Teens, You Can Trick-or-Treat at My House

Teen dressed up for HalloweenIt seems that every Halloween, the debate over “how old is too old to go trick-or-treating” resurfaces, and people start taking sides, engaging in online discussions about what will happen if we let middle school and high school students dress up and ask for candy on Beggar’s Nights.

This discussion has been fueled this year by the passing of a law in a small town in Canada banning kids over the age of 16 from trick-or-treating and instituting a 8 p.m. curfew for all trick-or-treaters. Those found in violation of this law could be fined $200. Now, this new law actually relaxed a previous law which banned kids over 14 from trick-or-treating and set the curfew at 7 p.m., but it still maintains the steep fine for those kids who don’t comply.

My response to this? Ridiculous.

Unbeknownst to the lawmakers in Bathurst, once you become a teenager, you do not automatically become a criminal, or even just a mischief-maker. The Bathurst city spokesman said that the “older residents” were concerned about “troublemakers.” How stereotypical is that, on both ends of the spectrum. Teenagers aren’t scary, or at least they shouldn’t be seen as so! These adolescents are trapped between wanting to stay a little kid and wanting to skip right to adult. It’s a tough road to navigate, if you don’t remember actually being a teenager yourself. It’s filled with confusion, doubt, friendships, heartache, anticipation and insecurity. But here’s the deal: When we make laws like this, we are sending the message that we don’t want them to still be able to act like kids once in a while. They should just go straight to being adults–but not the kind of adults who can be trusted not to smash pumpkins or take candy from babies.

Will older-looking 12-year-olds be forced to carry identification with them to prove that they are “of age” if stopped on the street by a cop or over-zealous resident looking for the chance to make a citizen’s arrest? Will kids’ trick-or-treating routines now include showing door answerers a birth certificate before reciting “Why didn’t the skeleton go trick-or-treating?” (Because he had no guts, if you were wondering.) Way to suck all the fun out of Halloween, Bathurst.

I work with teenagers, and I have three teenage boys of my own. Teenagers are not inherently bad. They are not going to automatically take a mile if you give them an inch. They aren’t all plotting how they can scare small children and terrorize adults. Most would not go egg a house even if you supplied the carton of eggs and a getaway driver. They care about people. They want people to care about them. They will amaze you in so many ways if you just give them the opportunity to show you who they really are, beneath that “scary black hoodie” or behind that SnapChat profile.

Now will some teenagers take advantage of opportunities, like trick-or-treating? Will some use it as a chance to grab two handfuls of candy instead of just taking one piece? Will some see Halloween as the excuse to use bad judgment and partake in some genuine “mischief”? Absolutely. But it’s no different with adults. Given the opportunity, will some adults take advantage of a situation or use terrible judgment when making decisions? You bet. Most teenagers will opt to either stay home and help hand out candy to little kids who come to their door, get together at a friend’s house to watch a scary movie on Netflix or maybe embrace that inner 8-year-old and dress up like a zombie or walk around the block in that unicorn onesie they got for their birthday.

And I know this may be a controversial statement, but I truly believe it: Teenagers will be who you show them they are. If you show them you think they are responsible kids, with mostly good intentions, the majority will rise to the occasion. But if you show them that they aren’t to be trusted and must be kept in line by force of law, many will do what they can to prove you right. It’s a generalization, I know, and there are definitely exceptions, but in my experience this has been the case. Do teenagers need boundaries? Definitely. They are still learning about the relationship between actions and consequences. They need guidance from those who have been where they are. But there’s a difference between setting boundaries and enforcing punishment based on things that are out of their control, like when they were born.

So, teens, if you’re listening, you can come trick-or-treat at my house. In fact, PLEASE come trick-or-treat at my house! At least I will know that you’re not out drinking somewhere or driving too fast on the way back from a haunted attraction an hour away. I would love to see what creative costume you come up with, or, even if you don’t want to go the costume route, you can still come knock on my door and ask for candy. I’ll gladly give it to you. It’s okay to be a kid once in a while, and Halloween gives you the perfect excuse to forget about all those stresses that come with being a teenager and just have fun.

And to the teens in Bathurst, I know it’s quite a drive, but if you’re in the neighborhood, you’re invited, too. And I promise, even if you ring my doorbell at 8:02, I won’t call the cops on you.

Halloween, ninjas and Cloris Leachman

Happy Halloween! Well, if you’re weird like us Central Iowans, you celebrated tonight with trick-or-treating. (We do “Beggar’s Night,” which is never actually on Halloween. Yeah, I know. Weird.)

Boys #2 and #3 were ninjas, and Boy #1 just hung out as his friend’s house and played video games. (Which I was really okay with.) It was a beautiful evening. High of 70 today with little wind. The boys didn’t even have to wear coats over their ninja costumes! In fact, this afternoon Boy #3 went outside in a sleeveless shirt and shorts and flew his Bakugan kite. Not many Halloweens here in Iowa that we can do that!

I don’t have photos uploaded yet, and I’m just too lazy to do it right now. (Possibly due to the sugar coma I think I’m experiencing. I was the one who handed out candy this year, and it went something like this: One for Batman, one for me. One for Mary Poppins, one for me. One for the little boy whose head looks like it’s split open with his brain exposed, one for me.)

So instead of photos, I have a clip for you from my new second-favorite TV show (after 30 Rock, of course). Please tell me you’ve seen Raising Hope. If you haven’t, go to Hulu right now and watch every episode. It’s hysterical but also smart and sweet. And I think that Cloris Leachman is now giving Tina Fey some serious competition to be my BFF. Is it weird that I daydream about having a slumber party with Tina and Cloris where we eat Funyuns and graham cracker-chocolate frosting sandwiches while we make prank phone calls and giggle until we finally fall asleep during a marathon viewing of “The Facts of Life”?

Why does Halloween have to be scary?

What I like about Halloween:

  • Candy
  • Pumpkins
  • Candy
  • It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!
  • Candy

What I hate about Halloween:

  • Anything scary

It’s official. The last of my boys has gone over to “the dark side.” Looking through websites at possible costumes, Boy #3 became entirely angry with me because, as he put it, “You just want me to be something CUTE! I don’t want to be cute—I want to be SCARY!” And no, he didn’t think that anything I pointed out was “scary” enough, either.

I wonder how he’d feel if he knew that when he was 1 he went trick-or-treating as a white and pink bunny. AND that the costume was a hand-me-down from his girl cousins.

No, instead, he was pointing out costumes like these:

This costume is called “Corpse Child.” Oh, how every mom longs to dress up her child as a corpse! And if the photo doesn’t let you see enough detail, read the description:

“Costume Includes: shirt with fiber optic latex chest piece and latex mask. This gray long sleeve shirt with fiber optic latex chest piece comes with the blood and the bones. Within your little corpse’s bones are his little rat pets with light-up eyes glowing red with vengence. His latex mask is bloody and boney, too, but features maggots creeping and crawling through open wounds.”

Okay, I just threw up in my mouth a little. Who would buy this costume for a kid?

Have I mentioned how much I hate clowns? After seeing this costume, I will never sleep again.

Now, would you take pictures of your 10-year-old in this costume and share with grandparents? I think it would look really good in a scrapbook…

Now this clown costume is called “Gruesome Giggles, the Horror Clown Killer.” And good news—it comes in size 4-6 so Little Johnny can wear it to the Halloween party at preschool!

Ahh, the Executioner. I think a kid should be required to be able to spell “executioner” before he can wear this costume. (Adults, too. I don’t discriminate.)

This costume is called “Dr. Killer Driller.” Just what we need—one more reason for kids to be scared of going to the dentist!

Note: The “Rotten Flesh Child Costume” does not come with the Skinned Alive Right Foot Prop. That’ll cost you $13.69 extra.

And what’s wrong with Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz? Must we now have an “Evil Scarecrow” as well?

I don’t understand why my boys don’t think the costumes I picked out were “scary” enough. Maybe we just need to broaden our definition of “scary” beyond “so-gory-and-disturbing-it-makes-my-heart-cry”…

What about this hot dog costume? A hot dog can be scary. I mean, if I stop and think about all those nitrates I get plenty scared, not to mention all those miscellaneous animal innards.

Michael Jackson? Enough said.

Okay, I know I mentioned that I love Charlie Brown, but something about this costume gives me the creeps. I’d label it as “disturbing” at least.

And another to file under “disturbing”…

And what about this ghost? He’s plenty scary, right? (Kind of reminds me of a certain unfortunate “white trash ghost” costume I made for Boy #2 one Halloween. It remains the butt of many-a-joke in my family. And, honestly, for good reason.)

Fortunately, I’m the one shelling out money on costumes, so I do have a say in what the boys wear. But I don’t think I’m going to be able to talk any of them into wearing this.

(But it’s sooooooo cute scary!)

Note: I found all of these costumes at HalloweenExpress.com. They do have plenty of non-scary costumes, too. 🙂

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Thriftilicious Thursday—Cheap (or FREE) Halloween Costumes

Halloween is right around the corner. Do you know what your children will be dressing up as yet? If you don’t know yet, just walk through Target or WalMart, and I bet your kids will provide you with about 10 ideas of costumes that they really, really want! It’s hard not to get caught up in the hype. I mean, how cute would your 3-year-old look in that Dora the Explorer costume, complete with Backpack?! However, if you’re like me, you must take a deep breath and remember that Halloween is one day, and most of the time your child will wear that $30 costume for only about two hours. And if you’re in the Midwest like me, it will probably be covered up with a winter coat, hat, and gloves. I’ve collected some great ideas from around the Interweb about how to help your kids have a fun Halloween without blowing your clothing budget for three months in the process. (After all, you’ll be spending enough on the candy to hand out to other trick-or-treaters!)

I remember Halloweens growing up when we wouldn’t decide what we were going to wear until we got off the bus after school, usually about 1 hour before we had to leave to trick-or-treat. (We lived in the country, so our mom drove us all over the county to visit friends. Because of that, though, we were usually gone for about an hour and a half and probably visited only 10 houses. Much different than the dense neighborhood we live in today!) The last-minute Halloween scramble usually left us with about three options: 1) wearing our mom’s bath robe and curlers in our hair; 2) wearing our dad’s coveralls and farm cap; or 3) wearing one of our mom’s old wacky dresses and lots of jewelry and going as a gypsy (pretty sure that’s not PC today). But no matter what hodge-podge of clothing and accessories we threw on, we always had fun and got enough candy to successfully rot our teeth.

Before I link to some great lists of alternatives to store-bought costumes, I just want to say that I’m not anti-costume at all. In fact, my kids have always been big into dressing up. We have a huge tub full of costumes that they wear all year long, year after year, as well as silly hats, my husband’s old coaching shirts, and other random clothes and accessories we’ve collected over the years. For a few years I stalked Target and Toys R Us after Halloween and picked up great costumes for 75% and 90% off. The boys wore them throughout the rest of the year for play and then could choose to wear it for Halloween the next fall. If it’s something your child will have a lot of fun wearing time after time (and it’s fairly comfortable), go for it! Just make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

Right now you can win a costume for year-round play from 5 Minutes for Mom.
Boys #2 and #3 would love this Jr. Knight costume.

And I think it would be so fun to play “post office” with this Jr. Mail Courier costume.

Family Education has a great list of Cheap Halloween Costume Ideas, including an e-mail and a pile of laundry (We could DEFINITELY pull off this costume!).

Want 57 Ideas Using Recycled Cardboard Boxes, Junk and Found Stuff? You’re in luck. And just think, you won’t only be saving money but you’ll be the envy of the neighborhood. Your neighbors will be whispering, “She thinks she’s soooo green, doesn’t she?” No one needs to know whether you did it out of your love for the environment or your love for your bank account.

Here are some great ideas for Costumes From the Closet or Second-Hand Store. I’m all about the Goodwill, and I’ve put together an old man costume, a Captain Cook costume for a biography presentation, and an unfortunate ghost costume that will forevermore be known as the “white trash ghost.” Poor Boy #2. I’m not sure he’ll ever live it down.

This article from WalletPop describes how to look at your local Dollar Store with a Halloween-costume state of mind.

How about dressing up little Junior as a Junk Drawer or a Sticky Note? Find out how to put together some creative costumes without spending a dime here.

My final piece of advice is to just let your kids have fun putting together their own costume. You might have to stick your pride in your back pocket for a while because you’re not going to win the prize for having the “best-dressed child” if he’s wearing an old Power Rangers mask, a baseball jersey, football pants, a superhero cape, a cowboy hat, and snowboots. But one of his best memories someday may just be the year he trick-or-treated as “Super Sports Cowboy Guy.” And after all, that’s what it’s all about, right?

If you’re a Gen-Xer like me, you have to check out these photos from Halloweens past at Are You There God, It’s Me Generation X. I guarantee they’ll take you right back!

Do you have a thriftilicious costume idea? Share, why don’t you?

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