Another Halloween has come and gone and its dawned on me that this so called holiday is both an amazing and horrible day all rolled into one. As a kid, we never experienced a “traditional” Halloween. Sure there was dress up (as biblical characters) and collecting candy (from the church Harvest festival) but, haunted houses, trick or treating – not in our house.
As I got older, the notion of getting dressed up seemed more appealing – everyone was doing it and I didn’t want to be left out. That sentiment is still in place to this day and has been passed on to my daughter as evidence by her Snow White costume this year. But there was, and has always been a nagging feeling about this day that leaves it less to be desired for me.
Before I begin to rant on the negative aspects, let’s talk about the amazing aspects of Halloween. First, Halloween was great for the country. Despite this year’s apocalyptic storm on the East Coast and the crippling state of our economy, Americans still manage to dig deep in their wallets and pinch those pennies and ended up spending just north of $8 billion dollars on Halloween this year! At least as a nation we have our financial priorities straight – that $8 billion could have ended child hunger in this country…oh wait, this was supposed to be about the positive aspects. Anyway, my point is, despite all the things going on with this country, we Americans still maintain a love for our holidays – no matter the cost…and I think in whole, that’s a good thing.
Second, and to my more broader point, if done right by the parents, Halloween can be a powerful tool in teaching manners and self-confidence. The notion of Halloween as a teaching tool did not hit me until I paid attention to the contrast in trick o’ treaters this Halloween. Most of the kids were extremely rude: asking for specific types of free candy, asking for more candy than what was given and not saying thank you for the free candy. The kids with manners were amazing and were rewarded accordingly. Please and thank yous abounded with these kids…I even got a, “how are you doing this evening”. But what really struck me as amazing were the young children, under the watchful eyes of their parents, walking up to a stranger’s door to ask for free candy! That may not seem like a big deal to you, you Halloween-pro you, but I have to imagine as a little child, that can be a nerve racking experience. Put it this way, I know I couldn’t have done that at their age!
As parents, we can use this time of the year as an opportunity to teach our children the value of being polite and having manners, addressing people formally and interacting in an unfamiliar environment – in a pretty tangible way. Good manners = something good. Ironically noted, the children (and I use that term loosely – shouldn’t there be an age limit to asking for free candy? I mean, at a certain age, shouldn’t you be able to buy your own?) who were dressed, shall we say, Rated G to PG (Princesses, cowboys, etc), were the ones who displayed excellent manners. Whereas the ones who were dressed more PG-13 to NC-17 displayed horrific manners – which leads me to the “trick” or negative side of this day.
Let’s focus on the costumes that these kids were wearing this year. I think we as parents, and especially the dads, who I believe are the true culprits in all of this, need to take a step back and examine what we are teaching our children and what kind of examples we are setting for them when it comes to their costume choices. This year, I stopped counting when I reached 12 zombie costumes, complete with blood and guts – being worn by children under the age of 12. Likewise, I also stopped counting when I reached 10 attempted sexy whatever costumes – being worn by similar aged girls (when did Halloween costumes get “sexy” anyway). But you know what they all had in common for the most part? Their parental figures were walking right along with them – which means that the Parents condone the costume choice. The question for me isn’t whether or not it’s appropriate to wear those types of costumes, the question for me is, how/why were children expose to these images in the first place. No kid wakes up on Halloween day and says, “I think I will be a zombie or a sexy whatever today”. They are getting these ideas from what they are exposed to. There is absolutely no reason why the “Honey Boo Boo – you better Red-neckonize“ costume was a trending costume this year, but it was!
Dads, we have to understand the profound effect we have on our children when we 1) expose them to what we might consider to be cool, funny and even sexy and 2) allow them to personify our perceived interests. My wife reminds me all the time that children are literal and with that, children also crave our love and affection – and what better way to gain that attention they so want from you, than for them to be a “cool” zombie or a sexy whatever. We have to take a moment and think beyond the costume – sure a costume doesn’t define a child or even your parenting skills – but what really made you think that costume choice was a good idea and how does that benefit your child?
Come one dads, I know we can do better – our children our counting on us!