Parents, grab your children. Hold onto them. For Halloween is fast approaching, and nary a child is safe as dangerous ghouls and ghastly goblins hit the streets to molest or poison your offspring.
The streets are not safe. Close your doors. Turn off your porch lights. And just to be safe, park inside the garage on this All Hallow’s Eve. Or at least around back.
Hogwash. Believe it or not, Halloween is pretty safe. And only myths and unsubstantiated rumors have helped today’s helicopter parents become more worried and anxious than ever – and more so than I feel they need to be.
First thing first. Bad things CAN happen to your child. Or my child. On Halloween. On Christmas. On any given day of any given year. This doesn’t mean less-than-diligent parents have carte blanche to drop their children off three states away for Trick-or-Treating with only two quarters and a pair of sturdy shoes with a parting farewell of “good luck.”
That’s just dumb. With a reasonable level of planning, Halloween and Trick-or-Treating can be lots of fun, very safe and, with any luck, include a few harmless frights and scares.
Myth No. 1: Strangers poison kids with tainted candy
False. I’m going to quote Lenore Skenazy here (a starter of the “free range” movement on raising kids). In her column for the Wall Street Journal last year, Skenazy had University of Delaware sociologist Joel Best study Halloween crime reports going back to 1958.
“Not one single child (was) poisoned by a stranger’s candy,” was one of the findings.
Myth No. 2: A sex offender is out to get me (or you)
Again, using Skenazy’s column as a primary source, researchers went back to 1997 — in the days before all the “sex offenders must stay home on Halloween” laws — and found that all these new laws that were intended to protect our children “are protecting children from an almost nonexistent danger.”
“It’s as if a new law mandated seat belts on cafeteria benches to protect kids from falling off. Uh — they weren’t!” Skenazy exclaimed.
She’s absolutely right, of course. Listen, if a bad person wants to do bad things — regardless of what day it is — they’re probably going to ignore a piece of paper that says they have to remain at home between 6 p.m. and midnight.
Skenazy notes that all these new laws mean “that cops across the country are spending Halloween checking in on all the local sex offenders to make sure they’re home … that means the cops are not available to do other things, such as direct traffic.”
I raise my kids in an effort they might do better and have better than what I had at their age. They sure are smarter than I am, so that’s a step in the right direction. Because they’re smart and quite capable, my 12-year-old and 9-year-old are free to knock on doors around the neighborhood – our block is 4.6-miles around – in hopes of scoring their favorite treats.
If I’ve done my job right, my kids know to watch out for cars while they walk along the side of the road. They know to generally shy away from people in box vans who pull up alongside them on the road (unless it’s Mr. Stevens, and everyone knows what color his van is).
And if they’re in a new neighborhood? Sure, I’ll pay closer attention. But kids need a little time to themselves every once in a while – and Halloween might be the perfect time to have one of those nights. After all, the anxiety levels of most adults are already running on high – they’re alert behind the wheel or walking with their younger children. If I’m not around at a particular point in time, my neighbors have the right (and hopefully they see it as an obligation) to keep my kids out of trouble.
And I hope they expect the same of me. But if you must keep track of your children 24/7, then here are (and I share this with great reluctance), click here for apps to download to your cellphone.