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Why I'm a Halloween Grinch

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  October 29, 2012 07:14 AM

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Call me the Grinch, but I'm not all that sad that it's looking like Hurricane Sandy may put a damper on Halloween.

Part of the problem may be that I've just had too many Halloweens as a parent. This year will be my, um, twenty-second year of having trick-or-treating kids. It's just a lot of years of dealing with costumes, candy, trick-or-treating routes, curfews--and all those middle school kids who come to your door dressed in regular clothes expecting you to put candy in their pillowcases (which I usually end up doing, if only because I don't want to have any leftovers). Small annoyances get bigger over the years.

I think that my biggest annoyance is the excess. As with all things, we Americans can't seem to stop ourselves from supersizing anything, and Halloween is no exception.

Like the candy. Don't get me wrong, I like Halloween candy. Especially candy corn, peanut M and M's, and anything Reese's. But it's unclear to me why the goal of my children (and all their friends) is to get absolutely as much of it as possible. They are on a mission. Goodie bags must be adequately large. Routes are planned for maximum number of houses, being sure to include the houses that give the Best and Most Stuff. They don't want to stop and chat with the neighbors--that would slow them down in their quest for More.

Or the costumes. We have a toyroom full of old costumes and various other dress-up options--and I'm a reasonable seamstress. But what my kids and their friends want are new costumes from the store, the latest and coolest with the best accessories. There have been years when I've been able to get them to compromise, but there is always way more convincing involved than I like (Natasha was not happy when I said no to the $60 dress at iParty). The costume gets worn once or twice max, and mostly in the dark, often with a coat on. Why can't we be a bit more low-key about it?

Or the decorations. I love carved pumpkins with candles inside; my father used to get incredibly artful in his carvings, and my husband is of the same ilk. A few lights or decorations or a spooky noise is fine. But the hanging zombies, the yards covered in spiderweb, gravestones, fake blood and bones--excess when it comes to death and gore and scaring people doesn't feel like a great idea to me.

I know I sound downright curmudgeonly. Hey, I've already admitted to being a Halloween Grinch. But it just seems to me that the only age that gets it really right is preschool. They are happy with whatever costume you give them or make for them, and have fun showing it off to the neighbors. They are content with a short trick-or-treating walk and a small bag of candy (which they usually happy to share). They like homemade, not-so-scary decorations and love carving pumpkins. That works for me. That's fun. 

I guess that's it in a nutshell for me: Halloween doesn't feel fun. Excess has a way of ruining things.

But in the face of a hurricane, excess isn't possible. There's no school today, so we can do some more pumpkin-carving--and the candles inside will work whether or not we have power. We can build a fire in the fireplace and tell ghost stories; we can get sheets from the closet and pretend to be ghosts ourselves, or make cookies, or make decorations out of construction paper. We can get out photo albums and look at pictures of Halloweens past (Natasha loves the picture of her as a baby trying to get her Eeyore hat off). It's likely to still be raining on Wednesday--but maybe, if we do some at-home things before then, it won't be so bad to have a short trick-or-treating route--and stopping to visit with the neighbors will have real appeal, because it will get us out of the rain.

It might just be enough to make me less Grinchy.
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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