Is it Possible to Be Too Old to Trick-or-Treat?

Photo by Jack Nelson on Unsplash

Teenagers occupy a strange in-between world. They are no longer children, but they are not yet adults. They are quick to abandon “babylike” things, then almost as quick to regret that they have done so. It is during the teen years that many of us start to wonder why we ever wished so hard to grow up faster.

Trick-or-treating is something that many kids look forward to for months. They spend hours thinking about how they want to dress, often coming up with bigger and better ideas each week leading up to Halloween. (As a mom, I learned early on to not buy or make the costumes my children asked for in August or September, realizing that it would likely change a few times by mid-October.)

An almost heartbreaking sign that your kids are growing up is when you ask what they want to be for Halloween and they answer, “Nothing, trick-or-treating is for little kids.” I have to admit, the first time I heard this, my insides lurched. My babies were growing up, much too fast, and they wanted to rush the process. Knowing that I made a similar proclamation, and then made a game-time decision to go out on Halloween when I was in high school, I suggested they keep the option open. I said, “You can dress up anyway. There may be parties, so what do you want to be?” (|Full disclosure, I love Halloween and have loved making costumes for my children. Though I have lost sleep and shed tears during the last week of October, I really enjoyed it when they challenged me to create something out of the ordinary.)

Many adults think that once a child reaches a certain age or height that this fall ritual should end. They see trick-or-treating as an activity for small children and think that older kids are being greedy. Though the candy is a motivator, most teens just want to dress up. In fact, I have seen many teens hand their candy to younger kids, even as they are walking away from a house. Dressing up is fun. It is not often that we have the opportunity to pretend to be someone else, if only for a couple hours. For us and our neighbors, Halloween is a community event, one of those days that we catch up with the people a block or two over, when we see how much the kids have grown. We regularly see parents in costume as they accompany their children; it is fun to see how they dress each year.

Personally, I like to see teenagers at my door on Halloween. Some years, it was the arrival of an extra-tall trick-or-treater that got my own kid to quickly put on (or even create on-the-fly) a costume and head out the door if only for a short time. When the kids were little, my husband and I divided holiday tasks: he handed out candy at our house and I walked with the kids (fortunately what each of us preferred). At some point over the years, he decided to bring back the age-old concept of trick-or-treating, insisting that kids do a trick for a treat. Though some were caught off guard and needed some coaching to come up with a “trick,” in later years they returned to our door with something prepared (and sometimes an unsuspecting friend). Some teens are extra shy about this, but his request has been rewarded with quality entertainment, such as songs, dance moves and handstands.

I vividly remember the first Halloween I thought I was “too old” for trick-or-treating. I had a friend over and after the first few rounds of witches and ghouls came around, we decided we were wrong, we really weren’t too old. I had a pirate mask from a prior year, and it wasn’t too difficult to come up with the extras to make that work. My friend lived too far away to run home for a costume, so we improvised. We grabbed a black trash bag, created leg holes and tied it loosely around her neck. I think we added crumpled newspaper to fill it out. The image of her walking down the street in this costume and the answer when people asked what she was “A bag of trash, of course,” still makes me laugh.

Today, more so than ever, kids are growing up too fast. If they have a costume, no matter how lame, I’ll give them some candy (especially if they are willing to show us a trick.)


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