parenting advice, as my methodology for raising my children is a combination of conditioning Pavlovian responses and learned helplessness. Except in the most unusual of circumstances, I would not advocate accepting my techniques unless you like sitting in your home wondering if the next knock at the door is going to be someone from Child Services. Regardless of my past reluctance to advise the populace, with the Fall in full swing, I believe the time is ripe to disseminate the following advice about Halloween.
I have two sons, Michael and Joe. Michael is three years old and Joe is twenty-one months. Halloween 2016 was the first Halloween that I took my kids trick-or-treating.
I contemplated taking Michael out on Halloween in 2016, but (1) he was a little young (only eighteen months old), (2) his mom purchased a head-to-toe, velour pink pig costume for him to wear around the house on Halloween (all pictures have been destroyed) and (3) there was no way in hell I was taking my kid out in the neighborhood in the pink pig costume (think Ralphie from “A Christmas Story”). (We just had moved to the neighborhood and I didn’t want to be known as the “dad with that little nerd in the pink pig costume.” I am a big believer that a person is judged, in part, based on who he associates with. I’ve heard many people say most parents are rarely embarrassed by their children. Those people never saw this costume.)
As Halloween 2016 approached, I was discussing my plans with my young, naïve, and somewhat dim-witted brother. He told me he was planning on taking his one-year old daughter out trick-or-treating. Knowing there was no way he was going to let his little princess eat a bucket full of candy, I questioned the logic of such a decision. I implored him to rethink has plan. His neighbors would know the candy wasn’t for his daughter. A one-year-old can barely move on his or her own and surely doesn’t have the dexterity to open countless candy-bars, Tootsie Rolls, miniature boxes of Nerds and an assortment of lollipops. It is far more likely that a one-year old will ingest a pound of waxed candy wrappers before tasting the corn syrupy goodness of a Snickers bar. It was that exchange that precipitated the following piece of advice. My brother made a foolish error in judgment, one I hope all of you will avoid in the future.
Halloween-A Rare Chance At Parental Revenge
Halloween is a fun time for children and their parents. It is also one of the few times we as parents, guardians, aunts, uncles, and grandparents can recoup some small, insignificant portion of the monumental financial and emotional and investment we all make in our kid(s). Halloween leaves you two, non-mutually exclusive options to exact this recoupment: (1) scare the crap out of your kids with a Halloween trick and/or (2) raid their candy stash.
Playing tricks isn’t all its cracked up to be
My boys are still young. They were young at Halloween in 2016 and I suppose they will still qualify as young this Halloween. I am a strong advocate of toughening the kids up with cage matches, manual labor, general home and yard maintenance, waterboarding and other non-lethal “manly” activities. Given my over-arching parenting philosophy, it seems logical then that I would be a strong proponent of elaborate Halloween tricks to exact my revenge for the previous twelve months of scares, near heart attacks and countless gray hairs I endured due to their shenanigans. But alas, things are not always as they seem.
Given the ages of my boys, I ‘m not sure it would be a worthwhile investment of time and energy to terrify or play pranks on them. The primary problem with elaborate, bone-shaking, excrement- inducing pranks is the children will probably start crying before you even reach the crescendo of terror in your little prank. The child’s premature reaction effectively renders all of the planning, scheming and time and effort to the waste pile.
For example, if you dress up like Jason or Leatherface and jump out of the shadows with a live chainsaw to scare the kids, the kids will flip their lids and burst into hysterics before you even get the chance chase them around the house and trick the into believing you dismembered the family dog. Inevitably, upon realizing you wasted all of that time and effort to orchestrate the prank, most likely you’ll become a little hot and maybe even a little bothered. The “fun,” orchestrated terror for the kids could evolve into true terror as your frustration boils over and you “really give them something to be scared of.” No one wants that especially if a weapon is part of your prank. Secondly, but almost equally important, if you’re prank is planned appropriately and effective in its presentation, the kids will soil themselves. As a result, the kids (and your wife) will have the last laugh as you steam clean the rug, mop the kitchen floor and wash multiple loads of laundry.
Five Rules For Maximizing Candy Recovery
Eating the children’s candy is definitely the safest (and tastiest) route to go until the children are at least sufficiently toilet-trained to endure the more psychologically trying pranks. But how do you maximize this opportunity not only in the short term, but also for years to come?
Everyone knows when a dad is taking his one-year old out trick-or-treating that the kid isn’t going to enjoy most of the candy he/she receives. It’s all for the dad. As a result, the neighbors skimp when handing out candy. Even more problematic is that my brother’s shortsighted greed has screwed him for years to come. Your neighbors might not remember much, but they’ll probably remember the creepy dad who dragged his frightened, unintelligible one-year old out for Halloween to go trick-or-treating.
Here are a few guidelines to consider when deciding whether to go trick-or-treating:
1. Go when the kid(s) are young, but not too young. I have no doubt, my brother screwed up by taking his daughter out when she was too young. She was too little and the neighbors knew she wasn’t going to get any of the candy. She could barely walk, she couldn’t talk, and she probably just sat in the stroller with a glazed, confused, frightened look on her face. Michael was almost the right age at 2.5 years old when I first took him out and about. He was old enough to walk on his own. He was speaking well enough that, using training techniques focusing on rote memorization, I could get him to say “trick-or-treat,” “I’m an astronaut,” “yes please” and “thank you.” While not completely potty-trained, he could hold it for the hour we were out.
Most importantly, Michael could not remember everything he received, thereby making my job of pillaging his loot that much easier. There was a downs28ide. Michael was still a little young so he tired easily, his legs were short so he walked slowly, and tried to open each piece of candy he received as he did not comprehend that we were bringing all of it back with us. These downsides were minor when compared to the payout at the end of the night. Overall I would say it was a net-positive.
2. DO NOT DRESS UP! This is not an indictment of those adults who like to dress up for Halloween for proper occasions, but taking your kids trick-or-treating is not one of them. First off, it’s creepy. Oversized characters from Harry Potter or Star Wars have tendencies to freak out the other little kids walking around the neighborhood. Furthermore, the practice could get you put on some sort of Megan’s Law watch list. Last year we had a six-foot two-inch man dressed in a full Darth Vader costume, with light saber, show up at our door with his three kids. I opened the door, and upon seeing the man, quickly slammed the door shut and whisked my wife and Michael to the attic for safety. Luckily the cops responded within minutes to my 911 call. Second, and more important, a fully costumed adult is going to dissuade the neighbors from giving your kid extra candy either because (1) they’re freaked out and won’t open the door, or (2) they’ll think you’re enjoying the holiday a little too much and realize you’ll eat half of whatever is given to the kid.
3. Consider using a transportation device. I took a wagon for Michael and Joe this year. I actually hoped I would be able to set Joe in the wagon and transport beer in the other half, but as discussed above Michael has short legs and only had the limited stamina of a two-and-a-half year old, so the wagon was fully occupied for the evening. In future years, I hope to convert it to a beverage transportation device. Having a few beers as you round the block helps you keep warm, and it’s a means of greasing the palms of a few of the more tight-fisted neighbors. The message is clear: I’m giving you a beer; empty that bowl of Butterfingers into my kid’s plastic pumpkin.
4. Refrain from selecting candy for your child. I cannot stress this point enough. Children often are indecisive when presented with a basket of candy. Be patient and let them choose for themselves. While there certainly will be a few selections you’d prefer they not make, chances are, they will get the opportunity to pick multiple pieces of candy and their choices will even out (plus, you can just let your kid keep the crappy candy). My experience with young children is as follows: when your neighbor sees the child is picking out his/her own candy without any influence from Dad, rather than wait around for the kid to fumble through the bowl of candy, the neighbor is inclined to just dump a handful of candy in to the bag thereby increasing the likelihood of getting acceptable, tasty candy. If you are truly concerned about the quality of candy, I suggest training your children over the two or three weeks leading up to Halloween. Set out several brands of candy (e.g. Almond Joys, Mounds, Neccos, Snickers, Milky Ways) and attach electrodes to those you do not want the child to choose, e.g. Almond Joys, Mounds, miniature box of raisins. When the child reaches for those candies designated as tasteless and unworthy, you shock the child so he/she will know not to make that mistake again.
5. Finally, have your arguments and rebuttals ready to go. Last Halloween Michael was still pretty young so I didn’t get a lot of sass when I rifled through his bag for a Butterfinger and some Reese’s Cups, but I can see that day is coming. I am a strong believer of leading with power, so the best answer to any question, on Halloween or otherwise, is “Because I said so.” Then end the discussion. However, there are a few other responses if you don’t want to waste that club of a response on something like Halloween candy. When your kids asks you why you should get to have their candy consider some of the following responses: (a) “I want it” (b) “My money bought you that little costume you’re wearing so I’ve earned it” (c) “We’re communists so it all goes in the same pot” (d) “You can have the candy, but then you’re going to the dentist” and (e) “I heard old Mr. _____ was hiding razor blades in there, so I need to test this candy out.”
I hope this advice helps and that all of you take this to heart. Godspeed.