Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween Regrets

Another Halloween has come and gone, and I kind of feel like Charlie Brown did after he collected a bagful of rocks.

The whole feel of Halloween was different this year right from the start. For one thing, Kai wasn’t as enthused about the prospect of going trick-or-treating as he had been the year before. Did we already pass the peak of Halloween excitement at age seven?

His costume this year was Toad, one of the Super Mario characters for those of you who are not familiar. Kai plays only one Super Mario game, Mario Party for the Wii. But whenever he plays, he chooses the character of Toad.

Once we started out trick-or-treating, we discovered that Halloween falling on a Monday this year made things very different from the Sunday Halloween of last year. What, doesn’t everybody stay home from work so they can be around at 3:30 in the afternoon just to hand out candy? Apparently not. I think by the time Kai got to a house that actually had someone home, he was already getting tired of the whole thing.

Still, we did find a few houses to stop at. And, what happened was always the same.

Kai would go up to the door and ring the bell. If someone came out, more often than not Kai would not say “trick or treat.” Instead, as if mesmerized by the big bowl of candy staring him in the face, he’d look at it for an uncomfortably long time. Sometimes, he would even rummage through the bowl to see if there was anything at the bottom that he preferred. Eventually, he would pick something out and then turn and leave without saying “thank you.”

Last year, one man got annoyed at how long it took Kai to pick out a piece of candy and made a comment that indicated that he was insulted that this kid didn’t think any of his candy was good enough. I didn’t get into the whole ‘he has autism’ explanation, instead just saying that he likes to look at everything.

But, since then, I’ve tried to get Kai to hurry up and make his choice more quickly.

And that gets him mad.

He also didn’t like it when I told him to take only one piece of candy unless the homeowner tells him he can have more. He kept asking people how many pieces he could have until I threatened to take away his candy if he kept doing that.

Between all that, as well as all the haranguing for him to say “trick or treat” and “thank you,” I don’t think he had as much fun trick-or-treating this year.

My wife told me later that many of the kids who came to our house also did not say “trick or treat” or “thank you,” and many grabbed several pieces of candy. As far as we could tell, these kids did not have autism. I harrumphed that it still didn’t excuse our son from those things.

But, upon reflection, I wonder if I may have been too harsh on Kai.

Halloween is supposed to be fun, and I’m afraid that my good intentions to teach Kai proper manners may have taken some of the fun out of the day for him. It is not always easy to finesse the line between trying to teach a child, and accepting their challenges and letting them enjoy the moment. In Kai's case, remembering to say "trick or treat" and "thank you" while picking out a piece of candy was probably very difficult for him. And so, I should have just gone up to the houses with him and said it for him instead of reminding him from the end of the driveway.

After circling the block, we went home. Kai didn’t go back out for a second run as we did last year. I think he had had enough.

My wife partially saved the day, however. She made brain and eyeball cupcakes that Kai loved.

And then Kai enjoyed breaking open the pumpkin piƱata.

So the day wasn’t all a bag of rocks.

My father-in-law from Japan didn’t have much to say about the whole custom of going door to door demanding candy. But he did enjoy seeing Kai in his costume.

Kai made a very good Toad. Don't you agree?

Check out our Facebook page for more pictures.


  1. I like those cupcakes. They were imaginative.

    Kai looks cute in his little mushroom hat.

    I don't think you were too harsh wanting Kai to have good manners. That is a very important social skill, that while many lack in that, Kai will be served well in life by practicing it at all times. You were perfectly correct. We want our children to be better than the average.

    Thank you for sharing the pictures.

  2. Thanks for your support. I want Kai to have good manners. The dilemma is how best to teach him. He is not like typical kids, and just telling him over and over does not seem to work, or at least be very efficient. Perhaps a more proactive approach, setting expectations and practicing ahead of time, would have taught him good manners without adding to his stress while trick or treating.

    I loved the cupcakes. They tasted good, too!

  3. Those cupcakes look AWESOME! Your Halloween sounds a lot like mine. Except we didn't take the day off, and Norrin had therapy until 6pm. So we went out later in the evening, went to a few familiar stores and that was it.

    I am sure Kai had a good time, I think as parents we feel more responsible for making them have a good time. But he probably had a great time just dressing up as his favorite character.

  4. Thanks Lisa. I agree, my wife makes the best cupcakes! And they're GFCF, too.

    Lisa, this year we cancelled Kai's afternoon therapies as we knew he would want to start trick or treating right at our community's designated start time. Maybe next year, we'll just send him to his usual activities.

    I hope Kai still had a good time. It's sometimes hard to tell...


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