In Good Taste: Who's Too Old to Trick or Treat?
Dear Etta Kate: We are starting to stockpile our Halloween candy, and my family is having an argument. When are kids too old to trick-or-treat? How about adults? My husband wants to put on a costume and go knocking on doors with our kids, who are 13 and 14. They flat-out refuse and say that’s just for little kids. I tend to agree, and I think their dad is somehow reliving his own sugar-coated childhood. What should I do? Signed, Candy in Kannapolis
Dear Candy: Congratulations! Welcome to the awkward zone when your children’s moments of maturity exceed your mate’s. I say congratulations because it sounds like you have a festive, fun-loving, and energetic husband who probably adds flavor to your life and will for decades more.
Your offspring are in an awkward zone of their own. While small children love the holiday most, it is also a favorite among older teens and young adults, who celebrate the creativity of the costumes – and the chance to step away from their lives to become a fantastic or frightening character for one night a year.
There is no horror in your husband wanting a psychic stress-breaker as well. The conflict occurs when he wants your children to provide an excuse for him to dress up as Frankenberry or Count Chocula. For teens, this is the dreaded Halloween gap, when they’re likely to be mocked by friends for remaining childish or having their parents in tow. Remember how grown-up we all wanted to be in our early teens? That’s why your husband’s idea is a teensy bit monstrous and manipulative.
Why not suggest you both attend a party and celebrate with your peers? If you cannot find one, throw one at your home, or volunteer to help chaperone a “safe Halloween” party or carnival at school. There’s even an online directory of haunted houses you can visit to get scared witless. Empower your spouse to do the research and keep him supplied with his own sack of candy while he works. (Fun facts: Americans spend around $2 billion a year on Halloween candy, 72 percent of which was chocolate in 2015.)
You can help your children, who are too old for costumes but young enough to miss the fun, bridge the gap by inviting them to help you decorate and assemble candy treat bags. Then they can answer the door to young goblins and ghosts, and hand out the candy. Lots of teens feel more grown-up when they care for younger kids.
Check back here later this month, when we’ll share fun and easy recipes you can make together. That way, the only blood-curdling screams you’ll hear on Halloween will come from costumed monsters and other creatures – not from your family members.
Etta Kate is the nom de plume of a business consultant who maintains anonymity to protect her clients’ privacy. She is at work on her first book about etiquette.