we gave away full-sized Cadbury bars and packs of bubble gum. I may rail against the status quo a little, but we’re not going to be the one asshole house handing out pencils or a single sugar-free lolly! That’s just a good way to get your house egged! And so the escalation of spoiling continues…