Last year, as my 11-year-old daughter and I put the finishing touches on her Halloween costume, my 13-year-old son watched us quietly. Now that he was in middle school, he’d decided that he wasn’t going to get dressed up for Halloween, choosing instead to hand out the candy at our door. He had insisted for weeks that he’d outgrown the ritual of dressing up like his favorite childhood characters.
But as I watched him, I could tell he was feeling bummed about missing out on the fun. I again asked him if he wanted to change his mind. “No,” he said, “I’m going to skip it this year.”
As teenagers often do, though, he wound up changing his mind. Two days before Halloween. Naturally.
Because I didn’t have time to take him shopping, my husband was elected to drag him to the Halloween store to buy a last-minute, overpriced costume that hadn’t been picked over.
“Godspeed!” I called as he herded my son out the door.
When they got home, I could hear their laughter from the other end of the house. They were howling with delight, and when I found them in the kitchen, my son’s face was flushed pink with excitement.
“Mom, you’ll never guess what Dad let me buy!” He made me promise to wait in the kitchen as he rushed past me to try on his new costume. As my eyes met my husband’s, his eyes danced with amusement. He was just as excited as my son, and I stood patiently waiting for my son to emerge from the bathroom in his costume.
And when he came out of the bathroom, I burst out laughing.
They had purchased a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man costume, complete with an air compressor that filled the costume with air.
My 6-foot tall son, with his gangly arms and legs, stomped around the house, laughing hysterically and chasing his sister. He was positively gleeful as he talked about how much fun it was going to be to go trick-or-treating after all.
As I watched him act like the little boy he used to be at Halloween, my heart filled with joy.
He might tower over me and have a deepening voice, but he’s still a kid. Deep down, he still wanted to enjoy the one holiday that was expressly designed for kids to have fun and be creative.
And because of this joy, you’ll never catch me grumbling about some teen who shows up at my door on Halloween night.
Teens deserve to have fun on Halloween like the rest of us, and I’m sick of people trash talking the kids who want to hang on to childhood for a few years longer.
I’ve heard all of the arguments: “No costume, no candy,” and “Teenagers are so rude,” and “Halloween is for little kids.” Miss me with that bullshit, okay?
We are so quick to judge teens, and we expect them to grow up so much faster than our generation did. People rail that teens make bad choices when it comes to drinking and partying. We hear parents complaining about speeding tickets and missing curfews. And sweeping generalizations are made about teens as a group: They are rude. They are obnoxious. They can’t hold conversations thanks to texting.
But as a mother of a teen, I have been delighted to learn that teens are actually a dynamic, resourceful group, and they love to have good clean fun.
That’s why we need to let teens trick or treat without any lip from the haters.
Why in the world would we discourage them from participating in an activity that is not only an excuse to hang with their friends face-to-face, but also an opportunity to put creativity into action. Personally, the thought of my teen spending a few hours putting a costume together or coordinating a group costume with friends is not something I’m willing to squelch.
Teens simply cannot win today. They are either chastised for making bad decisions or given a hard time for wanting to participate in a ritual they have come to love since they were kids. I’m an adult, and I love going to costume parties. So why are we so quick to tell teens that they can’t indulge in a little Halloween fun?
And yes, I know there are teens who don’t bother with costumes, and for some reason, that drives people bananas. Seriously? You’d rather have those plain-clothed teens hang out in someone’s basement, testing boundaries and limits with alcohol and smoking, than hand them a few Snickers bars? Folks, we need to lay off teens and let them explore safe, fun ways to have fun. And we can start by not judging the group of teens that shows up to your door, laughing and joking and having a good time.
Teens who are having constructive, good-natured fun are always welcome at my door. As long as my teens want to dress up and participate in the fun, I will make sure they can hold on to that little piece of childhood as long as they can.
And I will make sure they ask every house for extra Almond Joys. Because if they are going to go trick-or-treating, the least they can do is support their mother’s candy habit.