I don’t think I’m ever one to second-guess other parents … until Halloween.
On All Hallows Eve, I transform into Judge Judge-y MacJudgerson.
I am that mom. The one who cuts her kids off from trick-or-treating about the time they’re elbowing their way into puberty. I’m not following any developmental guidebook, and I haven’t looked up any studies on kids who later needed therapy because their moms put the kybosh on the candy corn prematurely. It’s just one of the many rules I was raised with that I have arbitrarily selected to enforce on my own progeny.
My own cut-off was sixth grade. Mom thought the age of twelve was awkward enough without shaking down the neighbors with a mask and a pillowcase.
I suggested just doing it for Halloween, but she wouldn’t budge.
So, by fifth-grade, I was one of those mature Hollywood starlets, nearly past her prime at an age anyone else would consider reasonably young, wobbling pathetically around the neighborhood in her pumps and shabby ball gown, jonesing for a bite-sized Snickers, knowing her time is limited.
Hell, even a packet of stale Whoppers from last Easter will work for someone just out looking for attention when the up-and-coming set is perfecting their pitchy “twick or tweeeeet!”
It’s not that I had a huge hankering for candy, but being officially ousted from the circuit was harsh.
But it got worse. In the years after I was no longer trick-or-treating, I was in charge of escorting my little sister.
Funny thing happens to a height-challenged sixth grader escorting her younger but still taller sibling from door to door. As I stood politely at the end of the driveway, waiting for my sister to plaintively present her pillowcase and smile her biggest smile, I’d see the person who answered the door crane her neck to look at me: poor, sad waif standing at the very edge of the glow from the porch light.
“Aww, who’s that now, out there? Come here, honey, didn’t you dress up this year? Let me get you a bag for this … hang on, Howard? Howard! Get this poor girl a pillow case, will you? Little thing went out without any costume or anything, here, give me your niners cap … there, now, honey. You go be a ‘niners fan. You will absolutely clean up in this neighborhood, now won’t you? Here’s some Tart-n-Tinys. No you take two, now here’s a Snickers, we have to make up for lost time, don’t we?”
My own experience as an undersized adolescent notwithstanding, I think kids need to be cut off from the trick or treat train at some point, and it’s usually somewhere around the time when their voice starts to crack, they start to show cleavage, or when I can no longer be of any help with the math homework.
I’d like to say I don’t judge other parents, but I do, and it’s most often when their kid comes to my door with his own facial hair and a voice that’s a couple octaves below that guy from Sha-Na-Na. I’m the one to give him that squinty look with one eyebrow raised and wonder whose parents let their kids go schlepping for snacks at 11 o’clock on a school night and at what point can I turn out my porch light without inviting a good egging.
When we told Jack he should stay home and help us hand out candy rather than extort the neighbors, he seemed okay with it. In the years since, there have even been parties for him to attend, or other distractions, as his peers slowly came to the realization that wandering around the neighborhood in the first cold snap of the year was less than optimal.
And there’s the fact that his younger brother shares in the Halloween booty, so he’s never felt the need to complain.
For his part, Colin is verging on the deadline, but probably due an extra year of trick-or-treating. We traveled to Guatemala two years ago, and missed the holiday. It was fine when I explained that they don’t celebrate Halloween in Guatemala, and so the opportunity for a candy grab would pass him by completely without his notice.
Imagine our consternation, then, when we were having dinner in a restaurant on the night in question, and one-by-one each of the village kids came in to trick or treat?
We didn’t have the expected booty, of course. After we gave up the salt and pepper shakers and all our silverware and a broken mint I’d found in my purse, we were left with a pissed off wait staff and one seriously mopey kid.
“I thought you said they didn’t do that here?”
Well, dadgum it all if this wasn’t the first year they did?
So, Colin would have been cut off this year, but he’s won an extension. Besides which, if Colin doesn’t trick-or-treat, from whom will I mooch my favorite Bottlecaps and LemonHeads for the next few weeks?
So, we decided if Colin wants to go, he can go. His voice hasn’t changed just yet, and there’s only the wisp of a hint of facial hair, which could be mistaken for a smudge of dinner he hasn’t wiped off his lip.
But when I ask how he’s going to dress up, Colin tells me he’s not really all that interested in going. He just shrugs and tells me it’ll depend upon what his friends are doing and if he can tag along.
So this year, when the kid with the Sha-Na-Na voice comes to call with his bag full of booty, it may be my youngest son holding the bowl.
I gotta work with him on the one raised-eyebrow, squinty thing.
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And, if you haven’t done so yet, check this out! Motherhood: May Cause Drowsiness is finally out! ManicMumbling is part of a collection of hilarious tales (in retrospect, I mean, sleep deprivation is rarely funny when it’s happening, except in that crazy, they’re-coming-to-get-me kind of way, right?), with some of my favorite bloggers.
Let me know what you think!