These rules, which have become
common at schools around the country, are well-meaning, but they make me
nostalgic for the Halloween celebrations of my childhood. While I acknowledge
that my recollections may be imperfect, as I’m now in my late 30s and my
memories were likely forged in the throes of a sugar high, I don’t remember any
restrictive rules like these during my own school years. It makes me sad about
my son’s sanitized Halloween experience.
On the rule prohibiting weapons, I should first point out that I’m not a fan of guns, pretend or
otherwise. Whenever my son talks about buying a toy gun or about guns in
general, I usually respond with, “I don’t like guns.” During a recent visit to the
toy department at Target to use a gift card, I successfully steered him away
from his first choice of a Nerf gun to the more benign Nerf walkie-talkies.
Once it’s stripped of lightsaber
and mask, all that will remain of my son’s costume will be black robes.
Still, couldn’t the school replace
the “no weapons” rule with one that simply specifies no toy guns? My son, a
"Star Wars" fan, is dressing up as Kylo Ren this year, and with the current restriction,
he can’t bring his lightsaber—a pretty essential prop for the costume. I also
see some gray areas with a “no weapons” pronouncement. Is Harry Potter’s wand a
weapon? The books make it clear that wands can kill. What about a "Ghostbusters"
proton pack? If the school is worried about kids whacking one another with play
weapons, teachers could explain to the students that a single
inappropriate use of a costume prop means it will be confiscated immediately.
for the ban on masks is less apparent. I do vividly remember the Halloween safety
warnings we received as kids, which, along with, “Have your parents check your
candy before you eat it,” included, “When you go trick-or-treating, don’t wear
a mask that makes it hard for you to see at night.” But inside my son’s classroom,
and in the bus loop where he and his classmates will march in a Halloween
parade, it won’t be dark at all. And so many costumes revolve around masks—or
at least include them—that this rule seems a bit ridiculous.
The “no makeup” part makes even
less sense to me. The only thing I can think of is that face paint can be messy
and could rub off on clothing and other things, but my son occasionally comes
home with remnants of lunch on his shirt or dirt on his pants anyway, and I’m
sure plenty of kids bring potentially messy foods for their daily snack time. I
recognize that a bunch of 6-year-olds applying costume makeup at school would
probably be a disaster, albeit a colorful one, but then why can’t kids come to
school already wearing face paint? It’s Halloween! (Actually, that’s how I
want to respond to each point on the flyer: “But it’s Halloween!”)
Taking away the options to paint your face or cover it with a mask truly limits
the number of potential costumes for kids. (So why is my son dressing up as
Kylo Ren, you ask? We bought the costume this summer so he could wear it at a
Comic Con we went to—so it’s doing double duty. #savingtips)
Once it’s stripped of lightsaber
and mask, all that will remain of my son’s costume will be black robes. This
will not suggest Kylo Ren at all, but instead, a Benedictine monk. I imagine our
family years from now, looking at photos from the school Halloween parade and
trying to figure out what my son’s costume was supposed to be. A tiny goth,
perhaps? A fangless Dracula? Severus Snape?
Speaking of books, one
final request on the flyer read, “For our Halloween celebration at school, we
encourage all children to dress up as a character from a book.” Now, don’t get
me wrong. I love books. I want my son to be an avid reader like I was as a kid
(and still am), and we read together every night at bedtime. But this is yet
another condition placed on kids’ costumes. The school already does so much to
encourage reading, which is great. My son’s homework requires him to read or
listen to a parent read for 15 minutes a day, his teacher carves out time for “D.E.A.R.”
(Drop Everything and Read) every afternoon, students go to the school library
every week to check out books, and Scholastic book order forms come home every
month. It wouldn’t hurt to simply let kids dress up in any costume they choose
on Halloween—that’s half the fun. (The other half, of course, is gorging
yourself on candy.) In response to this part of the Halloween flyer, a friend
of mine whose child goes to my son’s school asked, “Why can’t they just let
kids be kids?”
Besides, it’s clear—to me at least—that
“book costumes vs. non-book costumes” isn’t a simple good/bad dichotomy. My
son’s last two Halloween costumes were a germ and the Mars Rover (his own
ideas), and they were fun, creative and even educational. And with so many
movie novelizations and merchandising tie-ins today, many children’s “books”
are simply based on movies and TV anyway, from "Pokémon" to "My Little Pony" to
superheroes of all sorts. While Kylo Ren’s origin is a film, technically he is also
a character from a book. But the school’s flyer still makes me worry that my
son’s choice of costume will be viewed in a negative light—not by other kids, but by teachers and staff, and not of my kid but of me.
We’re going to follow the rules, of
course. On October 31, my son will get on the school bus with his costume in a
bag, leave his lightsaber and mask at home, and refrain from painting his face.
That evening, he’ll get a chance to go trick-or-treating with his full Kylo Ren
costume. I just wish his school’s Halloween celebration had a little more of
the Dark Side.