Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Halloween: A Real Treat

Halloween has become one of the most popular holidays - why is that? Well, with three boys whose candy intake is limited during the rest of the year, it is certainly a big deal in our house. I am mostly a passive observer in the run up to the big night. The boys and their Mum work on their costumes together and decorate the house with stencils, spiders, webs, rubber rats etc. while I try and stay out of the way. My wife works during the week and so has to cram in the parenting in the evenings, weekends and holidays. On occasions like this, she goes FULL OUT, which is exhausting but I've found if I just stay out of her way lots of fun things get done that I'm too tired, lazy or grouchy to attend to myself. I am usually very happy with the results.

One of these happy results is the great costumes she puts together with the kids every year (I can still visualize my own Mum swearing with pins in her mouth as she stitched together costumes for me and my siblings when I was a kid). It's fun to have such a costume but there's no way I'd do the same for my own kids (see lazy, tired and grouchy reference above). They looked fantastic though and we all got a great kick out of them on the night. My personal favourite was my 7 year old as a garden gnome, with a stuffy in his shirt to give him the proper tummy.

The key to have this costume making work with three kids is that she has involved them in the process from the beginning (something my own Mum didn't really think to do (thank god)) and they contribute to the process with various levels of helpfulness. The result is a more meaningful and personal costume - to the degree that when she asked my eldest (11) if many other kids at his school Halloween event made their own costumes he spat out with contempt, "No." And then asked whose costume was the best he said simply, "Mine." Love it.

We have taken to applying this principle of child-involvement to everyday things - we call it the Helper Elf system. On a rotating basis the boys help with making dinner, setting the table and cleaning up. My 7 year old remarked sourly on the weekend that he liked it better before we started this "whole elf business". It's sometimes no help at all and often it is a hindrance to getting stuff done, especially if you want it done quickly but, increasingly things click into place and getting dinner ready is a lot faster and you have a nice chat with your kid who normally says, "I don't know" when you ask them what's going on with their life.

One of my few Halloween responsibilities is carving the pumpkin. This year we had two to do and I was wondering how I'd get them done in time but, again by involving the kids, I ended up doing it really quickly and it was... FUN (which, let's be honest, these family things can sometimes not be with all the time pressures and expectations etc.). We had a great time working on them. I had the guys scoop out the gunk and I carved the faces based on designs the kids did. My eldest even baked up a couple of batches of pumpkin seeds. Tasty.

Then my wife showed up and took the younger two out in the rain to Trick or Treat while I handed out candy at the house and quizzed kids on their costumes. My eldest has now gone out on his own with friends for the last couple of years and this has also been great - he is able to get some freedom and independence and have a good time. I'd rather not know what he gets up to. It's funny that the "scariest" night of the year is the one I feel most comfortable with him wandering the streets at night - it is full of people, neighbours and friends.  The whole night is quite the treat and I'm grateful to have such a low fuss holiday.

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