I love Halloween. It’s the beginning of that frantic roller coaster ride that starts mid-October-ish with the need to turn on the furnace and burn apple spice scented things and continues through January 1. While there are plenty of lists out there about how to make Halloween safer / more nutritious / more crafty / less sexy-costumified, I’m going to focus on how to do Trick or Treating right. (This is a completely subjective list. I’m married to someone whose idea of the right way to Trick or Treat involves getting back with the kids ASAP and changing into sweats to watch football).
- DO yield to your children’s wishes in terms of costume complexity. Did I really want to make a “tree” costume two weeks before my due date with the second child? Absolutely not. Did I do it? Yes, because Halloween should be associated with fatigue, hot glue gun burns, and insanely cute pictures–not guilt.
Now, the following year she wanted a $9.99 costume from Walgreens and I had to bite my tongue and let it happen. The kid gets to drive the boat on the costume issue. Here are a couple more of my greatest hits:
Where did this ridiculous standard come from? As with most things (at least according to my therapist) the blame lies squarely and wholly on my mother’s shoulders. While I can sew straight lines from a pattern reasonable well, she can just make stuff up and it comes out looking great. Mom would routinely wait until a couple of days before Halloween and begin taking requests from the five of us–and she delivered on ANYTHING. Between her mountains of scrap fabric, the refrigerator box housing previous years’ dance and Halloween costumes, and sheer ingenuity she created costumes including: Minnie Mouse including padded shoe covers, Robin Hood, The Man in Black, Little Bo Peep, and Pepe Le Pew in addition to scores of witches, vampires and ghosts. So whenever people suggest that I’m creative with costumes, I just roll my eyes.
- DO dress your infant to toddler age child as a doll. The caveat to the “kids drive the costume boat” rule outlined above is that this only applies once they are able to form really good full sentences. Before that–they’re yours! And kids as dolls are just too cute to pass up. Their cheeks are so round and translucent for such a short period, that highlighting the fact through a well-timed doll costume is just too deliciously irresistible.
Like my mother, I went for Raggedy Ann. Unlike my mother, I did NOT handmake my own yard wig in the days before You-tube tutorials were a thing. Guys, she MADE UP her OWN version of a yarn wig. I remember that she used leftover denim scraps for the underside skeleton of that red yarn wig I’m wearing above. The woman is a technical genius.
- If the baby is bald, DO take advantage of this with a costume highlighting the baldness. We chose Shaolin Monk.
There are plenty of options however. How about a Bruce Willis baby? Mr. Clean? Larry David? Steve Harvey? Rough time in her life Britney Spears?
- DO NOT let Wisconsin weather be an excuse for staying inside. Layer, layer, layer, and make sure that the headpiece at least gives a clue to the costume because chances are good that the rest won’t be seen at all.
- DO let them trick or treat for as long as they want to. This applies both to the day (a rule I find easier to apply since Jimmy is inevitably the one traversing the neighborhood in Wisconsin Halloweens) and over the years. I will give out candy to anyone as long as they say “trick or treat” and are willing to let me identify their costume as “disaffected teenager.”
- DO encourage a healthy sense of competition by opening a trading floor for the neighborhood children after trick or treating.
- DO NOT insert yourself into this floor. Despite the fact that my children will literally bicker about anything (example from today’s backseat: does the “beginning of time” mean the beginning of the universe or when humans started keeping track of time? Because this affects the argument about “most awesome since the beginning of time.), they will manage to both create and enforce their own set of rules and norms in this bartering system. DO NOT be tempted to suggest that their trade of 6 fun size Butterfingers for a full size Hershey is dumb because nobody really likes Hershey. You will be met with a look of utter disdain and exasperation. Stay upstairs with the adult beverages.
- DO dress up yourself. DO NOT worry about how silly you look. I find great delight in dressing up for Halloween, and I think I come by this honestly, given my family history. Check out this snapshot of my Grandma on the right from 1946:
I’m fairly certain that whatever is happening to her right is completely inappropriate by modern standards, but it certainly lends a certain devil-may-care attitude to the whole scene. My mother also still enjoys dressing up, and 10 points for whoever can name her spirit-animal as whom she dresses every Halloween. Hint: she is a teacher, and it’s a book character…
- DO NOT let work keep you from dressing up. Now, as pediatrician, it was perhaps somewhat easier for me to justify wearing a full costume to work. However, I did not let concern for my patients’ literary fears affect my choices, as evidenced as two favorites that, yes, I wore to work: Evil Queen and Dolores Umbridge.
- DO let them eat the candy til they puke on Trick or Treat night. It’s one night a year and provides a real sensory lesson on the notion of gluttony. That whole consume-til-you-puke phenomenon is why I can no longer partake of either banana chips or Bailey’s.