By Katie Moosbrugger
As soon as the calendar turned to October 1, the inevitable question from my tween popped up. “Will I be able to trick or treat alone with my friends this year?”
In all fairness, I should say “Yes!” I would tell her, “As long as you stay on the main loop of our neighborhood so I know your path at all times.” I’d also remind her to never leave her friends or wander off alone. She knows better than to talk to a random stranger who might pull up in a car, or to kids she doesn’t know. It’s not like she would ever go into someone’s house, but then again, if she did, I truly have no concerns about any of our neighbors. She is nearly 12 years old and I trust she would be fine.
Our neighborhood is very much like the one in which I grew up. There is only one way in and out (so traffic is minimal), and the majority of the ‘hood is a mile-long loop. I honestly have no recollection of my mom or dad ever walking with me on Halloween night. I know they did when I was really little (I’ve seen pictures!), but I think I was on my own with friends from at least 3rd or 4th grade and older.
Heck, my parents even let me go out on “Mischief Night” when I was in middle school. I’m guessing you may not have heard of “Mischief Night” before. I always thought it was a national “holiday” like Halloween, until I moved south and learned otherwise! Mischief Night takes place the night before Halloween (at least it does in NJ) and it involves exactly what the name implies. My friends and I would gather for a night of mischief, otherwise known as TP’ing (toilet paper rolling) the trees in our neighbor’s yards. Sometimes the older kids would take it too far, but for the most part, it was a night of fun and harmless pranks.
All the while – after all those Halloweens and Mischief Nights in which I was out alone with my friends – I am still here. Alive and well. Nothing terrible happened to me.
Yet once again, the decision to let my tween trick-or-treat alone is weighing on me. I actually let her try it once with friends, but didn’t learn her plans were foiled until she returned home. Last year, the same inevitable question “Can I trick-or-treat alone with my friends?” came up at our neighborhood Halloween party. After discussing the idea with her friends and their parents, we “moms” all decided it was OK for them to go alone. However one of the dads did not agree.
Turns out he painstakingly followed the girls closely behind in his car, around the entire one-mile loop, patiently waiting at each house as they took their time lollygagging along.
I was so embarrassed to learn that maybe my parenting decision was a bad one. What is wrong with me to think it was OK when another parent – with a daughter the same age – felt so differently? Am I too naïve or too much of a pushover? Do I dare bring up this idea to the same parents again this year?
Realizing every neighborhood is different – and times have truly changed since I was a kid – I’d be curious to know how other parents make the decision whether or not to supervise their children on Halloween. Is there a good age to allow this? Do you define a specific distance – or map out a route – in which they can travel alone? Do you give them a time limit for their solo trick-or-treating? Have you ever dropped your kids to trick-or-treat in a neighborhood other than your own? Do you offer some independence but – no matter their age – follow along behind them in a car?
If this same decision is hanging over your head as well, chime in and let me know how you plan to manage your trick-or-treaters this year!