Being a Little Kid with a Bunch of Big Kids on Halloween
Halloween in NYC was as fun as ever this year, but when it came to my kids, I planned a little poorly. Well, I planned an awesome Halloween for one kid but not the other. Which maybe is just the way it is when you have one child who is almost a teenager and another child is still very much a little kid.
Here’s where I went wrong. Or right. Depending on who you ask.
Mazzy wanted to spend Halloween with her friends. A lot of them trick or treat in the same area, but everyone’s timing is different and the streets they hit vary, so you can easily miss people entirely. I started to imagine a scenario where the majority of our night was spent trying to meet up with Mazzy’s friends and her being miserable until we found them. So, to prevent that from happening, I invited Mazzy’s friends and their parents to meet at our place first so we could all go trick or treating together.
They all said yes. Best idea ever! For Mazzy.
Harlow was really looking forward to doing our traditional NYC Halloween. You know, the one we did in the Before Times. I thought this meant hitting up all the same places— walking west to the haunted church on 10th Street and 5th ave, going down 11th and 12th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, which are both closed to cars, crossing over 6th Ave before the cops block it off for the parade, getting pizza on the corner, walking around the brownstones in the West Village until it gets dark and then taking the subway home.
So, that was the plan.
What I didn’t realize is that part of Harlow’s traditional NYC Halloween was not just hitting up all those familiar locations, it was doing it as a family activity. Just the four of us, like always. She let me know that as soon as we left the house and she found herself trailing the big kids, trying her best to keep up.
Harlow had some other issues too.
1) Harlow does not love crowds. Especially with COVID still out there in the mix. So, seeing a whole bunch of kids swarming for candy does not make Harlow particularly comfortable. She would hang back, waiting for the path to the candy to clear but more and more kids would just come and she would get upset because nobody was letting her take her turn. I told her she just had to angle her way in there, but she just didn’t want to do that.
2) Harlow had wings. It’s possible that Harlow’s wingspan (which was at least two feet broader than her back) was another big reason she was uncomfortable angling herself in to get candy. Eventually, she took them off and I held onto them for the rest of the night.
3) Harlow is very selective about her candy. When she got up to the candy bowl (if she got up to the candy bowl), on average, she spent about 10 million hours deciding which candy to take. On occasion, she would decide that no candy in the bowl was to her liking and just walk away.
4) Harlow wore heels. I told Harlow to wear sneakers for trick or treating but she insisted that the boots made her outfit. She was right, but about a half hour into the evening, she started to complain that her feet were hurting. She powered through but they definitely slowed her down.
5) Harlow needs a warm up period. Harlow has always been one of those kids who needs time to adjust to any given scenario. When she was really little, she would spend every birthday party clinging to me (including her own) and then finally loosen up and start to have a great time about 15 minutes before everyone was leaving. I think the walk over to the West Village with just our family on previous Halloweens acted as a good warm up before we hit the crowds on 11th Street. Starting trick or treating with a bunch of fast moving big kids right out of the gate put her on an uncomfortable pace from the outset. It’s like a roller coaster launching you over the first hill at top speed without the slow churning build up of getting to the top.
For the first half of trick or treating, Harlow was not happy. It was not what she was expecting. It was too fast, too crowded and too different from what she remembered. I really wanted this Halloween to be amazing for everyone too, so it’s always hard as a parent to recognize that your kid is not along for the ride and it might be your fault.
Although to be fair to myself, Harlow feels this way often. She has very high expectations that are incredibly specific and needs time to adjust to the reality of the situation before she can enjoy herself.
Then at around 5:30pm (about an hour and a half after we started), the air shifted and something miraculous happened. A little voice screamed, “HARLOW!!!!”
Harlow stopped in her tracks as she tried to recognize the Pokemon running toward her. Then it hit her. It was her 6yo cousin Neve. They ran toward each other and hugged. Then she saw her cousin Jack in a Minecraft costume and they hugged their hearts out too.
We used to run into my sister with her kids on 11th Street every year on Halloween and here it was happening, just like in the Before Times. It was in a moment she really needed it, so the run-in exceeded expectations.
That moment turned around our whole night. Harlow was suddenly energized and raring to go, heels be damned. We got more candy, pointed out different costumes (Yayoi Kusama was her fave), pet the dogs dressed like lions and dinosaurs, and marveled at all the brownstones decked out in spooky decor. One of my favorite moments was when we saw a house decorated with the ghost of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Harlow ran up to the two women in dissent collars handing out candy to tell them how much she loved their decorations.
Then we crossed 6th Avenue before the cops closed it off and had pizza on the corner, just like always. The big kids sat at one table and the grown ups sat with Harlow at another, but she seemed very content to be with Mike and me.
After that, we head deeper into the West Village to trick or treat at the brownstones as it started to get dark. We turned a corner and Harlow saw a house with a crowd around the front stoop. “That’s the singing house!”
Two years ago, we had stumbled on this house after it got dark. The owners have a microphone and make the kids sing for candy. In return, they get a full size chocolate bar or box of candy. That year, Harlow stunned me (and the entire crowd) but getting up there and singing “I’m Not Giving Up” by Andy Grammer. This year she surprised me again but getting up in front of everyone and singing “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid.
(This is the only pic I got, but if you follow me on Instagram, I posted the video on my story.)
Harlow is a tricky kid. But she’s also a really special one. And even though she was a little late to the party, ultimately, she had a great Halloween.
Although, probably not as much fun as Mazzy, who loved every single second.
But if I’m honest, with the exception of me getting all Mazzy’s friends to meet at our place, Mazzy’s Halloween did not have that much to do with me. As kids get older, parents become more of a facilitator, rather than being the main event.
It’s good. I did my job.
As for next year, I think I’m going to figure out how to set up Harlow better for Halloween success… while she still wants to spend it with me.
How old are your kids and did you run into any issues managing expectations this year?
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