The saying goes ‘It takes a village to raise a child;’ but can’t there be an opt-out clause?
“Mommy, mommy, Tyler’s gonna be Iron Man for Halloween, and Eloise is going to be a peacock. Oh and Mommy, I wanna go to McDonalds,” my almost 3-year old bellows with excitement.
“Noooooooo!” (A blood curdling, horror movie Halloween- scream inside my head) We’ve never been there; we never talk about it; we don’t even have a TV! How on earth does my son know about McDonald’s?
“Why?” I ask, trying to remain calm.
“Tyler goes there. And they have a red slide.”
Ahhh… Relief. That’s an easy one to handle. We can take him to a red slide – at the raspberry picking farm instead. But it hits me. This represents a larger issue – the influence of the world beyond our doors – the golden arches being the ultimate symbol for this inevitability. Of course I knew this would arise, but I always imagined it happening at some time in the future, never actually now! And here it is, right in front of me. Halloween, candy, McDonald’s, fast food chains with ruthless and manipulative marketing to children, and Christmas right around the corner…
I realize I can’t control all aspects of the ‘village’ in which my son is raised. I can, however, choose how to navigate it. We can strive to be intentional with our values and practices, even when we can’t control the outside world; in my son’s case – an early start with childcare.
Our son never grabs for candy bars (strategically placed at young children’s eye and reach level) at the store because he doesn’t yet know what they are. Last year we handed out candy, but he didn’t ask for a single piece. Alas, I am preparing for that soon to end. Come October 31, his relationship to candy changes… and so I will have to prepare and adapt for our outings to the local grocery store.
But what other option is there? Pretend Halloween doesn’t exist? That’s impossible when it is everywhere around us – and all the kids at childcare are talking about it.
Or don’t allow him to participate? But I have such fond memories of Halloween from my own childhood. The costumes, the candy, the trick-or-treating – I don’t want to deprive him. Couldn’t we hand out safety–proofed apples or healthy snacks that will still excite kids?
Since we can’t escape it, we’ll need to create our own family Halloween tradition and fast. A tradition with balance – more focus on costumes, friends and pumpkins. Less focus on candy. Last year our son had a blast playing with ‘pumpkin guts.’ This year he is joyfully telling everyone about his costume idea– ‘The Little Engine Who Could.’ We are so proud. Plus, we are making it together, which is a lovely way to spend weekend afternoons.
As for the candy part, we’ll figure it out… Parents always do, after all. We often stumble along the way, but we figure it out. And maybe our family traditions can then have some influence on the village…
While I write this post, there is a McDonald’s under construction in our neighbourhood … The real world continues to creep in.
But I’ll leave that for another day.
Would you like to share your family Halloween traditions? How do you create balance that is a fit for you and for your child/ren? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section.