When I asked my kids what video to include with a post on Halloween, they quickly suggested this one. For a kid like me who grew up in the 1980's, there could be no other.
Halloween was one of the highlights of childhood. Virtually every child, after all, welcomes the opportunity to get boatloads of free candy from throughout the neighborhood. The dressing up in costumes and carving faces into pumpkins were just an added bonus. When I became a teenager, however, Halloween started to lose much of its magic. Sure, there would be some good parties and occasionally decent costumes during my young adult years, but nothing can really compare with the joy of getting free candy when you are a child. So Halloween evolved into just another day on the calendar.
But then my wife and I eventually decided to have children, and once they were old enough to walk, the childhood ritual of trick or treating was back. Only this time, I experienced the joy of Halloween vicariously. Like many of the experiences of parenthood, Halloween became a chance to do it all over again.
One of the great things about kids is their ability to become completely absorbed into the moment and become excited about what is happening with every fiber of their being. For some reason, we tend to lose some of this capacity as we become adults. Some of this is the result of self-consciousness. We worry about what other people are thinking, fearing what may happen if we let too much emotion show. This is not an entirely bad thing. Children’s ability to show emotions very freely can be cute when they are happy, but when they get upset in public, it can be a complete nightmare. And happy or sad, the general noise level produced by children can be irritating to those not accustomed to it.
Older people’s lack of spontaneous emotional expression, however, can also be the result of experiences just getting old. When many years pass, many of the simple joys in life can lose their freshness. Thankfully, many of us adults eventually get the chance to have kids, and through their eyes, we can sometimes recapture those moments when everything was new.
Unfortunately, many of us parents can be tempted to take living vicariously too far. Through our children, we may try to achieve goals that we were unable to fulfill personally. So we may push our kids to be great athletes, musicians, students, doctors, or any other number of things. We justify this by saying that we want the best for them, an assertion that is somewhat true. But on some level, our goals can be rooted in selfishness, and we look forward to the opportunities to brag about our kids and show everyone what great parents we are.
If we push our kids too hard, we are in danger of wiping away that natural childhood enjoyment of life. Activities that they may have initially enjoyed become a chore, and they start to become one of us boring adults far too early. So here’s hoping that there are some parents out there, myself included, who are able to step back from time to time and let kids enjoy themselves. We have as much to learn from them as we have to teach.
So tomorrow night, I will do my best to look at life through the eyes of my children. And maybe, just maybe, I can score a piece of candy or two from their plastic pumpkin bucket when they are not looking. Don’t worry. It will be just a little taste. Old people like me get a little nauseous when they eat too much of that candy stuff.