Last year was the first Halloween we celebrated at our little house and – with my reluctance – we did something a little different.
My darling love is no major supporter of processed sugars and she had heard of the Teal Pumpkin Project. Aiming to promote the inclusion of all trick-or-treaters who might be subject to different food restrictions, the project encourages homes to give out non-food treats instead of candy, and put out a pumpkin painted teal to show you are a supporter of the project. This mission and Natalie’s own personal mission of promoting good health everywhere combined to make a really attractive package (to her), and her participation in Halloween sort of became conditional on my participation in the Teal Pumpkin Project.
I agreed to go along, basically because I had no other choice.
It’s not like we were giving out toothbrushes or carrot sticks. We were giving out little glow-sticks, which I think people of any age can agree are pretty sweet. But right up until the first few kids came to our door I was uncomfortable with the idea, even nervous about it. I think part of it – and this is so weird – is that I actually felt worried that a bunch of 7- to 10-year-olds I’d never seen before were going to be pissed at me. That I was going to be that guy that they would be talking shit about at recess the next day. Why on earth would I worry about something so stupid?
I think it’s because I have such great memories of Halloween as a child that the Halloween that I recognize, the Halloween I am familiar with, seems sacred, like messing with what that Halloween looks like would be some kind of sacrilege. A year of parenting has had me reflecting on all kinds of activities from my childhood that maybe weren’t the safest or most positive, but that were “good enough for me.” Some of them I look back on with indifference, and some with deep fondness and love – and those in the latter category are obviously the ones that are hard to turn away from now.
But just because something was good enough for me and I loved it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s my responsibility to perpetuate that thing for future generations. Kids really do eat too much sugar. My sweet 10-month-old has never touched the stuff and I’ll admit I’ve never seen it’s drug-like effects on little kids, but I’ve heard enough stories to believe them. And food allergies are a really tough break for more and more kids; making sure that Halloween is inclusive and fun for everybody is a noble and worthy goal.Magic lives in a child's heart and mind, not their taste buds and tummy. Click To Tweet
I was able to start relaxing and reflecting on this stuff once kid after kid came to our door and found our glow-sticks to be totally awesome. It really relieved the nervousness. I’ll admit that I still wasn’t totally sold, though. What eventually sold me was having the welfare of a tiny human completely dependent on my decision-making. I feel the need to turn down the sentimentality and turn up the rationality. Looking at the big picture, I know the teal pumpkin is for us.
I know it’s not a super popular position. Pro-candy people, I get what you’re saying. I get that it’s only one day of the year, that traditions have great value in and of themselves, that Halloween helps instill a sense of magic in kids. I feel these things in my heart. Forget that kids also get loads of sweets at Christmas, Easter and often any other damn day of the year. Forget that Ironman costumes and Skittles have as little to do with the actual tradition of All Hallows Eve as our glow sticks do. I can rationalize those things away, and did.
But traditions are always adapting to modern times, and there are always some growing pains. I feel like it’s time for a change, and I want to be ahead of the curve. Magic lives in a child’s heart and mind, not their taste buds and tummy.
And another thing: don’t say I’m being overprotective of anybody. I want my kid to do all kinds of unhealthy, dangerous shit as he grows up. It’s what made me the man I am today! But the logical mind will quickly distinguish between cool unhealthy or dangerous stuff – the kind that makes a young life really magical – and simple indulgence.
So tomorrow night we’ll once again be giving out glow-sticks, along with little dinosaur toys for some kids. We’ll have two teal pumpkins proudly smiling on our front porch, flanked by star-wand glow-stick decorations. It is going to be dope as shit, and the kids are going to love it. A real treat.