10 November 2010

"This is Halloween, This is Halloween"

Last year, he didn't really get it.

Sure, the Doozer wore a costume. Read some books about the holiday, but ultimately, the concept of Halloween was still a bit abstract for his wee mind to grasp.

But this year, things were different. As the trappings of the season accumulated, his interest in all things Halloween grew exponentially, practically blossoming into a full-blown obsession. So much so that we became convinced the actual holiday itself would be nothing more than anti-climactic and disappointing.

It was time to introduce him to some of our own childhood traditions. So we found the book version of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! and started reading it regularly in the weeks leading up to the annual airing of the TV special. And he became obsessed with this story, demanding it be read to him every night and almost every day. In particular, all the parts where Lucy was dressed up like a witch. "What zat?" he would ask eagerly, pointing to Lucy's masked visage—even though he already knew the answer. "It's a —" "Witch!" he'd interrupt us, gleefully. Witches quickly became one of his favorite elements of the season, pointing them out to us wherever and whenever we saw them. He even got a special surprise when his mom dressed up as one to take him out trick-or-treating on October 31.

Witches, pumpkins, and ghosts, oh my! He loved them all and pointed them out everywhere we went. We even installed a ghost on our front lawn for his enjoyment. "Night, night, Ghost," the Doozer said one evening as we headed inside for dinner. When the ghost did not respond, the Doozer said, "He didn't hear us." No, I guess he didn't.

We even carved a pumpkin with him and attempted to explain the subtle difference between a pumpkin and a jack-o-lantern. After that, he'd frequently point it out say, "that pumpkin has a jack-o-lantern in it." Yes, I suppose it does.

We visited the pumpkin patch and frequented the scarecrows on display in the center of town (part of a local scarecrow decorating contest, with a cinema theme). The Doozer quickly became enamored of Woody the Cowboy, Spider-Man, Ralphie from A Christmas Story, Mr. Potato Head, Charlie Brown, Forrest Gump, the Mad Hatter, and "Edward Fingerhands." But mostly, he fell in love with Gulliver ("He has a book! There is a little man on his back!") and Frankenstein's Monster. Yes, Frankenstein's Monster, not Frankenstein (important distinction). We wanted to be sure that he knew the actual name of this character, that his enthusiasm was well-informed and literarily accurate.

These things matter.

In the end, Halloween arrived and it was not anti-climactic at all. We had coached him all month on the fine art of trick-or-treating, explaining over and over again the process of going to someone's front door, saying "Trick-or-treat," then accepting some candy and saying, "Thank you." He seemed eager to try, though the Doozer is typically wary and skeptical of strangers and we weren't sure it would take.

But sure enough, he was ready to go before the sun even went down. He stood on our porch and began shouting "Trick-or-treat" in the direction of the street.

We explained that we had to go to people's doors and say it. And so we did. And he surprised us by going right up to strangers' doors and saying "Trick-or-treat" and "Thank you" every time. Amazing.

When I mentioned this to a co-worker, she said, "They're not dumb. Candy was at stake."

Once again, seeing the world through the Doozer's eyes, I realized that holidays are one of the great experiences of parenthood. You get a fresh perspective on an old, familiar experience. You get excited about something like Halloween (you're allowed to get excited) in a way that you haven't been in a very long time.

Plus, you get to exploit your kid's adorableness for candy. Don't look at me like that. Really, he doesn't know how much he got or what kinds. Just let us have this. For now. We can't keep this practice up forever. He'll get wise at some point.

Don't judge us. You'd do the same. You know you would.

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