The Halloween I Was That Parent

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Another Halloween has snuck up and faded away quickly in our home. It’s not one of my favourite holidays, probably the reason why we were carving pumpkins the night before and why decorations went up hours ahead of trick-or-treaters making the rounds, but it is a big one for the kids. Beyond sweet binging and a night walk on the street I never figured Halloween would bestow a few parenting lessons, making one of those parents.

Halloween has always been a family affair. It has been interesting to see how our kids’ costume picks change over the years based interests, slowing transitioning from mom and dad’s cute picks to something more involving their own personal style. Thankfully, I still have some pull with my kids, at least a little, convincing them that the store bought princess costume isn’t a necessity. That even though costumes call upon the world of make believe , sexy isn’t a fantasy for someone school age. That scary doesn’t have to be violent.

I also know that as my kids get older their peers will have a stronger pull over our parental voice but I hope that some of the groundwork we lay at home will help guide them.

In our family my husband and I have always had our Halloween roles. My husband has been the trick-or-treater, taking the kids through our neighbourhood, filling their bags with far more candy or letting them stay out so much later than I probably would. He’s the rule bender on special occasions and the kids love it. It adds to the whole spirit of the night. I have stayed home dishing out sweets to treaters as they come to the door, maybe sneaking a treat for myself. One for you, two for me.

Like all aspects of parenting I know things change that our relationship with our kids will evolve as they evolve, I just thought it would be later. It’s always something I’m prepared for, later.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me that things would be different this Halloween, especially after the dealing with the start of my oldest daughter’s growing independence. This year said daughter wanted to go trick-or-treating with her friends, without a parent. According to her all of her friends have been trick-or-treating this way since last year and she was the last to still be heading out with a parent.

Before you jump to conclusions about my actions know that I am not one to make decisions based on the views of other parents. I know my daughter’s friend’s parents allow them to do things we don’t allow in our home and visa versa. Parenting is about making decisions based on your comfort level and what is appropriate for your kids. I would never make another person feel less a parent for their personal decisions that’s why it was disheartening to be on the other end of this type of judgment.

The first lesson we learned, both my daughter and I, is that everything your friends tell you isn’t completely true. Not that it’s a total like but some things are omitted for a reason. It seems that my daughter’s friends haven’t gone trick-or-treating without a parent before, as implied. I can understand the desire to appear older and more mature than your friends and sometimes that may lead to stories being shared in the schoolyard, a lessen my daughter has learned first hand.

So with this news it’s no wonder some parents were a little apprehensive about their children joining my daughter for trick-or-treating without a parent. This was new territory for their kids and themselves. I get that. What was hard to swallow was the implication that there’s no way they would ever let their daughter’s join without a parent, that this act was dangerous and ill conceived. I felt like THAT parent, the one who doesn’t care for the well being of her daughter. It was implied that these parents had been in conversations with one another, reassuring themselves that this was a bad idea. Of course I’m assuming this is what the conversation was about since I wasn’t part of these calls, texts or emails. I started to doubt myself. It didn’t matter what my rationale as there was the knowing head nod.

Oh you lived in a small community, so different from this big city.

What we did as children can’t compare to now. The world is a scarier place.

I was one of those kids growing up. I targeted kids like my daughter. Kids like me are out there still.

So I was told that the girls wouldn’t be joining my daughter unless a parent was involved. I started to back pedal, thinking of ways to appease the knowing parents but still give my daughter the freedom she was looking for. Was I being hasty? It was only after speaking with my husband and his encouraging words that I agreed to stick to the original play. If only I had as much courage in myself that my husband has in me. I can’t imagine being in the role of a single parent.

My daughter had experienced some personal freedom already and I think she liked it. We agreed, as long as she was out with at least one other friend she could still go without a parent. We apologized to the other families, saying we were sorry they wouldn’t be joining my daughter this year.

More conversations and calls, this time I was involved. Slowly parents decided to allow the girls to join in. My daughter’s trick-or-treating with one friend turned into a party of six. I can’t help feel that some parents gave in reluctantly, that all eyes were on me ready to pounce and point fingers should something go wrong. I actually wished we hadn’t initiated this whole thing. To ease the comfort level of some of the girls we cut the time they were allowed out by an hour, instead inviting them back to the house to go through candy and watch TV.

When the moment arrived for the girls to head out I was excited for them but also worried. I think I was more worried with the larger group than if it was just my daughter and a friend. Don’t get me wrong, when I agreed to let my daughter go out on her own I knew my gut would be in knots over the whole thing, just like letting her walk home on her own after homework study in the library. I bit my tongue then and bit it now, trying to show her I had confidence in her ability to look out for herself, maintaining a sense of excitement for this new experience that she was obviously looking forward to. But now it wasn’t just her. Now I was responsible for this first experience with my daughter and five other girls. These parents were entrusting me since it was my idea, my husband’s idea.

I was anxious for the whole 2 hours they were out. I’ll admit I was a tad thankful for the poor weather. The drizzle and cold wind made for a short night. There was no worry about the girls getting swept up in staying out longer. They even arrived back home a little before the required time, cold and wet and tired but happy.

They filtered downstairs with the bags and stories and I breathed a sigh of relief. They called their parents to let them know they were back. The judgment was off of me. I didn’t feel like THAT parent, the one with little disregard for her daughter or her friends. I felt like the parent who helped them take that next step, to my slight dismay and perhaps that of the other parents. Now that they’ve had a taste of this freedom Halloween will never be the same.

Growing up has its challenges. Pushing familiar boundaries as a child can be scary and thrilling. It can also be a challenge for parents. Like it or not this won’t be our first challenge and probably not the first time I’ll be considered THAT parent but we can only do what we feel is best for our families and remember we’re all learning, kids and parents.

I just want someone else to take on the boundary pushing role next time.

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