Yesterday was Halloween. It is an event that I have wrestled with for years. On the one hand I enjoy costumes and candy and a reason to gather and have fun. On the other hand I dislike the glorification of evil and gore that goes hand in hand with this particular day. There is real evil in the world and some people have experienced it first hand. I wonder how people who have run from a genocide feel about a yard decorated with hanging skeletons and open graves…
The kids of the other mother who are currently in our care have never participated in Halloween. They say their mother was afraid of it and so they were never allowed to dress up or go trick or treating. When I look through the eyes of someone who doesn’t understand our culture and has roots in the war torn continent of Africa I empathize with her. The other mother may have seen and experienced horror in her lifetime and would be baffled at this apparent celebration of death.
So we began trying to navigate how to participate in Halloween with these two! Costumes for school on Thursday was the first hurdle. I used to have a lot of odds and sods that we threw costumes together from…most of it has been purged (Thanks Marie Kondo). So we found ourselves scrambling to meet the deadline and pull something together! I think we nailed it! PT Barnum and the Thing from The Swamp had a great day.
Baking for the class party was also on the list and of course we wanted to knock it out of the park so it was cookies and cake pops. She had never baked for her class before so fully participated and loved every minute of it! She was so proud to take her contribution and share it with her class.
Both of them asked if they could trick or treat with their friends and I struggled with how to communicate to them that I wasn’t comfortable with a group of kids running around in the dark collecting candy. It isn’t that I don’t trust them, but to borrow a favourite quote from the movie Men in Black by Kay, “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.”. Herd mentality takes over when teenage boys travel in packs. These kids have no frame of reference for this event so I felt they needed some guidance.
So we decided I would take them out for the evening and show them what trick or treating is like! But first we carved their pumpkins after school. I say “their” pumpkins because they actually had their names on them. My mom does this cool thing where she scratches the kids names on a small green pumpkin and as they grow and ripen the name becomes scarring on the pumpkin! The kids were awed at the pumpkins that bore their names! Carving a jack o lantern was new to them but they did a great job and we roasted the seeds.
After a good supper (the last healthy meal they may eat for a day or two as they gorge on chips and candy) we handed out candy at our door for a while and then got ready to head out. After all the lobbying to go with their friends I basically had to drag them out the door to go when the time came. Suddenly staying home and watching TV seemed more inviting than facing the unknown.
At the first few houses they were tentative and hesitant… I went over the guidelines
- Use the sidewalk, don’t walk on the grass (no matter what the other kids are doing)
- Only go to houses with the front light on
- Ring the bell and call “Trick or Treat”
- Wait politely
- Answer questions when people ask you
- Always say Thank you!
Then they got into it and we were off! They were excited as pop, chips and candy landed in the pillowcase they thought they would never fill! (It was almost too heavy for her to carry by the time we were done). They glowed as they received compliments on their costumes. I enjoyed watching them experience an evening of magic as we walked in the dark, collected goodies from the homes and chatted with the people who were out and about.
As we sat and sorted through candy (peanut free only to school the rest has to be eaten at home) and chatted about the evening they were happy. Given full permission to eat as much of anything as they wanted they both carefully picked a bag of chips, a pop and 3 chocolate bars to “indulge”. (I wasn’t going to teach them about gluttony and tell them how much my kids would eat on Halloween night!)
The evening was good. I wish the other mother could have experienced it with us. I would have loved to walk her through the experience in my world. It was laughter and joy and sweets. There was nothing to be afraid of. I am thankful for the privilege of safety here.
As we continue to share our world with these 2 children I hope it continues to be positive. They need laughter and joy and safety… maybe not sweets! We are 6 months in and starting to feel like they are a part of our home!
In the midst of the mess