My boys are really earning their man cards this week. You've seen Snookie's first bloody sports injury. That is so cool, right? They are also learning "tricks" on their bikes that make Mommy anxious but look awesome - lifting their feet off the pedals, crossing their legs, etc. It won't be long before we go hands-free.
Well, one major rite of passage came during trick-or-treating this weekend. MommaLlama's sprained foot is acting up again, so she stayed home to hand out candy while I walked with the boys. Many in our 'hood went all out with decorations, music, smoke machines, etc. Several "haunted" garages. The boys were much braver than in years past, going up to several spooky doors by themselves.
Getting to the point, the boys actually went into a haunted house all by themselves! I was not going to force them against their wills and give them bad dreams and make them feel unsafe with me, etc. But I was gently encouraging. We ducked our heads inside the first one, and decided that it was too much, and left. As we approached another haunted garage a couple blocks later, I overheard another parent asking the homeowners to offer a mild and un-scary experience for her little girls who were only five years old. The homeowner happily agreed, so I decided to give the boys a little nudge and talk them into it. They still weren't having it, until the music coming from inside started playing none other than Vader's Theme Song! Well, that was it. My little jedis just had to see what that was all about. So they summoned all their courage, and all three of them went inside! Four-and-a-half seconds later, they emerged from the other side. The lady with the candy then followed them out and offered them some... apparently they had gone so quickly that they didn't even see anything or stop for candy. But it still counts! My young men bravely faced their very first haunted house!
By the way, in case you are curious, I thought I would share some of our thoughts on the whole debate about Halloween as innocent fun versus evil paganism. We teach our boys about the Catholic meaning of All Hallows Eve and the feasts of All Saints and All Souls. If we can make it to a saints party, we do (couldn't make it this year because of hockey practice). That is a fun and educational thing to do. But we take a both/and approach, and don't have a problem with trick-or-treating in and of itself. In fact, while church and other similar gathering (trunk or treat) are nice, I think it's good to be in your own neighborhood with the lights on for the benefit of all the little ones and parents who go walking along. When I was a kid, our neighborhood was fantastic, and almost every house participated. Today, it seems like maybe a third participate, while most lights are turned off. That's not bad. There were hundreds of kids and families out, and we certainly got plenty of candy, and exercise. As for costumes, last year they actually went as saints. This year Bobcat and Bubba really wanted to be Jedis, and Snookie wanted to be a knight. (Although he changed his mind once we got outside, and when people asked him if he was a knight, he told them he was in fact a jedi-knight. Whatever!) We won't allow gory or innately evil costumes, but our boys' temperaments don't seem to gravitate towards such things anyway. (Or downright slutty costumes, if we ever have girls...) For trick-or-treating this year, they recycled last year's Franciscan monk and Goliath gladiator-style outfits to be Jedis and a Knight. Noble, virtuous figures, even if not overtly religious. (Forgot to take pictures until they were already undressed and digging into the candy...) As for decorations, we have generic "fall" decorations in the house. For one, we don't wish to make devils and witches appear cute and innocuous. But also, we are pretty frugal and we like our "fall" decor to last all the way from October to Advent. (It's pretty much the same with spring and Easter.) To account for others' taste for the darker things, we explained to the boys that those scary decorations are there to remind us of the end of life and our need for repentance and faith in Christ. Sort of the Mexican Dia de los Muertos take on things. I don't have a problem with visual reminders of death. We have no fear death, because of our hope in the resurrection. Obviously many, perhaps most, secular decorations cross the line these days and are simply horror for horror's sake. I have never liked horror movies or gruesome haunted houses. I don't enjoy being frightened, and would not allow that type of thing in my home. But we can still be "in the world but not of the world" and enjoy a secular holiday with our friends and neighbors, as well as remembering the religious significance as a family.