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How My Kids Have Changed What Halloween Means to Me

I grew up in New York City and was raised by an overprotective mom trying to do her best with raising two kids in a foreign land. Born and raised in the Caribbean, my mom had been here for about two years when my brother came along, and I was born six years after that.

By the time we were old enough to go trick-or-treating, she was familiar with the United States, but not familiar enough to let us go knocking on doors asking for anything—especially not candy.

So I grew up celebrating Halloween in my classrooms. I even remember walking around my school with my classmates and teachers to show off our costumes and collect treats. It was fun. Once we got home, though, the costume would go away, and we’d enjoy whatever mom brought us. We even had a plastic orange pumpkin that held everything. You see, she wasn’t anti-Halloween at all. She was just anti-stranger, and she wanted us home and safe. That was that.

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Two years ago, I experienced my first neighborhood trick-or-treat with my son. It was so much fun. He was only two at the time, but just to see the smile on his face as people filled his bag with treats was awesome. I remember thinking: This is what the hype is all about. Cool. We walked home after about 20 minutes because a 2-year-old doesn’t really want to trick-or-treat for long when it’s cold outside. I went through the candy, decided what he could have, and the rest was shared with family (okay, I ate a lot of it, too).

Next week, I will go trick-or-treating with my son, who is now 4, and my daughter, who will soon be 2. I might actually be more excited than they are. It’s such a simple holiday that really doesn’t celebrate much, but it gives kids an opportunity to play pretend and enjoy a night in their neighborhood. They’ll get to knock on doors and say hi to the others kids on the block. They will point at cool costumes and kids will point at theirs (Ironman and Doc McStuffins are the costumes of choice this year).  They will come home exhausted, ready to eat everything, and I will give them a couple of small pieces of candy before telling them to brush their teeth so we can get ready for bed.

I don’t feel like I missed out as a kid. My mom did what she thought was best, and I do appreciate it. We grew up in the inner city, and I know it didn’t always feel safe in her eyes. I also know that being egged and chased by older kids was a real possibility. At least it felt like it was, and my mom agreed. So staying home with my plastic pumpkin and a few cartoons worked out just fine.

But having two kids of my own has changed things. That night of walking through the neighborhood means something, and I am grateful that we live in a neighborhood where it’s an option for my kids. The magic that comes with everyone dressed in costumes, laughing, smiling and sharing treats—well, that magic is priceless. I am grateful for being able to experience Halloween in a new way, and I know these are memories my little ones will have forever.

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