Emotionally scarring your children is the Halloween ‘circle of life’

imageThough it’s been 15 years, I still remember my youngest son’s first Halloween costume. Because he was too young to walk, the choices were limited to things that could be carried under one arm and then planted on the doorstep. Eventually, I narrowed the options down to the following:

A pumpkin.
A legless pirate.
A meteor.

When considering the merits of each costume option and which elements should be incorporated into them, parents really have only one consideration:

“How do I get the most candy out of my child?”

To me, the sympathy factor for the legless pirate made it a no-brainer. However, I couldn’t overlook the power of cuteness — a quality that was missing from the legless pirate and meteor concepts. I eventually settled on “The Pumpkin, which I’m sad to say, fell short of my candy-yield expectations for that year.

To make matters worse, that was also the year my oldest daughter became an active member of Young Advocates for Keeping Kandy (YAKK). 

I realize for some parents, Halloween is an exciting time that allows them to bond with their child by making their Halloween-costume dream come true. For the rest of us, it means actually making something, and therefore putting our child’s emotional wellbeing at risk by creating a costume that could potentially scar them for life.

After nearly 40 years, I still remember my mother carefully wrapping me in layer after layer of tissue in order to turn me into a frightening replica of The Mummy — and how it took less than five minutes for a light drizzle to turn me into the considerably LESS frightening Soggy Toilet Paper Man.

Things weren’t much better the following year, when I dressed up as a pirate and missed out on all of the good candy after spending 45 minutes with my plastic hook stuck in the car door.

By the time I hit the streets all that was left were Sweet Tarts and half-opened rolls of Rolaids. However, as Count Dracula the following Halloween, I knew it was going to be MY year. Aside from maybe swallowing my own fangs, there wasn’t much that could go wrong.
I remember leaping from the porch and sprinting into the night with my long cape flapping behind me; I remember the sound of my polished shoes clattering across the pavement, and the eerie, greenish tinge of my glow-in-the-dark teeth — particularly as they flew out of my mouth after my cape caught on the neighbor’s fence.

Granted, these situations weren’t entirely about design flaw. In fact, I’m willing to accept the small role my own flawed coordination skills might’ve played in all this.

However, that only adds to the pressure of coming up with a costume that can be safe, functional and, if necessary, used as a stretcher.

Fortunately, my son was still too young to remember when, a year later when, the cardboard robot costume I made him cut off the circulation to his arms, rendering them unresponsive for a full two minutes. This was discovered on our third stop of the night, when he tried to lift up his plastic jack-o-lantern for candy and, instead, fell headfirst through the screen door.

Now that our kids are in their teens, my wife and I no longer have to worry about creating costumes for them that could prove embarrassing or leave an emotional scar. Then again, my wife and I are now free to create our own costumes — which, for our teenagers, could be even more frightening.



Ned Hickson is a nationally syndicated humor columnist with News Media Corporation and the editor of Siuslaw News. He is also the author of Humor at the Speed of Life, a collection of more than a decade of humor columns; and Pearls of Writing Wisdom: From 16 shucking years as a columnist, a writer’s survival guide. Both are available from Port Hole Publishing.









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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

39 thoughts on “Emotionally scarring your children is the Halloween ‘circle of life’”

  1. My son gave up on costumes about 4 years ago and my daughter – while she loves a good candy hunt – hasn’t decided what to be this year. Yet. But it is guaranteed to be another homemade costume by yours truly. Meanwhile, I’m still trying to decide what the hubs and I are going as. (Yes, I said “I” am trying to decide, bc he just goes along.He’s cool like that.) 😉

    1. Somehow I think your costume skills are way, WAYYY better than mine! As for you and your husband, I did see a costume that was basically a giant bra. It was nice because the couple was able to go everywhere together… 😉

  2. Yeah…
    Cut hole in bottom of a very large brown paper bag (the kind that 1/2cwt animal feed comes in. Flaked maze if smell memory serves right) and place over child. Paint on a couple of big red circles. Rip handle off a circular trug, cover in brown paper, paint on a big red circle, and place upside down on child’s head.
    “What am I, mother?”
    “A toadstool, son. You make such a wonderfully, lanky toadstool. Everyone will love you.”
    I can’t remember whether I cried. Just writing this has brought out all sorts of hives where hives shouldn’t be.
    Worst part? Mother has no memory of such a costume ever existing…
    Really, mother? Really?

  3. I’m going as myself this year. Mua ha ha haaaaaa! that’ll show my kids!

    This post had me giggling so many times. Brought back memories of my little brother wearing a giant cardboard costume covered in yellow insulation we found in the attic (he went as Pac-Man). Ah, the 70s!

    1. PacMan!
      I actually just yelled that out loud here in the newsroom.
      I think the best (worst) costume I saw was a dad dressed as a bottle of Jack Daniels with his 5-year-old son dressed as a pack of cigarettes…

  4. I can count on one hand how many times my daughter went out trick-or-treating. She just wasn’t interested. So we would dress up at home and give candy out instead. Later as a teenager, she got to work at a local haunted house/trail thing and jump out to scare people. That was A LOT more fun for her!! 😀

  5. A powerful reminder of what today’s kids, and the child psychology industry, miss out on in this post-Amazon Prime era where you can summon up a functional, road-tested and altogether boring costume with the click of a mouse.

  6. I’ve often said one of the true reasons I spawned was to have children for Halloween. That being said, my kids are the ones thus far who have done the scarring. All I wanted was a year when they were dressed as Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper (even with a tutu – hell, especially with a tutu), or 2 Vaders, or 2 Stormtroopers. But noooooo. Ingrates.

  7. Yes, maximizing the confiscatable candy haul is such a noble goal. I wonder if 15 years ago, you might have had better luck by combining all those powerful costume concepts–perhaps in the form of a pumpkin-shaped legless meteor (and wearing a bow for added cuteness).

  8. Two years ago I dressed up as an aging hooker/punk rock star, then took my boys trick or treating! Scored on 2 fronts: scarred both children for life (ages 8 & 24 respectively) and got lots of candy!

    Wonder where I put those fishnet stockings…?

  9. My daughter hated running to keep up with the other kids. Dressing her up like a track star didn’t help. Halloween festivities ended soon after.

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