Halloween Horrors: The Parents.

by Leslie Morgan Steiner


All last week I was afraid of Halloween. Not afraid of razors in apples or kids getting kidnapped by masked strangers. I was afraid of…THE PARENTS.


I worry about parents who limit their kids to two pieces of candy, and then make the kids throw out the rest.


The somber adults who debate the merits of moving Halloween to Saturday night so that kids can get enough sleep for school Monday.


Or the ones who express concerns about boys’ costumes being too violent.


Or girls’ costumes that are too “sophisticated.”


Or the admittedly overweight vegan who called into my favorite radio station this week and argued for 20 minutes that the United States government should ban Halloween because October 31st causes childhood obesity.


Let me take this occasion to repeat the best parenting advice I ever heard (which applies to all situations): Never forget what it was like to be a kid. We were all children once. Presumably we remember something meaningful from every age, every milestone, every Halloween.


Amazing how often we, as adults, forget what it was like to be a kid.


Childhood colors the rest of our lives. We parents err mightily when we try to make Halloween, or any other iconic childhood experience, magically perfect and pain-free. Ironically and counter-intuitively, the best thing we can do as parents is to step back and avoid micromanaging our children’s lives.


Take Halloween. Halloween is about being too scary (and getting too scared). Finding out that it is possible to eat too much candy. Getting so excited about getting to the next block that you lose your parents.


Halloween is about trying on a different costume – a more powerful and frightening you, or the clothes a sexpot eighteen-year-old wears, when you’re only eleven. It’s an experiment, one day where kids can break rules without condemnation and see what too much freedom feels like.


Children’s book author R.L. Stine, the author of the Goosebumps HorrorLand series, shared a few words of wisdom in “Scariest Sight on Halloween? Grownups” in The New York Times this weekend. “Kids live in their own special and private world. And Halloween is still the holiday that proves it.”


Do we need parental guidelines or laws to regulate Halloween candy and age-appropriate costumes? How much does it really matter if your daughter shows her belly button on Halloween or your four-year-old gets scared by an older child’s mask? Perhaps it is GOOD for children to learn lessons about the pros and cons of being too revealing, too frightening, or too easily frightened. By themselves, without parental interference, for one night a year.


Shaping Youth

As much as I'd like to embrace the eye-rolling here for over-zealous bubble-wrappers, I think you missed the mark on the sexualization bit a tad as there's nothing 'extremist' about being concerned over soul-sucking profiteering and commodification of healthy sexuality. (yah, I know, tell us how you REALLY feel, Amy ;-) heh.

True, many of us watched kids traipse around in far too little and chalk it up to 'the night' (some to keep the heat off the forbidden fruit factor, others cuz they're clueless about the quantifiable APA harm of early sexualization) but that does NOT negate the problem, nor the need for solutions, spotlighting, and slamming repeat corporate offenders willing to sell off childhood for a DingDong & a Kiss.

Personally, I'd like to see an uprising by youth themselves giving marketers a kick to the curb, along w/parents doin' some hefty wallet-whacking...

So in sum, no need to paint us all as pearl-clutching prudes just because we have research up the wazoo to back findings on how objectification is eroding kids' socioemotional health. Brains are a GOOD thing. We all need to use 'em.

p.s. I gave out books AND candy. Kids could take two. (my own mini-poll to see how they'd choose & which category) See? Moderation and mindfulness. A mum's BFF. No need for extremes, but plenty of need for analysis sans paralysis...(SO tired of the 'but what can we do?' apathetic shoulder shrug being given to mass media messaging)

"It's not enough to rage against the lie.. you've got to replace it with the truth.--Bono"