Halloween off the record

Halloween is a reminder of the futility of capturing precious moments. The best of them come in the chaos, and it’s difficult to hold onto a camera and chaos at the same time.

What I recorded:

Our festivities began at Big Brother’s school parade. Hundreds of other parents, just like me, sat with their cameras ready to get those great shots of their kids passing by. I think we all got the same blur as the kids raced toward their classroom parties with little regard for posterity. I tried to get photos of some friends’ children, and never have I collected so many pictures of the backs of heads.

I think I did better than most, since my wife had no qualms about stepping into the parade route to make a human speed bump as Big Brother approached.

Next it was on to Buster’s preschool, for the recital portion of his Halloween party. It turns out, Buster is not an enthusiastic public singer or dancer. This, despite how readily he will do both at home, right in front of the TV, on fourth and goal.

I recorded several minutes of video in which Buster half-heartedly dances, and more in which his lips are sealed as his classmates sing. His little classmates were a joy to watch. Maybe that’s what he was busy doing instead of singing. I’ve got lots of video of him watching his classmates sing.

What I missed recording:

We began our Trick or Treating with a group of a dozen kids, also known as the kind of chaos where I lose track of my camera. That’s when I have to start relying purely on memory, which is a shame because I feel like my storage is reaching its limit.

Our group of children and assorted parents kept together pretty well right up to the first house. After that, the group quickly pulled away from Buster, Big Man, and me. We continued on our own, free of the stress of keeping up with the big kids.

One quick shot before the chaos.

One quick shot before the chaos.

Together, we three shared Halloween moments I wish I could have recorded:

  • My two-year-old Ninja Turtle fully immersed in the spirit of the night, running from house to house.
  • My four-year-old Spider Man, once again marching to his own drummer, making his little brother wait as he walked backward or hopped to avoid cracks in the sidewalk.
  • Big Man pointing to a darkened house and asking, “That guy heeping [sleeping]?” then pointing to the festive house next door and declaring, “That guy not heeping!”
  • Two little superheroes forgetting about candy for five whole minutes to examine all the cool lawn decorations at one house.
  • Buster offering an unsolicited explanation of our night to the owner of the last house: “This took a long time, but we’re going home now.”

I’m happy I got what pictures and video I did. It’s all entertaining stuff. But those little moments that will stick with me I can’t replay for anyone else. All I can do is put them into words, and that doesn’t seem quite the same.



I love you, Halloween, but this relationship is moving too quickly for me

We have a bowl in our pantry where we collect candy from special events to dole out periodically to the boys. Since it is pre-Halloween, there are slim pickings left in the bowl. The last time I let Buster pick something from it, we were down to a handful of restaurant mints and few pieces of bubble gum.

slim pickins

The empty bowl says it’s time for some Halloween. I should pay more attention to what our dishes have to say.

Buster, who has never had gum before, picked up one of the pieces and asked, “What’s this?”

“That’s bubble gum,” I replied. “You don’t eat it; you just chew on it for a while, then spit it out.”

Buster envisioned this strange ritual, made and face, and concluded, “I don’t know how to do this one.” He tossed it back into the bowl and took a mint.

It will be nice to get some candy the kids understand in the bowl again.

On the other hand, Halloween is approaching at a blinding speed this year. I don’t even know what the kids are going to be yet. Big Brother mentioned something about being a soldier again, but this year wearing my WWI doughboy helmet. I nixed that idea. It’s a steel helmet, which is going to get heavy on his head in about a minute, and I’m not carrying that thing around the neighborhood. It probably wouldn’t even hold that much candy.

The last thing a kid's going to want on his head for an hour, and an awkward candy carrier at best.

The last thing a kid’s going to want on his head for an hour, and an awkward candy carrier at best.

Some friends will be Trick-or-Treating with us. It’s more fun with friends, and the other kids will probably have good costumes. Maybe I can slide over toward the friends and kind of pretend we’re not with those kids whose parents don’t care enough to adequately costume them for Halloween.

If it’s snowing, like last Halloween, we’ll be off the hook. I’ll just tell my boys to make a show of complaining about how Mommy made them wear their winter coats and hats overtop of their super-awesome costumes. Cold weather is the great Trick-or-Treat equalizer – knocks the Pinterest parents down to my level for an evening.

Last year's jack-o-lantern, because there is no image of this year's jack-o-lantern yet.

Last year’s jack-o-lantern, because there is no image of this year’s jack-o-lantern yet.

This is potentially the first year for Big Man to go Trick-or-Treating. The thing about toddlers is they don’t walk fast enough to maximize the treats potential of the neighborhood, and we’re all about efficiency when it comes to collecting free candy. I learned my lesson about trying to carry a toddler around town several years ago when I wasn’t even as old as I am now, and when the toddler wasn’t such a substantial child as Big Man is. We’re going to have to put him on wheels, somehow. Maybe he can ride in the wagon with Buster, because, truth be told, Buster still slows down the operation, too.

Halloween shouldn’t be about a dad yelling at the big kids to slow down and the little ones to hurry up. It should be about friends and fun and treats and showing respect to your dad by giving him a fair cut of your candy for his trouble.

That’s the true spirit of the season.

“Trick-or-Character Development” – Halloween makes us better men

Another Halloween has come and gone, and my son and I are both better men for it. It was not the best weather we’ve ever had, but it could have been worse. There was a light mist in the air and it was pretty chilly. Considering what others were going through this Halloween, we felt fortunate to be able to trick-or-treat at all.

I’m glad we got to go, because it gave us both a chance to demonstrate how much we’ve grown since last year.

This year we took two friends along with us: a six-year-old and a two-year-old (the baby stayed home to pass out candy with mom). Nothing makes you more aware of the differences between a first-grader, a preschooler, and a toddler than trying to take such a motley crew from house to house in the dark.

The two older kids forgot all about the toddler and I as soon as they got out the door. I’ve been chasing a preschooler around so long, I’ve forgotten how slowly two-year-olds run. If I had a candy bar for every time I had to yell, “Wait for us!” I’d have, well, about as much candy as we now have in the house.

skunk boy ready to go

We’re ready to go out and get that candy! This year, we might even say “Trick or Treat” at some doors, not because we like saying it, because we’re more mature now and we know it’s the right thing to do.

By the time I’d realized my folly in not bringing a wagon, we were too far into the jungle of houses to go back. The big kids didn’t want to slow down and the little kid couldn’t speed up. Guess what slow-witted adult got to carry her. Two-year-olds are much heavier than babies; seems like I’ve forgotten a lot about two-year-olds.

There should be some kind of consortium where children can be brought in and redistributed to trick-or-treating chaperons by age, so that one adult doesn’t have to try to keep track of several children spread out over a block of houses – but mostly so no aging parent has to wake up on All Saints Day with an aching back.

We finally looped around to where we could drop off the toddler at home and then get some serious trick-or-treating done. When my son saw the welcoming lights of home, he decided he was getting a little tired too. The six-year-old would have gone longer, but not without his friends. Our night was over.

Lest you think the night was a disappointment, here is the good news. We quit with an entire hour left to trick-or-treat, and I didn’t even put up any stink about it. I didn’t give anybody any flak about being soft; I didn’t act like a greedy, Type A, German Virgo at all. Now, you might chalk this up to sore arms or cold hands, but I call it spiritual growth.

And the news gets even better. My son willingly said, “Trick-or-Treat” at half of the houses we went to. He didn’t even make it sound like he was only saying it to avoid receiving an electric shock or some such punishment. He said it almost nearly like he meant it.

All in all, it was great night for our family. I hope someone is holding onto these moments because it’s true: we grow up so fast.

Halloween II: Sins of the father

I wrote previously about my son’s refusal to say “Trick-or-Treat” while trick-or-treating. It’s only fair that I now document my own awkward behavior during trick-or-treat.

Fathers aren’t supposed to try to live vicariously through their sons until the kids are at least old enough to start playing organized sports. I may have jumped the gun a little bit.

At Halloween, our neighborhood is a veritable land of milk (duds) and (bit-o) honey. There are mounds of candy out there for the taking. Naturally, I want my son to get the most out of the bounty that has been provided for his trick-or-treating pleasure.

When I was a kid, I could only dream of a place like this. My neighborhood consisted of two nearby houses (from one of them, I was sure to score a nice, healthy apple). Trick-or-treating was done by car. We had a regular route that took us to about 10 houses in the surrounding countryside. I could have carried all the candy I got in my pockets.

Mohawk Valley, New York

Beautiful scenery, yes. But none of those trees give out candy on Halloween.

Last year was my son’s first year of real trick-or-treating. I made sure that we began early enough so we could haul in a respectable load of loot. I didn’t account for tired arms or sore feet.

About 40 minutes into the night, the boy asked me to carry his plastic, candy-holding pumpkin. “It’s getting too heavy,” he complained.

The child inside of his father was tempted to upbraid him for such a complaint born of luxury. “My pumpkins were never too heavy,” this inner child wanted to say. “You know why? Because they never had any candy in them. And, what’s more, my pumpkins were grocery bags.” I beat down that inner child, patted my boy on the head, and helped him with his pumpkin.

A little while later, as I was making a mental map of all the streets we’d yet to hit, my son asked if we could go home. “My feet hurt,” he said. By now, I had conquered that ugly inner child, but the father still wanted more for his boy, even if it were only more chances at tooth decay. It was his due, and somehow that made it my due, albeit long-deferred.

“Don’t you want to go to just a few more houses?” I asked. “We can get more candy.” I’m sure I meant that he could get more candy, but that’s the way it came out.

“No,” he said. “I just want to go home.” Halloween was in danger of turning sour on him. No one remembers a death march fondly.

batman posing with his dad

“There’s no room in my pumpkin for your childhood regrets, Daddy.”

Since his feet were already sore, I didn’t make him carry my childhood baggage anymore. I took him home, but the whole way I made note of each of the houses we had missed. He had all the candy he needed, and more. Yet I found myself counting the missed opportunities. I wonder if I’ll behave better this year.