Trick or Treat? Finding the Fun in Halloween Again
Having a kid has in some ways made me feel like a kid again myself. It has given new life and meaning to holidays and traditions that brought me a lot of joy as a child.
For example, I have never really been a big fan of Halloween. I kind of don’t get it. Why do we dress up in costume and parade around the neighborhood asking strangers for free candy again? I mean, whose idea was this?
Of course I enjoyed this activity as a kid and happily participated until I was old enough for it to be frowned upon. But Halloween as an adult was never really that much fun.
My first Halloween in Madison, I went to a frat party of all things. Because that’s what you do as a college freshman when you have no idea where else to go. I dressed up as Pippy Longstocking and my dorm-mates actually bent a wire hanger and braided it around my head so I could rock the fun hairstyle she had. Plus, I borrowed red and white striped tights from someone I knew for a whole two months and used eyeliner to paint some freckles on my face. It was adorable.
Then we went to a crowded house full of drunk co-eds. I wound up poking people in the eyes all night with my crazy hanger braids. And it turned out to be not that fun.
I gave it another go the next night when my new friends decided to head down to State Street. I went as Wednesday Adams from The Adams Family, and dressed all in black with my braids pointed down this time. And again forged into a sea of drunk people. Many of whom were dressed in culturally offensive and inappropriate costumes. I, once again failed to see how that was supposed to be “fun”.
Halloween just wasn’t something I really celebrated after that.
That is, until my son came into the picture.
And then, Halloween became enjoyable again.
We’ve been fortunate enough to have friends and family with boys who have passed on TONS of clothing and baby items to us over the past few years. Lucky for us, Halloween costumes have made it into their donation bags. Thus, we have had a variety of different costumes to choose from each year.
My son was only 4 months old his first Halloween. He had just tried solid foods and Halloween candy wasn’t going to be among the new foods we were offering…so trick-or-treating wasn’t really a thing for us yet.
However, we put him in this little giraffe costume and snapped a few photos. I don’t even think we left the house. In fact, I’m pretty sure we took it off like 20 minutes later.
The next year, however, I actually bought an Owl costume from Target because he LOVES owls. We dressed him up and took him down to Halloween at the Henry Vilas Zoo. Little did we know that it was a literal zoo in both definitions of the word. We quickly lost patience for the long lines and abandoned ship to head home.
When our friends invited us to Stoughton for their downtown business trick-or-treating event last year, we gladly accepted. It was perfect, since I was going to be in California for work on Halloween. Which is when our neighborhood holds its trick-or-treating.
Since he was a little older by then, we let him choose his own costume from the bag we had. He opted to go as Bucky Badger. I thought it would be fun to dress up as a family, so my husband went as a Coach and I a crazed Badger fan. Our costumes were lame at best, but it was the first time in years that I really started to get into the Halloween spirit again.
Trick-or-treating that afternoon was actually pretty fun. Perhaps in part for the free shots one of the local bars was giving out to the parents. Even though my son was in a stroller (since he couldn’t walk long distances on his little two year old legs) he had a great time. And thoroughly enjoyed a couple of Snickers Minis on the way back to our friends.
He promptly forgot about all that candy the very next day.
Now that he’s three, he has a better understanding of Halloween and knows that it means he gets to dress up and there will be parties and people giving out free candy. So, he was a lot more excited about it this year. And his excitement kinda rubbed off on me.
This year, he told us he was going to be “Black Spiderman” (a.k.a. Venom). He saw part of Spiderman 3 (thanks to my husband) while on Spring Break and became OBSESSED. Then we discovered a Venom costume in the bag of hand-me-downs from my brother. Score!
We again made our way to Stoughton for the Downtown Family Halloween event. And this time, those little legs carried him all the way downtown from our friends house, through Main Street and back. He was holding his own with kids who were bigger than him, ranging in age from 7-13.
As those kids tore into their candy buckets with abandon, my husband and I decided to let him do the same. It was Halloween after all. And it wasn’t as though he was eating six pieces of candy in one sitting on a regular basis.
My friend Kelly and I chatted in the mudroom of her shotgun house post-trick-or-treating while the kids all sat in the living room three rooms over watching Hotel Transylvania. I rifled through my son’s goodies and selected a Snickers for myself, along with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
Shortly after that last swallow, my son stood beside me, holding his candy bucket. He looked at it, then looked at me and asked “You looking for something in here?” I wasn’t quite sure I heard him right, so I replied “Umm…what?”
He held the basket up and repeated “You looking for something?”
I chuckled a bit and replied “Yeah…I had a Snickers. And a Peanut Butter Cup”.
“I saw you do that” he said. Then set the basket down and walked away.
I had just been caught red-handed by a toddler.
And he wanted to let me know.
Kelly and I burst out laughing. It was a hilarious end to a fun night.
When Halloween Day arrived, we let him pick out another costume to wear to school. This time he chose to be a T-Rex. He suited up and walked in to his classroom, only to find that none of the other kids had dressed in costume that day.
I felt bad for him. But only for a moment. Because I realized it was a good lesson. That it’s okay to be different. He doesn’t have to do something he enjoys only because other kids are doing it. There may be times when he stands out from the crowd. And that’s not a bad thing.
I don’t think he really thought much of it. When I saw pictures from the day’s activities, I was glad to see him still in his T-Rex costume playing outside on the playground. He wasn’t wearing it when I picked him up from school that afternoon. However, we put it right back on to go trick-or-treating with friends around our block.
When I moved to the neighborhood 12 years ago, I was excited to buy candy for trick-or-treaters. Yet, I found myself disappointed when we never got more than a couple per year. So, after a few of those disappointments, I simply stopped buying candy.
Yet, as we walked around the neighborhood that night, I was surprised and delighted by the number of children and families we saw doing the same. Where had all of these kids come from? I realized then that perhaps there are more young families in our area than I had ever really noticed before.
After about 45 minutes trick-or-treating, we ended the night with my son’s favorite dinner – Noodles & Company’s macaroni and cheese. Then we watched Room on the Broom, in honor of Halloween.
He asked for a piece of candy the next morning. But after that, we haven’t really heard much about it. Kids get so much candy that I think the novelty wears off pretty quickly. And I’m okay with that. Just like last year, I’ll probably wind up tossing it in the garbage when he comes home from school with a box full of Valentine’s Day treats. Which is quickly followed by an Easter basket of sweets as well.
Favorite (and free!) candy aside, the real treat to me, is experiencing these fun childhood moments alongside him. And fondly remembering those of my own, after I’ve maybe been a bit too jaded.
Being a mom has given me a new lens on life. One that is helping me to see the joy in things that I haven’t found special in a very long time. Like finding the fun in Halloween again. I have my kiddo to thank for that.