The Ups and Downs of Halloween

Halloween isn't my favorite holiday but my kids love it.

watercolor of a sad lonely pumpkin patch
Image created via Midjourney

Halloween isn't my favorite holiday. It's very people-y with large swaths of trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood. I don't like staying out late and it's almost always cold.

I don't have overly fond memories of trick-or-treating as a child because we lived out in the country and had to drive from house to house because the houses were so far apart. So we went to the homes of about 10 neighbors and that was it. My candy haul was far below the other kids in my class — always a disappointment to a young child.

But my kids love Halloween. They have the typical Halloween experience that I never had: running from house to house, knocking quickly, admiring any decorations, and running to the next house. While the parents stand huddled on the sidewalk in the cold, wondering when the kids will run out of energy or run out of space in their buckets for candy.

Then there was Trunk-or-Treat at our elementary school yesterday. Talk about "too people-y." I was incredibly overwhelmed. I didn't like big crowds before Covid and now it is an anxiety-inducing situation. People, germs, sugar, and a LOT of noise.

Autumn quickly retreated to my side. She held my hand the entire time, unwilling to walk forward and hold out her bucket for candy on her own. She had a thin costume so she was shivering the whole time. I'm not sure that she actually enjoyed the event (though she was excited for the candy when she got home).

Much as she shied away from the candy collection, her fact lit up when she saw her friends from kindergarten. She ran over to say hi and one little girl gave her a hug.

I listened intently as they talked to each other. I've been concerned about Autumn's speech, something I intend to discuss with her teacher during parent-teacher conferences. Her speech doesn't seem to be at the same level as her brothers were at that age. But it's hard to pinpoint if it's a problem. She's far younger than they were in kindergarten. And she missed an entire year of preschool due to the pandemic. And most of her conversations with people outside of our house (before this school year) were muffled by a mask.

Still. I can't shake the feelings of guilt. Did we, as parents, step up when preschool closed? No. It was survival mode. I had these grand plans to fill the gaps with reading and numbers at home and it never happened.

But as I listened to Autumn talk with the other little girl, I breathed a sigh of relief. They had similar speech patterns. I'll still talk to her teacher, but maybe I don't need to be concerned. If she's at the same level as her peers, then it's fine. I don't need to hold her against the benchmark of her brothers. They learned to talk in a pre-pandemic world and that world doesn't exist anymore.

As we walked through the crowds, I was on edge for another reason. My eyes were darting around, thinking about running or hiding.

I can't be on school property with a large group of people and not think about an active shooter situation. The mass shootings in this country have made it impossible.

There were local police around the area but it would be so easy for someone to walk up from one of the nearby neighborhoods. I could almost hear the gunshots in my mind. I wanted to keep my kids close, but the older two kept darting away to talk to their friends.

I breathed a sigh of relief when we left.

Halloween is on a Monday this year, so only a few more days. In past years, I've gotten pumpkins to represent our family, including Nelle and Iris. This year, Ger decided to carve two pumpkins with our babies' names. I'm not sure what prompted him to do that but it meant a lot to me.

Two pumpkins with the names "Nelle" and "Iris" carved in them