I was putting up our Halloween decorations the other day when two girls—ten and twelve— who live across the street, came over to watch.
"Are you excited to go trick or treating," I asked.
Their faces tensed up. Then they shook their heads.
"We don't trick or treat."
Sensing my shock, they tried to back-pedal a bit. "Well, we do sort of. We go to the mall. The stores hand out candy. It's safer."
Oh. The "S" word.
Mind you, we live in a nice neighborhood in the suburbs of Los Angeles. But each year it seems, fewer kids trick or treat; and more and more nutty, "safe" alternatives to knocking on people's doors and asking for candy are dreamed up by the fear mongers. This year, I've seen churches, schools, malls, shopping centers and parking lots advertise their versions of 'trick or treating.'
Instead of heading out with your friends into the dark streets armed only with an empty bag , you can wander around a fluorescent-lit mall, walk into a store and be handed a single piece of stale candy by a corporate automaton wearing a name badge. Or, you can head to a church or school parking lot where a bunch of parents have parked their cars and filled their trunks with candy. This watered down version of trick or treating actually has a name—'trunk a treat.' Sounds like true horror to me.
Why are people so afraid to allow their kids this rite of passage that we took for granted? How can we deny them something we look back on fondly? Is the world much more dangerous than it was when we roamed the streets back in the sixties or seventies or eighties?
Most people seem to think so. Some will rattle off statistics. Every day, it seems, there's another story about another kid murdered or abducted or attacked. It wasn't always that way, was it? The world was so much safer when we were kids, we say as if it is a fact. But is it true?
No. When we were children the world was just as dangerous. We didn't know about all the horrible things that were going on because our news was local. We only knew what happened in the neighborhoods around us. And it was safe nearby—just like many neighborhoods are now. We didn't have cable news or the Internet telling us about horrific crimes in other neighborhoods far away. Because we didn't know about it, it didn't happen. But it always happened. Somewhere.
We all know the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin by the Brothers Grimm. In this story, a piper lured the children from a small German village with his magical pipe. Like many fairy tales, this one is rooted in truth. Some theories are that the piper was a man who came into town and stole children away from their families. The children were either murdered or disappeared forever. No one knows for certain. But one thing that is certain—even in the 13thcentury, sometimes children disappeared.
Some people say that one day trick or treating will become obsolete. I hope that doesn't happen. It is an American tradition.
We all want to protect our kids, and we should. But hasn't the safety-first crowd crossed the line of insanity? Kids are in far less danger trick or treating than they would be say — doing athletics at Penn State... or attending dozens of public and private schools in Los Angeles and around the nation where allegedly vetted and screened teachers, priests and rabbis turn out to be monsters and molesters.
I want my kids to have the thrill of donning a nutty costume, dodging plastic skeletons and straw witches to ring that doorbell and see what lurks on the other side. Which is invariably some generous soul dropping fistfuls of candy into their sacks, just for the fun of watching their beautiful faces light up.
There have always been pedophiles and creeps and human monsters. There always will be. No amount of legislation, cops, security cameras or anything else is going to keep everyone safe from everything. Life does not contain risk, life IS risk.
Stop trying to impose your inane and unfounded paranoia on the rest of us.