For most of the world, Halloween is bats and pumpkins, skeletons and spooks. It’s costumes: painted faces, full-body suits, flirty dresses and high heels. People go to parties replete with fake spiderwebbing, where the crudites are served with skeleton hand tongs. They stock up on candy for doorbell-ringing witches and wizards, the trick-or-treaters holding out buckets already heavy with loot. The breeze stirs sheets in place of ghosts.
For parents, Halloween’s a marathon, a money pit of costumes and candy. It’s kids getting more hyped up by the day, then finally hopped up on sugar. It’s the Target seasonal section beckoning, all talking skeletons and spiders. It’s the pressure to throw a perfect party, or the pressure to make it to all the parties, then trick-or-treat. It’s festive. It’s exhausting.
But Halloween is also the ultimate litmus test for parenting. How you deal with the various facets of the holiday tell people more about your parenting than any playground pow-wow. Really want to know a mom? Know how she does Halloween.
The Hippie-Dippy Mom: No store-bought costumes here. She got her kids’ stunning costumes off Etsy, and they look so good and homemade you sort of hate her. They are inevitably owl-themed. Her kids carry reusuable bags instead of those plastic pumpkins (the waste!), and she not only roasted the (locally grown, organic) pumpkin seeds from the jack o’ lantern, she also made cookies from the innards. She caved and lets her kids trick-or-treat. But they know they have to trade their candy for either a toy or dye-free, organic candy that never tastes as good as the real thing. That’s okay. Her kids have no idea. She does, though, and sneaks all the Milky Ways out of their bags.
The Pinterest Mom: Like the Hippie-Dippy mom, she doesn’t buy her costumes. She makes them out of popsicle sticks, an old tshirt, mod podge, and spray glitter and they look fabulous. Her kids carry the classic plastic pumpkins for nostalgic photo ops during their exhaustively documented trick-or-treating. She used a drill to make reusable jack o’ lanterns out of fake pumpkins. One of them features the first letter of her family’s last name. In fact, she’s decorated her entire house, from mantle to porch, singlehandedly driving both the Halloween and glitter economies. Everyone knows she gives out the best candy.
The Horror-Show Mom: She has a sign that says, “Eat local” featuring a zombie. This stays up all year. She goes all-out gore for the decorations, and delights in dressing up to actually scare the trick-or-treaters. She also has that candy bowl the hand pops out of. Her kids probably dress like extras from The Walking Dead, complete with realistic zombie makeup. She’s bought a lot of fake blood. And she’s not afraid to use it.
The Overprotective Mom: Trick-or-treating must take place in a controlled environment, probably at a trunk-or-treat where she knows practically everyone. She’s never more than two feet from her little monsters, who have dressed in generic Target costumes. She’s modified the eyeholes of any masks, however, so everyone can see, and trimmed any costume hems to prevent tripping. After the fun’s over, she exhaustively checks over any piece of candy for tampering, spoilage, or slight unwrapping. During this process, she eats all the Reese’s Cups.
The Really, Really, Really Festive Mom: She likes Halloween more than her kids, and she’s not afraid to show it. Her house is stuffed with cutesy witches, smiling ghosts, and cartoon skeletons. Ever wonder who buys all those 20 foot blow-up black cats? She’s got two in her yard. Hocus Pocus has been playing on a loop for weeks, as has “Thriller” and “The Monster Mash”. She’s known for her giant Halloween party, which features homemade gingerbread men skeletons, actual bobbing for apples, and pumpkin spice everything. Her kids scrounge whatever costumes they can.
The Slack-Ass Mom: She knows it’s Halloween because her kids won’t shut up about it. She puts off costume buying til the last minute, when they’re forced to a) raid the dress-up clothes, or b) dress as hobos (the bindle makes them inoffensive!). She takes her kids to whatever trick-or-treat’s around, either the neighborhood or some church fall festival (she doesn’t belong to the church). Afterwards, she raids their loot for Jolly Ranchers and tells them it’s their Halloween tithe.
The Star Wars/Hogwarts family: These are geeks with a plan. Everyone, down to the smallest baby, has an assigned costume they’ve been planning/buying/making for months, the more realistic the better. They trick-or-treat en masse, reveling in the ooh’s and ah’s. Their house isn’t much decorated, and they aren’t home to hand out candy, but damn if they aren’t having a great time letting their nerd flag fly. Dad steals all the retro candy.
The Normal Mom: Her kids are dressed as some superhero she’s only marginally comfortable with, and brandishing plastic weapons she really wishes they hadn’t noticed. She trick-or-treats wherever she can get this over with as soon as possible, and probably turns off her lights against the hordes of trick-or-treaters. Not because she’s a Halloween scrooge; she just forgot to buy candy. She spends the next month raiding the Halloween goodies, with a special eye towards the Three Musketeers. But on any given day, she knows exactly how many Reese’s Cups are left.
Where do you fall on the Halloween spectrum?