When I was a kid, my parents had a definite cutoff age for trick-or-treating. As we entered the middle school years, we were told we were too old and this holiday was really for little kids. We graduated to handing out candy and I remember one year hosting a Halloween party for friends when I was in high school. If you wonder how rowdy of a party it was, I think we played cards, ate candy and someone dressed as Mr. Bean. I imagine parenting is easier when your kids tend towards the nerdy side. At a certain age trick-or-treating seemed lame. . . or at least that’s what I pretended while I raided the candy bowl between trick-or-treaters.
When my kids were little, I assumed that would be our standard as well. At some point you just get too old to be going door to door to ask for candy. If you’re old enough to have a part-time job, maybe you’re old enough to buy your own treats. My opinion about this meant I would look at teen trick-or-treaters with annoyance at best and a little anger at worst.
But I’m changing my mind. And it’s not because my kids are getting older. It’s because of the older trick-or-treaters I’ve seen.
While I may have sighed in irritation at the sight of a teen in zombie make-up, it was their childlike joy that won me over. The “thank you” when I dropped candy into their pillowcase. The laughs as they ran through the neighborhood. On the list of mischief a teen can get into these days, making eye-contact with their neighbors and asking for candy is probably last on the list of things I should be concerned about.
These kids could be out egging houses. They could be smashing pumpkins in the street. They could be in somebody’s basement making all kinds of trouble with the help of alcohol and skimpy costumes. But instead, they choose to spend their evening looking for Snickers bars and fun size M&M packets. This is a version of teen fun I can fully support.
And of course there are always the kids who may look physically too big to trick-or-treat, but developmentally are at a stage where this is exactly what they should be doing. When I determine an arbitrary age (or size) in my mind, I’m not accounting for the big kids out there who still get so much joy from this activity and would benefit from this experience of getting to know their neighbors.
So when my big kids are asking me about trick-or-treating, I think I’m going to give it my blessing on a few conditions. No scaring little kids. No trampling them in your rush to someone’s porch. No costumes that would be too gory for viewing by the toddlers who will be out getting their lollipops and gum drops. No skimpy or potentially offensive costumes. Be polite and respectful. Overcompensate for your age with politeness. And be prepared to give Mom most of your Nerds and Heath bars.
If you see some oversized trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood a few years from now, I hope you won’t be annoyed. I hope you won’t make some snarky comment about them being “a little too old for this.” I hope you’ll sneak an extra Heath bar in there for the mom who is up waiting for her well-behaved kids to make it back home. And let’s all save our irritation for the real villains of Halloween: the parents who obviously spent more time on their own costume than they did on their kids’ outfits. KIDDING. You do you, Mom in a full-on Tinkerbell costume.
I think we can all agree this holiday is for the kids, the big and the little ones. As the adults, let’s focus on showing them hospitality through our candy and our comments. What an opportunity we have to create a feeling of community for the children and teens in our neighborhood. Turn that porch light on, throw some fake spiderwebs across the doorway, buy the name brand candy bars and reap the relational rewards. You just might get some new leads on great babysitters and lawn mowers in your neighborhood.