Friday, November 2, 2012

On Halloween

I admit it: I was one of those, "If you're not wearing a costume, I'm not giving you candy" types of people. Nothing would make me turn off my porch light faster than a group of kids in t-shirts making up lame excuses, like "I'm a student," or "It's laundry day."

That changed this year.

The neighborhood we live in had fewer porch lights on this year (by half, probably) than when we last trick-or-treated it (about two years ago), and barely any kids in costume (whereas they were nearly all costumed before).  I asked my kid if she thought that if, given the opportunity, kids her age and younger would choose not to wear a costume, and she said she believed they would dress up if they could.

And with that, it hit me: dressing up is a middle-class privilege. Handing out (and receiving) "the good candy" is a middle class privilege. Our neighborhood is decidely working class, trending more toward the lower-SES than the middle. Our local elementary school is 90% free-and-reduced-price lunch eligible.  My daughter and I generally make her costume every year, and the total price comes in around $30, what you might spend to buy a costume in a bag. A family with two or three kids may not be able to shell out the bucks for a costume; does that mean they should stay inside on Halloween, or, worse yet, choose which kid gets a costume and which one doesn't?

We talk about our economy in vague terms, with both presidential candidates tossing around billions of dollars like a beach ball, but in reality, the economy hurts kids in terms of their childhood; little things like trick-or-treating are affected, and just like that are gone. This is one of those walk-a-mile-in-someone-else's-shoes kinds of revelations. Seems simple, but this week I listened to every adult I spoke to rail against kids who aren't in costume. That was me in the past, but not anymore.

(Understand that I still have some issues with 16-year-olds wandering around asking for candy. I haven't quite shaken that. I am talking about middle school and lower).

My kid's candy haul was less this year, but the night was no less fun for it. We painted one of the horses like a tiger and took him around with candy so the neighborhhod could see a live horse (one little girl asked if she could pet our cow), and one particularly incredible person in the neighborhood staged an elaborate haunted house that was the biggest draw of all. I wished I had bought more candy. I wished it hadn't taken me so long to see why giving candy to uncostumed kids is okay.  Next year I am going to stock up on the good kind of candy and hand it out to everyone who knocks.

I leave you with this Day of the Dead video; have a great weekend!

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