Looking back at my childhood, I have very fond memories of Halloween: first we would make a stop at my grandparents' house across the street where my grandma would always give us a shiny, bright red apple (which, by the way I always thought was lame because it was candy I wanted), then it was off to the local fire department for games and more candy, and then finally, off to suffer the cold Wisconsin moonlit evening in our costumes covered by winter coats - good times, good times.
However, now that I'm a parent, I see things from a completely different perspective. When I learned that our local fire department hosted an annual "Halloween party", I thought to myself, "I remember those - I bet Leighton would love that. Let's go this year!" Okay... clearly when you are a child, you don't see the chaos and crying all around you at an event such as that. Kati (our au pair), Leighton, and I had to park quite a distance away from the fire department and walk in the freezing weather all the way to the station. As we walked, a toddler in front of us started to melt down and go limp as his parents desperately tried to pretend like they weren't going to lose it and head back to the car.
When we finally arrived, the place was packed, and my crowd claustrophobia kicked in, making me dizzy and disoriented. What was I thinking? What had we gotten ourselves into? It was madness. Why were there so many people participating in what seemed like chaos? I didn't know what to do or where to go. There were long lines for every game, there wasn't much candy readily available, and so we headed towards the huge inflatable jump house. Leighton went in but came right back out as another screaming, crying toddler exited, scaring him. Again, he entered the jump house of germs, and another child emerged crying. Why was this a good idea? We have a jump house at home... one not filled with chaos and screaming children. It was just awful.
I hastily grabbed one piece of candy, put it in his bag, and raced toward the door. There was a "haunted house" (which was pretty much a dimly lit, stuffy hallway with smoke and creepy music) that we stepped all of two feet into before we heard, "It's too scary; let's go home!" Sigh. Nope. Not doing this again. As we made the long, cold walk back to the car, Leighton had a smile on his face, and I asked him if he had fun. "Yeah!" Were we at the same event just then?
Back in the car, he dumped his bag out, and held tightly to that mini piece of candy with a big, happy smile on his face. I couldn't understand it. How could have enjoyed that? We were there for all of fifteen minutes.
After an evening of trick-or-treating in our neighborhood, I called my mom and asked her if the Halloween parties at our local fire department had been like I had just experienced, and with a tired remembrance in her voice, she said yes. But, I remembered fun games, fun times, and candy. How can the memories and experiences of parent and child be so different? I just don't know. Well, the sacrifices of parenting can only go so far, and although I am willing to endure trick-or-treating in below-freezing weather, I am never again going to attend a "Halloween party" at the fire department... even though there were a few treats for the adults... fireman eye candy!
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