We were a bit late getting going on Halloween this year. I felt like I was having to talk the holiday up to the kids, and they were a tough audience. “I don’t like Halloween,” Nathan told me at one point, when I was talking about trick-or-treating with him. After last year’s trunk-or-treating difficulties, I was tempted to believe him, despite the insanity of the statement.
I was perfectly willing to forego costumes and trick-or-treating, but there was no way I was giving up carving pumpkins. It was Halloween day itself, though, when we finally got around to it. Both kids, just like last year, flatly refused to reach into a pumpkin and scoop out the innards. But I knew that they were familiar with jack o’ lanterns — there are jack o’ lanterns in Minecraft, for goodness sake — so after cleaning out the pumpkin goo myself, I handed a pen to Nathan with a fair amount of confidence.
He made some small marks on the very front, did a big loopy region, and then said he wasn’t sure what more to add.
“Well, it looked like you were making a good face here,” I said helpfully — or maybe hopefully. “See, two eyes, a nose, a mouth…”
“No, that’s an L,” he corrected me. “And that’s a six.” He added a triangle and pronounced himself done.
“I made a flower!” Ryan told me when it was his turn. “And this is a road to a house.”
I had no desire to squash their creativity, but the tiny notches and long looping curls they were making were a bit of a carving nightmare. “Do you remember how the jack o’ lanterns in Minecraft have faces on them?” I prodded gently.
“Oh yes!” Ryan added another curl. “This is a guy running.”
So two of our three pumpkins are works of modern art. I did my best to translate their drawings into carved form, and I still think that Nathan’s looks like a face — albeit a very squished one. With a suspicious hole in the forehead.
After dinner I was cleaning up the kitchen and Dave was talking to the kids about how trick-or-treaters would come to the door. He had the kids go outside to try the process out. There were a few false starts. “Ok, but wait until I open the door before you say ‘Trick or Treat!'” he advised at one point. Eventually they got the hang of it and seemed to be enjoying the game.
“Mommy, I want to go trick-or-treating,” Nathan told me suddenly.
Now, we’d discussed trick-or-treating multiple times in the preceding days. Each time Nathan had absolutely refused even to consider the possibility of trick-or-treating. I explained that he would get candy. I told him I would go with him. In the end I shrugged and figured that it wasn’t really in my job description to push candy on him anyway.
“You do?” I asked now, feeling my vision of a quiet evening slip away. I admit, I was secretly hoping that he’d change his mind.
“Ryan, you want to go trick-or-treating with me?”
The only tiny, insignificant hitch to this plan was that we hadn’t bothered with costumes of any kind. We made a quick search of their (extremely limited) costume paraphernalia, most of which had been supplied by my aunt Marybeth (thanks, Marybeth!). We came up with one vampire-construction-worker, and one cowboy/forest ranger/miner (his designation changed as various of our neighbors offered suggestions).
I was still uncertain how this would go as we approached our next-door neighbors. But with a quick prompt from me, Nathan managed to say “Trick or Treat!” like we’d practiced, and our neighbor put a chocolate bar in each of their bags. There’s nothing like positive reinforcement. A few houses later, Ryan was joining in. (Sometimes his “Trick or Treat” seemed to be appended with something that sounded suspiciously like “put candy in.”) Nathan even started ringing the doorbells.
“Do you know, Mommy, I like Halloween,” he told me between houses at one point. “I like getting candy.”
“I’m glad,” I told him, and I meant it. Not just because it was fun to be out there with my boys, vicariously reliving the thrill of Halloween. More because he had suddenly tackled head-on something that had been too worrying for him before. And that I love.