TRUNK OR TREAT sounds like it should be a top grossing horror movie. But it’s Opposite Day on Halloween apparently and Trunk-or-Treat is a family friendly way to trick-or-treat.

Unbelievably, these days, children are encouraged to take candy out of strangers cars. I can’t tell you how many times it was drilled into my head as a child to never take candy from strangers in cars.

When I was a kid, Halloween used to be the one time of year when we would joyfully go knock on our neighbors door. I knew everything about the people in my neighborhood growing up, largely because I knocked on their door once a year and said trick-or treat! When I became a parent I also learned who my neighbors were when my children knocked on their door and said trick-or-treat. I felt like I knew the people in my neighborhood because of Halloween.

Halloween was freaky. It wasn’t just the decorations, it wasn’t just the costumes, it was “do we DARE go knock on that door?”

Before you even walk up to a door you have to size up the house… Do they have any Halloween decorations? Or any lights on? Do we know the people inside? Do they have kids? Is this the house with that creepy old woman that scared us last year? Or is it the really nice old guy that never had any children and is so lonely and Halloween is his favorite time of the year?

Some houses were pitch black with the drapes closed and likely the inhabitants either dreaded children, or Halloween, or their house was something they really didn’t want to share with the general public. Fine. (Note to self: this house does not like kids.) Some houses were more than welcoming with outdoor decorations, spooky music, and the door would fly open before you even had a chance to knock on it. For a split second you would have the ability to look into somebody else’s world. It didn’t smell like your house it didn’t look like your house it didn’t sound like your house this is because it was somebody else’s private home. When you had a conversation with your neighbor, you learned if you like them or not. (Note to self: Halloween friendly house, but creepy inhabitants.)

Sometimes you would trick-or-treat on your own. Other times you would trick-or-treat with one friend or maybe a whole group. It always involved a conversation and multiple phone calls to get organized. When you were with somebody going from door to door you would have to decide which one of you was going to knock on the door — if you were even brave enough to go up to the spooky house in the first place. You would have to make a decision is the candy worth it? Is the house really weird but the candy always good? Or, was this the house that always gives out dreadful apples but you like the people that live there? You’d have to weigh the options and recall your previous experiences.

When I became a parent I also learned who my neighbors were when my children knocked on their door and said trick-or-treat! I felt like I knew the people in my neighborhood because of Halloween. I have three children and I have driven them from house to house or dropped them off on street corners and met them at the following street, for more than a dozen years. I love watching the process of evaluation that my child goes through before approaching a strangers house because I can relate to it. I love the stories of their experience that they share with me later and I get to decide for myself if I like my neighbors or not. (Note to self: Little Mary’s step dad seems really scary… No wonder she has so many problems at school….)

The trunk-or-treat phenomenon is sweeping the nation as a “safe” trick-or-treating environment that is easier on the parents. And that might seem cool for a lot of people who want to keep their children safe and avoid the extreme chaperoning which has to happen when you send your kid out in the dark. However, I am not one of those parents. I actually have no idea who the folks are providing the candy (whether or not there was a registration system) — to me, it looks like a whole-lotta strangers just rolled up and popped their trunk. I don’t want to take candy out of strangers trunks I certainly don’t want to encourage my children to take candy out of strangers trunks.

Providing a “safe“ environment such as trunk-or-treat completely eliminates all of the decision process that a child would have to go through to analyze an environment. Often times at trunk or treat gatherings, flood lights will light the entire area to make sure it’s nice and safe, and sometimes there’s music playing, so it feels more like a carnival atmosphere. (Not A Bonus: some people choose to keep their vehicles running so the children walk through copious amounts of exhaust.) And, you still have to check your kids candy- you’re tricking yourself if you think just because it’s a lit up gathering spot it’s totally safe.

We have oh-so-many means of being in touch with each other these days but face to face is actually a dying mean of communication. I actually fear for the trunk-or-treat era children who have to knock on their neighbors doors when there is an emergency. How will they know which house to go to get help or to feel safe?

I love that my kids get just a little bit scared on Halloween. They get to “try out” what healthy controlled fear feels like, and compare that to what unhealthy fear feels like. I want my kids to make decisions about what feels safe and what does not and come back and tell me about it. We are doing our children a disservice by doing away with door to door trick-or-treating.

Author of Death Nesting and Ancient Death Doula Series. Feeding Your Demons Facilitator. Community Deathcare teacher. Mama of three. www.annemariekeppel.com

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