It’s that wonderful time of year again … when the weather’s finally cool, the leaves are changing colors, and the air smells intoxicatingly fall-like. But it also means a constant stream of invites to holiday parties, gatherings, and other random events are rolling in — and my stress level is starting to boil over.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s nice to be invited to things (ahem, or make that LOTS of things). But as a single, working mom of two, I just can’t keep up with it all. And frankly, I don’t really want to.
You see, the trouble starts with Halloween. I hate to sound like a crotchety old person here, but “back in my day,” this wasn’t such a stressful holiday (and not just because I was a kid). We’d have a school costume parade during the day and then one epic night of running amok around the neighborhood, filling our buckets with treats to rot our teeth. There weren’t countless Halloween-themed events leading up to it, which required multiple costumes and multiple “spooky” snacks for our parents to bring to the parties.
It was one single night of excitement, followed by weeks of binge-eating Reese’s and Snickers until we got stomach aches.
THAT’S the Halloween I know and love. But oh, how times have changed. Now, the moment October hits, our kids embark on their jam-packed holiday schedules. And by extension, so do we.
Suddenly, there are countless weekend parties and gatherings and festivals and fairs and crafting events to be attended. And trick or treating? It doesn’t just last one night. Oh no; people are literally handing out candy left and right, all month long.
There’s trick or treating at shopping malls, sports games, and even the zoo. Heck, even some neighborhoods organize trick or treating on the weekend closest to October 31 instead of celebrating on the actual date.
There’s even “trunk or treating”— a new-age phenomenon where parents open their car trunks and kids bop from car to car collecting candy. Sometimes, these events even happen at school.
You honestly can’t get away from it all, even if you tried. Trust me, I should know, because I’ve been trying really, really hard.
It’s not that I hate Halloween (though I’ll admit it’s not my favorite holiday). It’s that all the events leading up to the actual day mean costumes have already been worn and destroyed and hastily repaired again by Mom. It means that kids are utterly burned out on the holiday before the real trick or treating even happens. I can’t tell you how many parents have told me in years past, “my kids aren’t even excited for trick or treating … we’ve already been three times!”
Well, go figure. Why would they be excited to wear their special costume, or go around gathering candy if they’ve been doing it all month long? So much for patience, anticipation, or the joy that comes with actually learning to wait for something special.
But this is not just about Halloween. It’s the way we’ve begun to do holidays in general. It’s like the entire holiday season is on steroids, with Halloween just kicking off the craziness. Before my pumpkins are even half-rotted on my front steps, I’ll be fielding invites to Thanksgiving-themed craft parties for my kids. I’ll be asked to join multiple Secret Santa gift exchanges (for kids and adults). I’ll be getting Christmas party save-the-dates to ugly sweater parties, with detailed instructions about the White Elephant gift I’m required to bring.
And I’ll be RSVPing “no” to most of them.
Look, I know what you may be thinking: I sound like a complete and total scrooge. But I promise you, I’m not. The truth is, I actually love the holiday season. I love watching my kids get excited for it, too.
But all the overdoing it doesn’t add to my holiday joy; it sucks the life out of it. Bouncing from school runs to work to afternoon pick-up to party after party after party leaves for very little down time or ability to actually prepare for the holidays themselves; and I know it’s wearing the kids out, too.
Then there’s the tremendous cost of it all. According to Time, Americans spend an average of $86 on Halloween each year and $669 on winter holiday gifts, candy, and decor. Though to be honest, that sounds pretty low to me. On Halloween alone I spend at least $200 a year. Christmas? Forget it.
Constantly doing — without the pure excitement and anticipation that comes with waiting for something special — completely negates the special part of it all. Because when you’ve already celebrated for weeks on end, how can you expect your kids to even care all that much? By trying to make things a million times more magical than we had it when we were young, I think we’re actually doing the exact opposite.
So from October through January, don’t feel bad about crossing me off of all your holiday party guest lists. Or if you do have me on there, please don’t be offended when I inevitably RSVP “no.” This year, I’m simply opting out.
I still love the holidays, and don’t think they’ll ever lose their magic for me. All I’m trying to do is to keep some of that same magic alive for my kids. Because I just don’t believe that it comes from soaking up all the holiday fun we can handle at every turn and never missing a single event.
To me, the “magic” comes from maintaining a little more patience, and feeling gratitude for the truly special stuff instead. Because sometimes, when the events are few and far between rather than a constant, steady stream of intensity, they mean a little bit more to everyone. Kids included.