|Tali and Rhiannon, 16 and 14, carving pumpkins together while I prepare our family's traditional roasted pumpkin seeds.|
Yeah it's bleak. And it's reality. So we can either fall into depression and carry on our miserable way, or we can change it. Here are my suggestions. These are mine, based on my own experiences, needs, and desires. But you'll have your own, and I hope you'll tell your friends about them, so that they too can be inspired to get creative and make Halloween (and every day) a beautiful, creative, hopeful one.
|Tali (age 9) in his self-made astronaut costume.|
I always love best when personal connection like this is possible, so I encourage more of us to get out and trick-or-treat locally. But I know that's not always possible, as kids want to get to the Halloween hot-spots with their friends. If you live in one of these hot-spots, or as we do, donate candy to your local hot-spot, there are still other options. These days there are so many kids who either can't eat candy for health reasons, or whose parents take the candy away in exchange for money, gifts, or fun activities, that it seems even more of a waste to buy these slave-produced crappy candies and then send them to the landfill. So how about something that is less likely to get thrown out? Fair-trade (or home-made) cotton friendship bracelets are still popular among some groups of kids. So are those little beaded safety-pins in some areas. Fun Halloween pencils or erasers are less likely to be thrown out, though often still made of plastic. And if we must go with candy, at least lets get something that's less packaged and fair-trade. It may take some extra shopping time to find our options, but I'm pretty sure it's worth it.
Costumes: This is a big one for me. I truly feel that all kids should be given supplies and creative freedom to create their own costumes, as soon as they're able to put on clothes. And these fabulous costumes need to be met with your admiration and good humour. For your entertainment, here is an ancient video of my then-two-year-old, who still hadn't figured out why I called him "you" but he should call himself "I". He was dressing up as the Dutch Sinterklaas, or (interchangeably) as "Uncle Ralph". Family members are of course the most natural thing for two year olds to choose to emulate!
Creativity is in sharp decline in our kids' culture, and we need to change this. Allowing kids to play with their clothing, including costuming, allows them to experiment with their identity, and this, along with encouragement and acceptance from teachers and parents, is of utmost importance in growing a healthy self-image. So instead of presenting our kids with the costume options from the local grocery or Halloween store, I suggest having a conversation over dinner about how we'd all dress up, and then how we can make those plans happen... using what we already have at our disposal, as much as possible. The process of figuring out how to create a costume ourselves is not only a creative opportunity, but also one for problem-solving, which we all know is an important skill. And fun! Recently during a family hike, our kids suggested my husband and I dress as Hagrid and Mme Maxime!! It was one of the funniest and most memorable outings we've had this month, due to the entertaining conversation. Now we just have to figure out how to make this happen.
Pumpkins: They're available for very little cash everywhere you go, as are the cheap little carving kits. Obviously I think growing our own pumpkins is awesome, not only because it gives our kids an understanding of how the pumpkins came to be, but also because it makes the whole experience so much more meaningful. I once managed to grow a pumpkin on my teeny tiny city balcony, but for some reason can't make a pumpkin plant grow in my big garden, these days, so I do recognise that growing-our-own isn't always an option. Still, if we're going to buy pumpkins, we can choose from good local farms, and (for our kids' sake) go pick our own pumpkins too. And for carving them, the best tools we've had are a regular kitchen paring knife (if the little plastic knife from the kit is sharp enough to cut the pumpkin, it's sharp enough to cut our kids' skin, too), a steel serving spoon (for scooping out), and an apple-corer and skewers for poking holes. Some of the greatest pumpkin carving experiences we've had have been communal - either with the family or with a group of friends. What a glorious thing to be elbow deep in pumpkin guts -- in community! ;-)
Happy Halloween, everybody. I'll be having our traditional Halloween pizza and then out gallivanting with my family... apparently including Hagrid.