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The 4 Inevitable Stages of Halloween Night When You’re a Parent

Image Source: Harmony Hobbs
Image Source: Harmony Hobbs

Halloween is on a Monday this year, you guys. For the majority of the population, this isn’t a big deal. But for parents of young children everywhere, we are gritting their teeth and clenching our anuses right about now in preparation for the havoc Halloween on a school night will wreak.

Please, allow me to explain …

Everyone loves Halloween, right? Of course they do! Candy, costumes, and shenanigans; children staying up way past their bedtime; teeth being ruined, thanks to delectable goodies packed with loads of red dye #5 … what’s not to love?!

Like most American families, Halloween is a pretty big deal in our home. My kids start talking about it well before October rolls around, planning their costumes and mentally selecting the best trick-or-treat routes months in advance.

“Is it October yet, Mommy?”

“No, baby, it’s still March.”

“When’s October?”

“In 7 more months.”

Meanwhile, I fantasize about all the candy I’m going to consume (possibly by dipping into their candy stashes long after they’ve gone to bed).

So yes, for the most part, Halloween’s a blast. In my house, we get a kick out of dressing up in silly costumes, buying spooky decor for the front yard, and carving pumpkins. But let’s be real: If you have kids 10 and under, there are a few things that will inevitably happen every time October 31 hits. No matter how much prepping and planning goes into it.

If you’re anything like me, the night goes a little something like this …

Stage 1: Early planning, accompanied by the naive hopefulness that everything will be perfect and magical.

Sometime in early spring, my children start talking about what they’re going to be for Halloween. We brainstorm various costumes, we get excited over the possibilities. And as October draws near, we count down to the big day and do some costume test runs.

Image Source: Harmony Hobbs
Image Source: Harmony Hobbs

We are prepped and ready to go.

Stage 2: Everyone decides to hate their costumes at the last minute, which throws you into a mild breakdown.

After weeks, if not months, of mental (and actual) prep, Halloween day finally arrives. But suddenly, my son no longer wants to be a pirate. My younger children still like their costumes, but they’re already torn and/or dirty because they’ve been wearing them around the house, eating in them, and wearing them to the grocery store for the better part of 3 months.

Image Source: Harmony Hobbs
Image Source: Harmony Hobbs

The biggest portion of this stage involves me yelling “NO, I AM NOT GOING TO GET YOU ANOTHER COSTUME, THAT IS YOUR COSTUME, MAKE IT WORK” at my oldest while consoling my middle child because his flimsy Iron Man mask is cracked before he’s even had a chance to trick-or-treat in it. Oh, and I have another kid — she’s three, and busy filling the toilet with an entire roll of toilet paper.

Or wrapping herself in it:

Image Source: Harmony Hobbs
Image Source: Harmony Hobbs

Luckily, I have the foresight to predict all of this will happen, and have stocked up on M&M’s to shovel into their little, complaining mouths while I guzzle a special Halloween drink called cabernet sauvignon.

Stage 3: Cleverly negotiating your way into being the one who stays home to “handle” the hoards of Trick-or-Treaters.

Image Source: Harmony Hobbs
Image Source: Harmony Hobbs

Stage 3 usually begins at the exact moment that my husband arrives on the scene from work. There’s an energy shift — everyone loves Daddy! Daddy’s home! — and while they’re excitedly showing him their costumes, I quickly fill up large bowls of candy to hand out to the neighbor kids. Clearly, I’ve done my time here; I’m looking forward to putting my feet up with another glass of wine and handing out candy while my husband carts our trick-or-treaters around the neighborhood.

Except, for some reason, he thought he was going to get to stay home and hand out candy. Insert all the LOL’s. Um, no. While we bicker and negotiate, the kids hide behind the sofa and eat candy, and I realize I never fed them dinner.

Smiling sweetly, I lean over and whisper that I’ll make it worth his while. Knowing what that means, he quickly rounds up the kids and shouts a quick goodbye. Mission accomplished.

Stage 4: Preparing yourself emotionally for the Halloween hangover/insane onslaught of your own children.

Approximately two hours later, my family reappears. I’ve prepared for this moment, readied myself with deep breathing, exercising mindfulness, and prescription medication. I am ready.

The kids. OMG, the kids. They are overtired, cracked out on sugar, and shrieking. My husband is battered, but resolute: he knows his reward will make this battle worthwhile. We soldier through peeling our chocolate-covered Pokémon out of his costume, disarming and de-sugaring our pirate, and getting the glitter off our smallest child who appears to have rolled around in it.

It’s three hours past bedtime, but we have finally managed to lull their addled brains to sleep. Tomorrow’s gonna be a bitch, I think to myself.

My husband stares at me, and I recognize his look of hunger.

It’s time for me to fulfill my promise. He walks over and wraps his arms around me.

“They’re finally asleep,” he says. “It’s time for me to cash in.”

I smile and whisper, “I saved all the Reese Peanut Butter Cups for you.”

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