Book Club: Dr. Reivich’s Pick05/02/2013
The Halloween Grouch
Positive Parenting by Dr. Karen Reivich
At the beginning of every October, I start to have fond memories of Halloweens past. The crispness in the air brings back images of bobbing for apples. The smell of autumn reminds me of toasting pumpkin seeds. The light at dusk harkens to the flickering light of the candle in the jack-o-lantern. I remember the sound of giggling children as they teeter up the front steps to shout “trick or treat!” in their most ghoulish voice and I smile. Promptly, however, memories of my fantasy Halloween are crowded out by the truth of it all.
And the truth is that I really don’t care for Halloween. There, I’ve said it. My sons don’t dress up for Halloween any more and after years and years of either buying or attempting to make costumes, I admit that doing Halloween for one – Shayna – instead of Halloween for four, is kind of nice. I like the idea of Halloween much more than I like Halloween. As Halloween rolls around, I feel compelled to try to convince my kids to make their costumes. I rattle off costumes my sister, my mom and I put together when I was a kid (a bag of groceries, a baby, a bowl of fruit, an M&M, etc.) but these fail to inspire. More often than not, we end up running to one of those huge Halloween stores, search through racks of wildly inappropriate outfits to find a poorly made superhero costume that costs as much as a week of groceries.
Frankly, by the end of that shopping adventure, the only character I feel like dressing up as is The Grinch. I imagine myself telling the kids that Halloween is off this year. Instead, we’ll go out to dinner and a movie. I’ll buy them obscene amounts of candy so as not to traumatize them—but no costumes, no knocking on neighbors’ doors demanding candy, no holding our dog back from accosting princesses and police chiefs as they put their hands deep in the candy bowl.
So this year, with just one kid participating in the festivities, I’m attempting something new. I am not going to fight what I feel. I am going to let myself off the “I’m a bad mom” hook. Rather than pretending to enjoy the whole holiday (with my annoyance and tenseness leaking out), I’m going to follow what I believe to be solid parenting advice and divide and conquer. I’m going to do the parts of Halloween I like. I like the pre-Halloween decorating of the house. Putting gourds on the dining room table, hanging spider webs across the front porch, arranging pumpkins on the steps leading up to our door. And I like the post-Halloween candy count: Lining up the candy on the floor, separating the Kit Kats from the Three Musketeers, and tallying up the loot. Between those two phases of the holiday, I am going to take my three sons to a Sixers game while Guy takes our daughter door to door.
The beauty of this solution is that everyone wins. Both Guy and I share in the holiday by doing the parts we truly enjoy. This means our kids get happy parents, not parents pretending to be happy. Shayna will have fun with her dad who enjoys the nighttime stroll around the neighborhood. I’ll have fun decorating and sorting, and being with my sons as we cheer on our favorite basketball team. And best of all, I won’t feel like The Grinch who Stole Halloween.
Karen Reivich, Ph.D.
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