Once upon a time, Halloween was about my kids and I shopping and making costumes together. We went online and to stores, I shared ideas that were welcomed with great consideration, and we established a list of options. Then a new chapter began this year when my 11 year old ordered her costume all by herself and my 13 year old decided not to get one at all. I wasn’t even in the mix, well other than giving the final approval for the type and expense of the costume.
For as long as my kids can remember, we had our Halloween tradition. A family who we have known since my son was thirteen weeks old would come over to our house. The kids would get into costume together, faces would be made-up, hair was tended to, and giggles were plentiful. We ate dinner and drank out of skull cups. Pictures were taken and more laughter abounded.
At that point, it was officially kickoff time! We left our bowl of candy on our front porch with a sign that read “please take two pieces,” since we all wanted to experience trick-or-treating with our kids. And yes, that bowl was probably emptied by that kid at some point. None of the four adults could bear to miss the speeding across lawns, the knocks at doors, the sound of their sweet voices saying “trick-or-treat” in unison, or the tripping and stumbling over their bags of candy. And along the way, we were able to catch up with neighbors who had become distant due to life’s chaos, met new neighbors, saw good friends, and enjoyed strolling carefree while taking in our children’s’ excitement.
Now I see how special Halloween was. Now I feel an aching in my heart for those moments. While Halloween remains unchanged for many of you, it has made an about face for us this year. We are empty-nesters this year. For the first time, the bowl of candy will not be on our front porch. For the first time, we will be answering our door. And for the first time, we will not have even one of our kids to go trick-or-treating with.
At 11 and 13, they rightfully have earned their milestone badge: the badge that allows them to celebrate the day however they choose. They don’t need mom and dad by their sides, they don’t need us this year. I am happy sad for them, however I have not shared how I feel with them. That would be unfair. My son is just going to hang out with some of the guys. My daughter is going to a friend’s house to trick-or-treat. The costumes my daughter coordinated make my smile as I write this. They came up with them all on their own: mustard and ketchup. My daughter loves mustard on everything. She loves her friend. I love her friend. And I love how excited they are to run out into the night as mustard and ketchup.
So what does Halloween really mean? Halloween is so much more than deciding on what candy to pick out (although by kids would debate that statement). Halloween is precious family time. In the chaos of going back to school, balancing sports and activities, and doing homework, Halloween provides that much needed family time. But remember children grow up. They move on. And they don’t know and shouldn’t know the sting that maybe a mom feels, like the one in my heart. Life evolves and we adapt to change. And Lord help me. Because if I am this sentimental about Halloween, what is college going to do to me in five years?
My advice for all the young families out there: cherish the day! Don’t get upset with your child if they cry over their costume or get too tired. And take lots of pictures!!!
So is it a trick or a treat? Halloween is always a treat.