On Saturday morning, my husband took my daughter to the park. While walking through the neighborhood, he spotted signs advertising a community Halloween party thrown by the HOA that evening. There would be movies, games, music, and a costume competition, and something called “safe trick-or-treating,” which I just assumed meant old school, door-to-door Trick-or-Treating before it got too dark.
That evening, we dressed Isla up in her costume, dragged out my old trick-or-treating bucket (a super fancy plastic thing I got with a Happy Meal 20 years ago), and headed out to the party. When we got there, though, it was clear that “safe” trick-or-treating didn’t mean going door to door before the sun went down. It meant kids walking from table to table on the basketball court and getting candy from each table.
This is something I’ve heard other parents mention as well, these “safe” trick-or-treating events where a group of select, “safe” adults give out candy in a very public, non-threatening situation where dozens of other adult eyes are watching. I guess this is a thing now? Marching kids from table to table (or booth to booth or car to car) to ask for candy, because our neighborhoods are, apparently, too scary to venture out into, despite the fact that they’re where we live.
I’m a child of the 80s. I lived through the poisoned candy scare (which was 100% bogus, if you don’t count a dad poisoning his kid for insurance money and then trying to poison the entire neighborhood to cover his tracks.) Basically, it meant when I got home from trick-or-treating my parents went through my haul, tossed out any homemade goodies or candy with damaged wrappers, then let my brother and me get down to the business of making ourselves ill from too much sugar.
But these days, it seems like most parents aren’t worried about tainted candy. They’re worried about tainted neighbors.
Maybe I’m naive or living in the past, but don’t people normally know the other folks living on their street? Are people really that worried that someone living a few doors down–the person they wave to when they’re walking to check the mail or chat with about the weather as they’re weeding their flower beds–is going to lure some unsuspecting child into their home and lock them up in their basement? Especially if Mom or Dad is watching and waiting for their kids at the end of the sidewalk?
When I was a kid, safe trick-or-treating meant going with your mom or dad if you were little, carrying a flash light, looking both ways before you crossed the street, and not going in people’s houses if you didn’t know them. Now, everyone’s so worried about pedophiles and child murderers, kids can’t even go out under the watchful eye of mom and dad during daylight hours.
I feel like somewhere in the 10 years between being a kid and having a kid, the world of children changed in a way that is mostly incomprehensible to me. Kids don’t just randomly meet other kids living in their neighborhoods by going outside and riding bikes and playing in the dirt anymore. Mom arranges play dates (a term I’m pretty sure didn’t even exist in 1984) with her friends’ kids, then goes on Pinterest, finds elaborate craft and snack ideas, and coordinates playtime like it’s some sort of kiddie ballet.
It seems like kids never get time to be on their own, outside or inside, doing their own thing and directing their own play, all because we parents are so scared of what might happen if they go somewhere without our direct supervision or meet with someone who hasn’t already been pre-approved by us.
And it seems like grown-ups, for whatever reason, are no longer getting to know their neighbors. There was a time when people knew the other people living on their street and folks watched out for each others’ kids.
It’s sad. I live in a suburban neighborhood where people live practically right on top of each other. All of their windows face directly into 4 different sets of neighbors’ windows! You can’t go out into your backyard without being within earshot of 5 other people’s yards. These folks live in nice homes with manicured lawns. Everyone drives a nice car. Their kids all go to the same great school. And yet…they don’t know each other. There is no real sense of community. Someone has to organize a special “safe” event in order for people to come out and get to know the people they live a 5-minute walk from.
It’s so very different from how I grew up in a small town in a rural area where everybody knew everybody. To this day, I can still tell you where every kid in my entire school lived, where their grandparents lived if they lived in town, and how everyone was related to each other out to second cousins. My mom was a teacher, and absolutely everyone–even the 20 or so people in town I didn’t know–knew my mother and therefore recognized me. I literally couldn’t do anything bad without my parents knowing about it before I got home. When someone got sick or passed away, the entire community would show up at your front door with food and kind words. Sure, there were some creepers that everyone knew to avoid, but for the most part, people were friendly, got to know each other, and helped each other out.
The world could use more of that, in my opinion, and less of the suspicion and paranoia regarding the people who live just next door.