Rookie Dad: Halloween — What’s In It for Us Parents?
My wife tells me that, even as a kid, she was never a big fan of Halloween. “Why should I get all dressed up and pretend to be something I’m not,” she remembers philosophizing to herself in the second grade.
Traumatic memories mar the holiday for other members of my family, too. My younger brother will never forget the time he stomped into an elementary school party dressed in a plastic Grape Ape costume purchased at the local five-and-dime. Moments after arriving, the plastic ripped in the back, exposing his underwear for the rest of the night. It kind of bums one out to see mighty Grape Ape cry.
And I have my own harrowing Halloween tale etched on my brain. Imagine a skittish 7-year-old following his older brothers into the haunted house sponsored by the youth group at the church down the street. Now, a haunted house sponsored by a youth group at the church down the street may not sound frightening to you, but, believe me, I was shaking in my shoes.
As we approached the church, I noticed the bats flying around the belfry. I had seen them nearly every night during the summer and thought it was cool — a real nature lover’s delight. But around Halloween time, those weren’t helpful, mosquito-eating critters, they were vampire bats ready to swoop down and suck the blood right out of my dirt-ringed neck.
My brothers and I opened the creaky church door and walked down the stairs in darkness. Suddenly, a dim light went on and wholesome Christian youths wearing rubber werewolf masks started hurling cold spaghetti at us. Ahhh! It scared the bejeezus out of me and I hightailed it back out the door as my brothers doubled over with laughter.
So, now I’m the father of two young boys and Halloween is fast approaching. What do I have to look forward to this year — worrying about foreign objects hidden inside the treats? Worrying about convincing my son to actually wear his costume to school (and not have a meltdown on the way out the door like last year)? Worrying about coming up with a cool gift bag for the school party that keeps me in the same league with the super-creative parents of my son’s classmates?
Naw. I’ve decided that I’m going to wipe the slate clean this Halloween. No bad memories. No worries. I’m going to encourage my sons to have fun and I’ll be doing the same. I’m going to find out just what’s in it for me.
My game plan starts with this: candy. Everyone loves candy and I’m no exception. I could eat a whole bag of mini Butterfingers right here, right now, before you finish reading this column. So, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to procure as many Butterfingers as my greedy fingers can get their hands on … or something like that.
I’m going to buy one bag of Butterfingers for the school gift bags and one bag for myself. Later, as I take my sons around the neighborhood for trick-or-treating, I’m going to watch like a hawk for those Butterfingers. When I see someone handing them out, I’ll crouch down behind the kids and deftly squeeze an open bag between them. In drops the candy … plop, plop, plop. One in my older son’s bag, one in my younger son’s bag, one in the bag that mysteriously appeared between the two boys. And, of course, once we get back home, I’ll immediately confiscate all Butterfingers from the boys’ bags. Well, confiscate may be too harsh of a word. Let’s just say, I’ll levy a small tax. They need to get used to that anyway.
My game plan ends with this: as many laughs as we can generate and, to be sure, a fierce bellyache. Halloween should provide great memories, not big worries, and I’m determined to help make that happen for the kids. My older son says that he wants to be Diesel 10, Thomas the Tank Engine’s nemesis. You can’t buy a Diesel 10 costume, but we are going to have one heck of a great time making one.
And we are also going to break out one of my favorite books of all time — “It’s Halloween” by Jack Prelutsky. My mom used to read us this gem of a book — filled with some incredibly fun verses by the former U.S. children’s poet laureate — and I can still remember most of the book by heart. I can’t wait to recite it to my boys.
Halloween. What’s in it for us parents? A lot.
Brian Kantz is trying to decide whether to dress up as the Man with the Yellow Hat or Sir Topham Hatt for Halloween this year. His new book, “Stay-at-Home Dad. Stay. Good Boy.,” is available at www.briankantz.com.