Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Sad State of Trick or Treat

This Halloween, I took my niece America (human) trick-or-treating. Papa had to work, Grandma and Grandpa were babysitting Braeden, the other that left me to be the trick-or-treat custodian. America (human) is still just young enough to need someone to go with her, but also she was in my neighborhood which she was not really familiar with (and all the twisty streets, dead ends, and cul-de-sacs can be confusing - even for me after 10 years). Mostly, I ended up being the candy mule...hauling the large bag of candy that she would dump her small bag into every few houses.

Behold - The Princess America

It was a beautiful night and perfect trick-or-treating weather with just a slight chill in the air to keep you cool when running from house to house. I really enjoyed trick-or-treating with America this year. She had a good haul of candy (5 or 6 pounds probably) and I think we burned off all the future calories running from house to house.

Although, it was a great night...I am more and more shocked about how over-protective people have become on Halloween. It was rare to see a kid without a parent or some kind of custodian along for the night. I'm not talking 5 and 6 year olds - kids that looked 10, 12 and one that looked like she was 14 had parents coddling them along all evening. Where is childhood independence? Admittedly, I grew up in a somewhat isolated semi-rural neighborhood and not the "big city" (ha ha)...but still, today's parents seem way too hovering. I don't think I had a parental guardian after second-grade. Instead I had a tight knit group of candy loving friends who would all take care of each other each Halloween. Let me say this once: Halloween is safe. People aren't poisoning candy, there are no razor blades (both overblown examples of hoaxes, coincidences, and pranks), and the pedophiles are not any more dangerous on Halloween than every other night. These are the same people that live in your neighborhood 364 other days of the year. Let your child go out with a group of friends, have fun, and blow off steam.

Let the kids be kids. Halloween is a chance to run a little wild and to be rewarded for being a child. As a child, my friends and I would run from house to house as fast as week could...arriving completely out of breath. Sidewalks and driveways be damned, all flower beds and shrubbery were endangered of being trampled as we strode through yards from house to house. Halloween was a non-stop foot race and you had to take that into account when you were planned your costume. You didn't want anything to bulky that would slow you down (neighborhood kin remember Kristina in her awesome Rubik's Cube costume? great looking costume but not built for the candy hunt), nothing loose that could fall off, nothing to hamper leg motion, and easily removable layers and breathable masks were very important as you were going to be sweating (a lot).

We also believed in a little bit of tricking...if you weren't handing out candy, you might be the subject of getting the apples we received a few doors down thrown into your roof gutters or maybe the mini tube of toothpaste squirted in your mailbox. You can't do that with parents around. Being a guardian this year, I left a bowl of candy and miniature flashlights on my porch for all the ghosts and ghouls. When I got back, it still had some candy and a few flashlights. This is all a far cry from when I was young. If you were foolish enough to leave a bowl of candy unattended on your porch in my neighborhood, chances were very good that the first person in my group to reach your porch would dump the entire bowl into their candy bag and throw the empty bowl in the bushes or on the roof (to dispose of the evidence, so the group of kids would think you left your light on by accident or fell asleep or something - or maybe it was just fun). Admittedly it was not very nice, I can see that now...but the race for that candy bowl was one of the funnest things ever. I can still remember the feeling as those sprints started and the pounding of your heart when you reached the candy bowl in either glorious victory or agonizing defeat. Rarely is so sweet a victory achieved in this life (both literally and figuratively). I was sort of hoping that I would find some evidence of that kind of exuberance - but with everyone having parental guardians along, kids actually paid attention to the "Please Take One" sign.

Halloween just seems a little too sanitized and supervised for my tastes. I hope the kids get to experience a little bit of the feeling of Halloween Freedom for an entire night (really 6pm - 8pm but it felt like all night when I was a kid) because that is one of my favorite childhood memories.


Lax Guy said...

When I was a kid, we knew where all of the "Take One Please" houses were - same people every year. We would hit those houses first and split the spoils among our small group. Then we started. We went unsupervised and committed no additional mischief. And that was in Des Moines.

Michael said...

Exactly. Supervision should not be needed except for the really young kids.

I was also a little surprised at the lack of those super generic peanut buttery taffy things that came wrapped in orange or black. Not a single one in the whole lot. These things were the bane of my existence when I was young (although I still liked them since they were candy and therefore suger).

Paul said...

Amen brotha! Eric Jones's house was always one with candy unattended. Jen and I were just talking about your very topic the other night. How we'd end up in Scott Powers' neighborhood, sans parents, sprinting everywhere we went, amazingly making it home each year with loads of candy.

Michael said...

That was good times. The only thing I ever remember being scared of was Chad Harris and his penchant for beating up us younger kids. That's because there was nothing to fear...I still think there is nothing to fear but I think TV has so saturated the idea of danger that parents can't help but be overbearing.