Halloween 2017 is a night that remains etched in my mind forever. That was the year I lost my cool on Halloween. I robbed my children of joy. All because I was an overstressed, rushed mom trying to make the holiday perfect for my kids. My anxiety and desire for perfection had the opposite effect. I was a screaming lunatic and at least one kids was crying before we even left the house. I felt like the worst mom on the face of the earth – I ruined Halloween. Fortunately, kids are resilient and once I relaxed, we all had a fun night. But I’m sure that memory of their crazy mom pops up in their little brains on Halloween.
That evening my son got off the bus around 3:45 and we had plans to be at a friend’s house by 5 for dinner and trick or treat. We ran home, I put all three kids in their costumes and took them outside so I could get the perfect photos of them in their costumes. By 4pm on Halloween night, no child is going to cooperate with a photo shoot. This is when I had my meltdown. I NEEDED those cute pictures for my photo album – why couldn’t my five and three year olds just pose and smile nicely? What kind of moron was I?
After that night, I vowed I would never be that crazy mom on Halloween again. I came up with a plan for how to make Halloween stress free and just go with the flow.
Lose the Expectations
No matter how hard you try, the night is not going to be perfect. Someone will lose part of their costume, spill fruit punch on themselves or just have a meltdown because it can be a truly overwhelming night for young kids. The kids are so excited that they just can’t listen. If you can just go with the flow – let them run on the grass, be silly, eat the candy. Let them have fun. Lose the expectation of perfection and you might even have fun with them.
Kids also have expectations of Halloween. They imagine they look a certain way in their costume, they expect to find certain candy, have fun with friends. They can be disappointed too – which often shows up as a temper tantrum.
This was not the first Halloween I ruined. When I was 8 years old I was a clown for Halloween and more than anything I wanted purple hair to match my clown costume. My mom bought hair color spray but we were both naïve and on Halloween night we learned that dark brown hair does not turn purple. I was devastated. This ruined Halloween for me. I remember sobbing and refusing to go trick or treating. When I look back at photos now, I realize my mom was right and I was silly to wreck my whole night over something I couldn’t control. But, I was eight, and my expectation for the night had been shattered.
Have a Dress Rehearsal
At least a week before Halloween, do a dress rehearsal. Find all the costume parts. Not just the official costume, but all the extras you will need. The sweatshirt that will go underneath, jewelry, accessories, gloves if it’s cold. If you live in the north like us and your kids may be wearing coats – jot down which coat on a piece of paper. Once you have located everything have the kids put it all on. Make any alterations you need, make a list of last minute things you need to add to the costume. Find the trick or treat pails. Collect EVERYTHING you need. Practice any make-up or hair treatments. We don’t want to find out on Halloween night that purple hair is not an option. Once you are done with your dress rehearsal pack everything together in one bin – organized by child. When you are rushing around on Halloween night you will be grateful you spent a little time to put this box together.
Take Photos before Halloween
This is the advice I wish I could have given myself two years ago. ALWAYS take your photos ahead of time. You’ve gone to the trouble of having a dress rehearsal to find all the components of your kids costumes. Take advantage of this and put those kids in front of the camera. The lighting will be better than Halloween night and the kids will be so much more cooperative. Yes, they are excited to be in their costumes, but it’s nothing like Halloween night. They will put up with you taking multiple shots and posing them in different locations. They have nowhere to go and they are just happy to be in costume! Ironically, every year except 2017 I have done this – I still don’t know where my brain was that year.
Your photos will be off the camera, edited and ready for facebook before everyone else has their kids in costumes on Halloween night. Then you aren’t stressed on Halloween. On Halloween, I do take a few photos of our large group of kids together and the kids trick or treating before it gets dark. But, if they are grainy it’s fine – they are still a memory, but I already have my portrait style photos of the kids in costume.
Eat a Quick and Easy Dinner
This is not the night for anything fancy. All those cute recipes you found on Pinterest are not for tonight. Definitely make them – just not on Halloween itself. There is a major time crunch – there is very little time between school and the start of trick or treat. We go to a friend’s home and do a sort of potluck dinner – I always bring pizza – and plenty of it. It’s one thing I know my kids will eat and tastes pretty good when you get back to the house after trick or treating too! When I was a kid my mom always made a big pot of chili on Halloween – quick and easy.
Bring a Wagon
If you have really young kids they will ride in a wagon and you will be grateful that you aren’t carrying them or waiting for their little legs to walk through the neighborhood. Now my kids are older and I can barely keep up with them. But, we still bring a wagon. It’s great for holding on to all those pieces of the costume they remove as they get going. Some Halloween nights the kids actually get hot and take off their coats. I don’t want to carry them – so into the wagon they go. We can keep flashlight, umbrellas, water bottles, everything we need in the wagon. And, most importantly, the kids can empty their trick or treat pails into the wagon. We have experienced one too many falls where the pumpkin goes flying and candy is everywhere. One kid is crying, the others want to move on and my poor husband is struggling in the dark to find the lost candy. So now, when the pails start getting heavy or full, each kid can dump their candy into a LABELED bag in my wagon.
Plan a Potty Break
Some kids are fine for the two hours of trick or treat and never need to go to the bathroom. But, my kids always drink a lot with dinner, so someone always has to go. We strategize our route so that we head one direction through the neighborhood and then loop so after an hour we are back at the house. Then we all quickly use the bathroom and head out in the other direction. It only “wastes” about ten minutes and saves the frantic sprint back to the house. Because they are not going to tell you until it is truly an emergency.
Choose Your Costumes Wisely
When my kids were little I picked the cutest costumes I could find – puppy dogs, kitty cats, owls, pumpkins. And they were so stinkin’ cute. I got to make all the decisions – and it’s not like we went anywhere but Grandma’s house. Now that my kids have opinions it is a whole different ball game. Within reason I let them choose their costumes. First, it has to be something that I can either buy or easily assemble. Unfortunately I am not a very crafty mom. Second, and more importantly, it has to be something they can easily run around in at school and trick-or-treating.
My kids all want to be Pokemon characters this year and they had to be reigned in because the monsters they wanted to create would never be able to make it around the neighborhood. When my oldest was three he was infatuated with Thomas and my husband made him the most amazing Thomas costume – it lit up and everything! But, it was a major pain to wear all night. And he was determined to wear it all night. My other little guy wore it a few years later and after the photos it was off! Good thing he was a “cat driving Thomas”. Easily converted to just a cat!
Bring a healthy snack and water
Even though you fed the kids dinner they probably didn’t eat that much because they are so excited. So, when they tell you they are hungry they might actually be hungry. It isn’t always a ploy to eat more candy. I let me kids eat a little bit of Halloween candy that night but I just can’t let them pig out on it. I’ll bring some crackers or pretzels with us. If the kids slow down to have a snack they must truly be hungry. My kids are intense trick or treaters. They run up and down hills in the neighborhood to hit every house. They are big balls of sweat – even in 30 degree weather. So, I always bring water bottles (in the wagon). And I always bring more water than I think I’ll need.
Trick or Treat Together
People may feel differently but I think it is so much more fun and relaxed to trick or treat as a family. I want to be with the kids having fun – and so does my husband. When they are older, I’ll sit at home and hand out candy to other kids, reminiscing about when my kids were little. But for now, we are a pack. We all go together. That doesn’t mean I turn out my lights and scrooge the other kids. I leave a large bowl of candy at the end of the driveway and let them have at it. I’ve found that kids are honest – there is always candy left in the bowl at the end of the night.
Remember how much fun you had as a kid on Halloween night. This is one of the few low-tech things kids get so excited about. Embrace it. Have fun with them. Be silly and goofy. Dress up if it’s your thing. The most important thing about Halloween is having fun with your kids. Enjoy those littles while they are still little. Make memories that you will all cherish.