In late September, Peter and I discussed Halloween. Our community’s Trick or Treat Night was to be held the last Thursday of October. If Philip was going to participate, I knew we needed to plan sooner rather than later.
Peter and I considered it. Last year was the first time that we did anything related to Halloween, and all we did was take him to his grandparents’ so that he could observe the process. Our decision boiled down to this question: for whom would we be doing this?
- Philip did not inherit his parents’ sweet tooth so he does not eat a lot of candy. I certainly don’t need any extra calories, and Peter can only eat certain kinds of candy. Collecting a variety of treats from the neighborhood benefits no one in our household.
- Philip has not shown an interest in pretending to be any particular character. In addition, wearing a costume might actually be an unpleasant sensory experience for him. While dressing him up would provide a great photo op, that would be for us, not Philip.
- Philip currently is not able to say “Trick or Treat.” It’s been a long time since I went trick or treating myself, but I remember being asked questions about my costume. If I took him house to house, I would have to do all the talking, including saying thank you. Such a series of short interactions with strangers would not build Philip’s social skills.
Over the weekend, we saw my cousin, Steve, and his wife, Jeanette. They live a block away from us, and we pass their house most evenings when we walk the dog. They asked if we were taking Philip trick or treating. I told them no, citing the reasons I listed above.
“We’re going to wait until he shows an interest in it,” I explained.
Afterwards, I fretted over this. When it seemed like Philip’s sinus infection was never going to end, I was less concerned about Halloween. Now that he was sniffle-free I began to wonder. How can he show an interest if he never gets the experience? How can he learn what to do if we don’t take him?
I always feel a bit guilty when we chose to exclude Philip from activities. I tend to second guess myself, wondering if we are depriving him by not going on a field trip or not taking him to one children’s event or another. Even though Philip’s best interests are at the heart of these decisions, I would be dishonest if I said that we never take our own level of comfort into consideration. Personally speaking, I’m not a big fan of Halloween. I’ve never been very creative when it comes to costumes. Knowing that I didn’t have to come up with one for Philip was a relief. I wasn’t sad that I didn’t have to drag him from house to house, especially in the unpredictable weather of late October.
When I got home from work last night, however, it was perfect weather for trick or treating. I had a momentary fit of jealously, remembering all the of years as a kid when I wore a winter coat over my costume. And I swear it was always dark, so one’s costume, what little could be seen from under a coat, could only be observed by the glow of a porch light. And did I mention that I grew up in the country? Mom drove us from house to house. There was no chance to parade down a sidewalk to show off my costumes. But I’m not bitter or anything . . .
Trick or Treat was scheduled to start at 6:00 pm. I thought I had better take Philip and Roscoe for a walk before then, when the sidewalks wouldn’t be crowded and there would be plenty of daylight. Imagine my surprise to see clusters of children and their families already out and about at 5:45 pm. Philip paid them no mind as he was focusing on kicking piles of leaves. Roscoe wanted to smell each and every person, hoping to get some extra petting from the strangers.
As usual, our route took us past my cousin’s house. Jeanette came out to meet us.
“I know you aren’t trick or treating,” she said, “but I thought I would offer Philip some candy anyway.” She extended her basket of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, mini Almond Joys and other chocolatey treats.
“You can pick one,” I instructed Philip.
Philip didn’t pick one. He briefly glanced at the basket, before returning his attention to a yellow maple leave he had picked up from the sidewalk. He was twirling it between his fingers.
“Philip,” I repeated. “Do you want to pick one?”
Apparently, he did not. The leaf was keeping him entertained.
In that moment, I realized that we had made the right decision.
After supper, I drove Philip over to my parents’. My mom was seated on her front step with a bowl of candy waiting for trick-or-treaters. She led Philip into the house, setting the bowl on the end table. Philip peered into it, his attention captured by the colorful wrappers. After a few moments, he selected a Kit-Kat from the bowl.
He handed it to me, waiting expectantly. I unwrapped the candy, broke it in two and gave him half. He clutched it in his hand. Slowly, cautiously he moved it to his mouth and took a bite of the chocolate-covered wafer. His eyes widened in delight.
He took a few more nibbles before the melting chocolate covered his palm. Distracted from eating, he opened his hand, looked at the mess and gave the gooey remainder back to me.
In that moment, too, I realized that we had made the right decision.