I’ve just unpacked my Malteasers dress from the Princess Souk, so I’m super-pumped to be back in the U.S. for Halloween. I have a cauldron full of candy. I have real pumpkins. And last weekend I made a batch of pumpkin spice donut holes, which were SPECTACULAR (recipe here*), as testified to by the way only two were left by the time I thought to snap a picture:
Less traditionally, this was my jack-o-lantern last year:
That’s right. A watermelon. Yeah, it was tough to keep the candle lit. Pumpkins are not generally available in Saudi Arabia, and it’s illegal to observe non-Muslim holidays, but if you’re flexible (and living in a compound definitely helps) you can accommodate all kinds of traditions. And it turns out that America doesn’t own trick-or-treating. Did you think we could keep a gift like that to ourselves? A holiday where children whose pretend play is usually ignored are celebrated for it, and behavior that’s excessively rude any other day (walking up to adults and demanding candy) is not only permitted but encouraged? And then the whole scheme actually works? Yeah, it’s an easy sell. In our little United Nations neighborhood in Riyadh, kids from Europe, Asia, South America, and elsewhere in the Middle East were all in for costumes and sweets, and households that were participating put a sign in the door. I learned that giving out wrapped candy, instead of homemade treats, IS an exclusively American habit, which I happily ditched to make these babies:
But flexibility has its limits and there was one policy I was going to uphold no matter what:
You’re never too old.
Yes, there’s history behind it. I was in sixth grade, but tall for my age, when for I first got pushback from one of those adults who are supposed to do whatever you ask on Halloween.
“Aren’t you a little old for this?”
I looked my hostess in the eye as I stood on the front porch in my cardboard-box-TV costume, open candy bag in my hands.
“I’m eleven,” I said.
“Huh.” Grudgingly, she dropped a sucker or circus peanut or some other disappointment into my bag and closed the door. Worse, though, was the message she sent that I’d grown up without noticing, entitled to none of the benefits (driving, talking back, buying my own clothes) while still being told I had no right to the candy. I trudged through the rest of the night feeling a lot like I did on my first Christmas without Santa.
Needless to say, that was my last year of trick-or-treating.
I produced tall children, as well, and as my firstborn crossed into pre-adolescence I started to wonder when I should pull the plug on her trick-or-treating. I didn’t want to be Halloween Scrooge, but I didn’t want to be Clueless Mom, either. Fortunately, my daughter had friends with Fun Moms who started to plan parties that made her transition out of trick-or-treating pretty painless. But I still didn’t like it, the idea that a child enjoying a childhood joy would be frowned upon.
A few years later, as I was driving my youngest and a carload of middle-schoolers home before Halloween, I heard them asking each other whether they were going trick-or-treating. Let it be noted that these were cool kids–confident, athletic boys anyone could see would end up getting into a fair amount of alpha-male trouble in a few years. But this year, they were all going trick-or-treating.
I was delighted.
Considering the array of inappropriate-to-illegal activities that suggest themselves to teenagers on Halloween, I could think of nothing I’d rather see them doing. And as we push children to give up their dolls and Power Rangers and stuffed animals earlier and earlier, dress toddlers in biker jackets, give makeovers to eight-year-olds, and select elite fourth-grade basketball teams, I realized that anytime we can preserve childhood longer, we should.
So now I’m thrilled when I see teenage trick-or-treaters on my porch. Sure, my preschool neighbor in the panda costume is cute, but the teenage boy who puts on a football jersey and calls it good, well, he gets double.
Yes, I’m plenty ready to tell a kid he’s too old for that tantrum, too old to whine, too old to take that blankie to school, and certainly too old for that ridiculous eye roll. But trick-or-treating?
In my book, you’re never too old for that.
*Tip: If you make the donut holes, use 1 or 2 TEASPOONS–not tablespoons–of cinnamon in the cinnamon/sugar mix. By the time things got clumpy and it got hard to cover a single muffin, I wound up using almost double the butter and about a cup of the sugar (with about 2 tsp of cinnamon).