Andy Hinds | SDUN Columnist
I had originally intended for this to be an informational piece about the best places to go trick-or-treating in the Uptown area. But when I thought about it, it became clear to me that no advice is necessary. You should just walk out your door and have your kids collect their sugary loot within a couple blocks of your house.
It’s a testament to urban neighborhoods like ours that there’s no need to make a special trip in order to provide a great Halloween experience for the kids. Sure, if your kids are a little older and more jaded, you might consider checking out the lavish production that is Kensington on All Hallows Eve, but otherwise, your street probably has enough inflatable yard monsters and glowering jack-o’-lanterns to keep the little ones right in that sweet spot between giddiness and terror.
Having excused myself from doing any research on the question of where to trick-or-treat, I began musing about why, as parents, we immerse our children in this bizarre ritual. We encourage them to wear disguises and to demand, from strangers, junk food we would never give them at home, with the implicit threat of vandalism if denied their booty. Little about the celebration is congruous with responsible parenting.
The obvious answer to why we spend time, energy and money to have our children participate in an often-macabre masquerade with origins many would consider dubious is that it’s fun. And even more importantly, it’s cute.
My twin girls are not old enough to be interested in dressing as ghouls or vampires. For their first two Halloweens, they were ladybugs and bumblebees. And now that they’re 3 years old, and the Disney Industrial Complex has gotten its talons into their tender flesh despite my ineffectual and halfhearted protests, they will be two of the many Cinderellas and Belles knocking at your door on the 31st.
So why should we care if our children are cute? Well, most of us accept that cute is good, especially when it comes to children. But it never really dawned on me why parents are so invested in their children’s cuteness until my girls’ second Halloween.
We had stopped at the Hillcrest Farmers Market on the way to some Halloween kiddie event or another, and the twins were dressed in their aforementioned insect costumes. Babies always get plenty of attention in public, and even more so if they’re twins.
But, man, was I unprepared for the spectacle the girls created as they toddled among the buckets of flowers and tables of fruit in their bug costumes! People were calling out to their friends to hurry up and come see the adorable little critters at the tomato guy’s booth. Grandmotherly shoppers gasped in delight at the sight of them. An attractive young lady asked me if they were mine, and I, bemused, answered, “why yes, of course they are.”
I mean, who else’s would they be? Wasn’t it obvious?
And that’s when I realized why we work so hard to make our little kids as cute as possible; even going so far as to put them in adorable costumes that unnaturally enhance their cuteness. It’s like cuteness doping, and should probably be monitored by some international agency. But I digress.
The point is, when the lady questioned the connection between the winsome children and me, I realized that I had been interpreting reactions to my kids as reflections on myself. Every time someone called them “cute” or “pretty” or “beautiful,” I had been thinking, “Yes! I am responsible for that!” You might not be able to perceive my attractiveness through the shabby, slept-in clothes and 25 pounds of baby weight, but my DNA is responsible for half of that cuteness.
It’s shallow and vain, I know. But for new parents who haven’t seen the inside of a gym in over a year, or gotten dressed with the benefit of full consciousness since the birth of their children, it can be that rare self-esteem booster that gets them through the day. You can see why I would cling to it.
I’m happy to report that it gets better. After a little over three years of childrearing, my wife and I have streamlined the process such that we are able to exercise, bathe and sleep on a more or less regular basis. So we don’t have to rely solely on our children as representatives of our gene pool.
Nonetheless: if, while dropping some Milk Duds into the sparkly handbag of a three-foot-tall princess this Halloween, you can’t repress the urge to remark on how the magenta of her dress sets off her perfect skin, you might very well notice a decidedly smug look on the face of her grizzled chaperone.
—Andy Hinds is a stay-at-home dad, blogger, freelance writer, carpenter and sometimes-adjunct writing professor. He is known on the internet as Beta Dad, but you might know him as that guy in North Park whose kids ride in a dog-drawn wagon. Read his personal blog at butterbeanandcobra.blogspot.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @betadad on Twitter.