Teenagers and Halloween. Not really a good mix.
I remember when my kids were younger and the big teenagers would come to the door to trick or treat. Sometimes they were in very creepy costumes. Sometimes they were not dressed at all. Sometimes they were in large, loud and obnoxious groups. Sometimes there was the lone teen. Of course we all have experienced the too late trick or treaters - the ones that are still going door to door long after 9 p.m. I remember my grandmother telling me those freaked her out and she wouldn’t answer the door for them.
We would make Halloween a big production here. I have awesome purple and orange Halloween lights that we hang in all of the upstairs windows. Flickering pumpkin lights for the downstairs windows. A gigantic, spider web string of lights for the front door. Over the years we decorated the yard with hay bales, corn stalks, scarecrows, spider webs, tombstones, even a cassette tape of scary music with screams and screeches. Every year we are complemented by the crowds that rang our doorbell. It was something that we did as a family sometimes weeks before the event. In fact, I write this as this would be the time of year that we would start planning all of this.
There were many years that my kids trick or treated as a group costume. My two oldest when they were the only two dressed as Buzz and Woody from Toy Story. When the third son came along we were overflowing with ideas. They were the “Superfriends” – Superman, Batman and Spiderman. Tattooed, mustached construction workers. Camouflaged, face painted Army soldiers. One year they even went as the Blue Man Group. Once my daughter was born, we incorporated her into the program. We were the Wizard of Oz one year and I dressed as the Wicked Witch of the West – green face and all. My husband just told everyone that he was the Wizard. The Flintstones were a big hit too – Fred, Barney, Bam-Bam and Pebbles – I dressed as Betty and we got my husband the “Dino” mask. He wore it for a few minutes to entertain the kids. That one even made into a local newspaper. One year the boys dressed as Maryland Terrapin football players, my daughter dressed in a MD cheerleader outfit, and my husband put a pillow in his shirt and went as Ralph Friedgen. But eventually the boys grew older and didn’t want to do the “group” thing anymore and my daughter decided she needed to be every girly girl costume that she could find. The group broke up.
In addition to the group costume becoming a thing of the past, so did trick or treating as a family. The older boys wanted to go with their friends, leaving the younger two to trick or treat alone. There were years that the older boys wanted to dress in group costumes with their friends but that never worked out. Too many mothers and their creativity were involved at that point. Eventually Son #3 wanted to go with his friends and not be stuck with his little sister. Finally, last year my daughter invited a couple of friends and I took them around the neighborhood while the boys were all off with their individual friends.
Another thing that changes throughout the Halloween years is the type of costumes they want to wear. Something happens to kids at the middle school age. They still want to trick or treat but they want to be something really creepy or scary or what I would consider inappropriate. I have always told my kids, “When being something funny or silly isn’t cool anymore – perhaps you are too old to trick or treat. “ I still feel that way. I know that this is a difficult transition for them though.
Son #1 was invited to a Halloween party in 8th grade. As hard as I tried to convince him that I had fantastic ideas of things he could be other than something horrid – it was important to him to get a scary mask. My husband and I went shopping with him and looked for something that we might all agree on. It was not easy and eventually we allowed him to buy a mask that I found to be the least offensive of the choices and he went to his party.
The next year, Son #1 decided he wasn’t going out trick or treating. He made the decision alone. He shrugged it off and seemed that it was not something he was interested in pursuing any further. I felt sad. For him. And for me. And for all of those years of picking out costumes and dressing up. His little face flashed before me as I reviewed his 14 years of costumes. I could hear his gravelly, little voice ever so sweetly saying “Twick ora Tweet.” I realized at that moment that the group was broken forever.
Even though they hadn’t gone together in a couple of years – I had always held out hope that they would have a reunion of sorts. This was this year that the Halloween decorations only went up a week before Halloween rather than early October. I was losing momentum with the loss of the older son’s participation.
That night at the very last minute he came upstairs dressed in his army fatigues. He said he was just going to hand out candy but he felt like being dressed up. Then he asked if he could walk around with me as I took his younger brother and sister around. I could feel his disappointment. I think he wanted nothing more than to grab his pillow case and race across those lawns and fill it up with candy. We talked about it a bit and he confessed how conflicted he was feeling. Watching the other three return home and empty their bags to begin their annual candy swap and count - left him on the outside.
So last year at 15 he didn’t dress or do anything. He was quiet about it – as was I. He thought about dressing up in his scary mask and scarring kids in the bushes when they came to the door. But that is just not who Son #1 is. He is just too kind to do that. In the end, he just stayed home. He did help me put up the decorations though. We actually did that on Halloween night – right before trick or treating around 5:00 p.m. They stayed up for a few hours and by 10:00 p.m. he helped me take it all down. What had once been weeks of fun had become a few short hours.
Also last year, Son #2 had made big plans to dress in a group costume with his friends for weeks. But apparently, at the last minute the group of mothers in charge of their 8th grader’s Halloween costumes, decided he wouldn’t be part of the group. So still trying to be proactive and forge a Halloween night for himself, he made himself a “hobo/bum” kind of costume, definitely pathetic in nature and headed out to trick or treat. After all of the grand costumes we had prepared over the years, it seemed anti-climactic to me that this was how it was going to end. He returned to the house fairly early with one friend and seemed disappointed. I had seen this before. He was wrapping up his Halloween career like his older brother.
Son #3 is in 7th grade this year. He hasn’t mentioned what he’d like to be or who he is planning to go with. It is still early. I am sure those things will start to swirl in conversation soon. I am expecting this to be the year of him wanting to be something scary or inappropriate. The years of his grandmother and I making his dream costume appear are over. I wonder if Son #1 still has his ghoulish mask. The thought of putting out more money on one of those things is annoying to me and I know that his is what Son #3 will want to be this year.
And that leaves my 10 year old daughter. Last year she was Cleopatra. She has been scouring catalogs and the internet for the perfect costume for the past 3 weeks or so. She has narrowed it down to a couple of choices now. The excitement is still building for her. The anticipation of what to wear and the collection of candy are mounting. She is my lone trick or treater now. I’m not sure that she really remembers too many of the group dress-up outings. She was probably 6 the last time that happened. I know that it isn’t fair to her that I let my enthusiasm diminish with the boys. I know that I have to keep the magic of the night alive for her just like I did when Son #1 was the only child before the others came.
I have debated about suggesting that maybe one of the kids would like to have a Halloween party here at the house this year. Should it be the highschoolers? Perhaps my middle schooler? Maybe my daughter would like to do it. I haven’t said anything out loud yet. Just an idea that I keep toying with. I certainly have enough decorations in the attic at my disposal and maybe it is a way for us all to plan a Halloween night together as a family one last time. Maybe it could provide an excuse for the older boys to dress up again and have it be “cool”. Maybe it is a way for me to deal with the maturation of my family. I’m thinking that I would even like to dress up again. It would be nice to have one last picture of all my family dressed up together. After all, she might want to be Alice in Wonderland this year – I know that soon she will want to be some freak psycho-vampire-cheerleader, and who really wants a picture of that?