(This blog entry started life earlier today as a Facebook post. I decided it would have more life if I turned it into a blog post, so here’s a slightly revised version.)
Ah, Halloween: the season of costumes, and trick-or-treating, and jack-o-lanterns, and cranky grownups who can’t get enough of complaining about the kids who come to their doorsteps.
Here’s my request – as a mother and as a fellow human – to all you other adults out there: No matter who knocks on your door on this coming Monday night, and no matter how they behave, please be kind.
There will be thousands of overexcited, overeager children on the streets, and the experience may be overwhelming for some of them.
The ones who don’t say please or thank you – or who don’t say anything at all – are not just rude. They may be shy, anxious, overwhelmed or have some other communication issue you don’t know about.
The ones who don’t wear costumes are not just lazy. It’s not just that they and their parents couldn’t be bothered. They may have changed their mind at the last minute, because they’re three and that’s what three-year-olds do. They may have hated the idea of getting into a costume because it was too itchy or too scratchy or too warm or too uncomfortable or it just made them feel too different. They may have some underlying issue, need or concern you can’t see.
The ones who behave “badly” – who are loud, rambunctious, pushy and aggressive, who barge right into your house or who grab four candies instead of just the one you said they could have – are not just being bad. They’re overtired, overexcited, overstimulated, scared, silly, giddy, caught up in the moment and not sure how to deal with the sensory overload that comes along with walking around the neighbourhood in the dark presenting yourself on strangers’ doorsteps in search of sugar. Or they may have a behavioural issue that has nothing to do with this moment at all.
The ones who look too “big” to be trick-or-treating are not just trying to scam you. They may be younger than they look. They may have a cognitive or developmental issue that affects their behaviour. Or they may just be teens on the verge of knowing they’re almost too old, trying to cling to one last blast of childhood innocence before they have to be too cool to care.
Maybe these kids, all of them, don’t look like and act like you thought trick-or-treaters “should” look and act. Just let it go. You don’t know their story, and tonight you don’t need to know – or care. You just need to smile, tell them how great they look and hand them a treat.
And if there’s a stressed-out parent anywhere nearby, give them a smile and a nod and tell them what a great job they’re doing.
It’s everybody’s Halloween. Please be kind, and help make it fun for everyone.