Ah yes, my annual struggle.
Every year my prayer is the same: Jesus, give me wisdom!
I took the kids for a walk in the fall sunshine the other day and on the way home I forgot that we were coming down the street with the Creepy Halloween House. When we’re in the van I can usually count on moving past so quickly that the kids don’t really see all the super scary stuff, but when you’re walking at a toddler’s pace you really can’t avoid it. Oh I tried, believe me.
“Hey girls, look at that silly bird walking around on that grass over there!” There was a magpie on the lawn across the street. It worked for about five seconds. Then I lost them.
“Mama! What is THAT?!” My four year old asked, pointing at the house.
“Well, it looks like some Halloween decorations, but we don’t really need to look at them,” I said.
“They’re a little bit too creepy.”
“Yeah,” my 6 year old agreed. For her, the novelty of certain types of seasonal decor has worn off. But for my 4 year old, it’s irresistible.
“That IS creepy! But it doesn’t scare me!” she cried. “Let’s play Halloween characters! I’m a ghost! Booooooo!”
In spite of her feelings about scary decorations, my 6 year old joined in immediately and for the next half-hour they ran around the back yard together pretending to be Halloween characters and imagining a world where “Chickens Running Around with Their Heads Cut Off” was their favourite comedy TV show.
Later, I asked them why they like to play spooky characters.
My 4 year old answered, “First, they’re not very scary for me. Secondly, I think they’re cool.” (She actually said, “secondly”! haha!)
“Really?” I asked. “Aren’t you a tiny bit scared?”
“Nope,” she continued with confidence, “If I just saw something spooky to me, I would just stick my tongue out at it.”
“Oh really,” I said. The next day as we drove in the van, the story changed. We were talking about some Halloween thing they had seen out the window and my 4 year old spoke up.
“Well, some Halloween things are NOT scary for me, but some Halloween things ARE scary for me,” she explained. “Like, the cartoony things aren’t, but the spooky things are. I do NOT like those witches at the neighbour’s house, they are too creepy for me. Yep, too creepy. But that big Frankenstein is so funny!”
I totally get why Halloween is so interesting when you’re a little kid. It’s impossible not to be fascinated, especially with all the huge inflatable lawn decorations nowadays. The Halloween House next door is their favourite. The kids are really drawn to the ten-foot-tall Frankenstein and a set of inflatable jack o’lanterns that look like a little pumpkin family, a spider in a top hat, a dragon they’ve named “Dragula”, two big white ghosts with lights and a REALLY tall pumpkin reaper we’ve named “Pumpkin Guy”. Those characters have really sparked their imagination! But Creepy Halloween House has presented a new set of challenges.
For the first time, it’s actually scary to them.
As a Christian, I’ve always struggled with Halloween because of the evil and fear associated with it, and I will do my best to keep those kinds of things away from my kids whenever I can. But I know they’re growing up and we’re moving from being fascinated with the silly inflatable Halloween characters on the lawn next door to genuinely scary moments for them as they come in contact with certain images.
After six years of Halloween with young children, I’m realizing that despite all my efforts to shield their eyes, they’re going to see the awful decorations in the neighbourhood or at the store. Or hear about horror movies from their friends at school. Or happen to catch a glimpse of a billboard with a creepy clown on it as we drive down the street.
And even though I would rather protect them from all of it so they never had to feel afraid in their lives, I’m realizing that these are opportunities to have some really important big-picture conversations about feelings and fears and good and evil and Who is bigger than it all.