I am a big proponent of the homemade Halloween costume. For years I’ve fashioned ordinary household items, with metric tons of duct tape and safety pins, into clever costume wear to wow the candy-wielding neighbors. Sure, sometimes the costumes were cumbersome and heavy and generally uncomfortable and unsafe, but it’s tradition! And if you don’t value tradition then you’ve got no business celebrating Halloween in the first place. Or that’s what I used to tell the kids, anyway.
Eventually, kids grow older, and say to me– “Dad, can we please just buy a costume on the Internet like everyone else?” And that milestone is what I use as a rough gauge of when they’re too old to go Trick or Treating. I’m not sure if it’s really an accurate way, but it’s my way. And it helps to quell my hurt feelings.
But all this begs the general question: How old is too old for Trick or Treating? And I think there are a number of things to consider:
DO THEY LOOK MORE LIKE KIDS? OR POTENTIAL HOME INVADERS?
Do they have facial hair and do they tower over the people whose doorbells they’re ringing? If there’s one place that size matters, it’s probably Halloween. Households participating in Halloween don’t want to open their door at night to a big thuggish-looking person wearing a scary costume, perhaps wielding some sort of accessory that’s in the weapon family. It’s a little off-putting and might leave them wondering if they should be giving them a Snickers bar or a blast of pepper spray. If your body has graduated from Fun Size to Full size, perhaps it’s time to hang up the mask.
ARE THE KIDS TOO OLD TO WANT YOUR SUPERVISION?
It’s one thing if they’re mature and responsible enough not to NEED to be followed around by mom or dad and their flashlight, but it’s quite another when they just adamantly OPPOSE the idea. Because by and large a kid who doesn’t want to be supervised may be the one most in need of supervision. Sending a kid off with a bunch of friends in anonymous disguises after dark is a potential recipe for trouble. And for my house to get egged.
ARE THEY STILL IN THE SPIRIT?
Are they truly just looking to acquire mass amounts of candy and make mischief or are they still in the spirit of Halloween? Every kid loves Halloween, of course. They’re like kids in a candy store only the candy’s free. Very exciting. But there comes a time when a kid loses interest in Halloween pageantry. When your kid puts no thought whatsoever into Trick or Treating until the day of, and fashions a costume from things on the floor in their room, they should probably stay home.
For this year, plans at my house (surprise) are still up in the air. My almost 15-year-old son has not stated his intentions, and is on the cusp of being too big to Trick or Treat. My twins, age 11, are planning to dress up and go around with their friends. My son bought an orange body stocking. My daughter has not decided yet. She will change her mind several times, kind of like every day before school.
All good things must come to an end. And when the gravy train of free candy ends for my kids, I’ll miss having their treat bags around to pilfer from for the better part of November, but I’ll look forward to letting them man the door while I watch television.
Eric Ruhalter is a parent, but does not claim to be a “parenting expert,” if there is such a thing. He lives in Morristown, N.J., with his wife and three kids and is the author of the parenting humor book: “Phrazzlers: Funny New Words to Describe the Wild World of Parenting.” See funny videos and slideshows at www.Phrazzlers.com