Monday, December 05, 2005

Get Out Your Hip Boots

*I wrote this post back in October, but neglected to find time to post it:

WebMD Medical News — People are walking on eggshells as Halloween approaches. Spooked by fears that little ghosts or goblins might get hurt, many cities are advising parents to keep kids indoors on trick-or-treat night. Some cities have actually cancelled trick-or-treating, in favor of indoor parties. A mall in Chicago's suburbs has put the kibosh on Halloween festivities. Deep in the heart of Texas, San Antonio has scaled back its world-renowned Day of the Dead celebration.

In Arkansas, Gov. Mike Huckabee is discouraging parents from letting kids go door to door, fearful that parents will flood emergency hotlines with questions about suspicious candy. What's really in those Pixie Sticks anyway? Could it be anthrax? "We're just saying use good common sense," says Sgt. Terry Hastings of the Little Rock Police Department. "We're giving the same suggestions we have for years -- go only to houses where you know people." After all, Halloween has always made people jittery, Hastings tells WebMD. Remember the days when the only thing we feared was a razor blade in our treats? "Even when I was a kid, we had to watch our candy," he remembers.

Removing the "fright factor" -- and inspiring kids to help others -- that's what pediatricians and psychologists advocate this Halloween. "Kids are frightened enough," says Susan Pollack, MD, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Kentucky and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention. "They don't need a big burden of extra scary stuff," she tells WebMD. "This Halloween is an opportunity to be imaginative rather than scary. We need to lessen the burden of violence on our kids."

April Lloyd -- mother of a two-year-old -- couldn't agree more. She's organizing Halloween activities in her Atlanta neighborhood called Kirkwood, passing out maps of designated "safe houses" where kids can trick-or-treat without getting freaked out, she tells WebMD. Her fears aren't so much based on recent events, says Lloyd. It's more about re-creating the gentler tradition she remembers from childhood. "Things are so different from when I was a kid," she tells WebMD. "People just don't trust each other. Last year, people in my neighborhood didn't know what to do. Some went to the malls, others didn't go out at all. This year, we want to give kids the same kind of trick-or-treat night we had."

'Halloween Lite' is the brainchild of Frank Farley, PhD, a psychologist at Temple University in Philadelphia and former president of the American Psychological Association. "Halloween is many things -- there's the fun side, the thrill side, the excitement of kids dressing up, playing make believe, going out in neighborhood trick-or-treating with their friends," Farley tells WebMD. "We wouldn't want to change that."

It's the "horror side of Halloween, especially the graphic dress-up -- the bloody limbs and gruesome masks" that he finds ... well, horrific. Thumbs down, too, on the ultra-violent Halloween movies. "They're just relentlessly violent ... scary stuff, blood and gore," says Farley. "This year, when the national fear factor is at the highest level it's been in decades, I don't want to add much more on top of that." He'd like to see theme parks tone down their Halloween adventures -- or that people will avoid them altogether. "They can be pretty bloody -- quite realistic," he tells WebMD. "Even an adult can jump out of his seat when this thing falls out of ceiling."

Better yet, bring some real-life magic into this yearly tradition -- make it a good-deed night. Farley's kids are making little white boxes with a red cross on top, and any contributions will go to the American Red Cross. Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF -- a tradition for 51 years -- has dedicated its campaign this year to helping the children of Afghanistan, says Mia Drake Brandt, a spokesperson for the international relief organization. "We're on the ground in and around Afghanistan, and the money will go directly to help children there," Brandt tells WebMD.

One year, her daughter's class raised $150 -- not a huge sum, but it bought one water filter pump, giving clean water to one impoverished community. "Millions of children in impoverished areas die from diarrheal dehydration, which is caused by dirty water," she says. Every nickel, dime, and quarter collected helps buy children the medicine they need, helps improve communities, says Brandt. In return, trick-or-treaters reap big rewards in terms of self-esteem and compassion.

"Parents want kids to feel good about themselves, and Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF has always done that, " says Brandt. "It helps children become compassionate and aware, which is the most basic part of being a good human being. It give kids a feeling of power in the best sense of the word, that they can help make the world a good place." Brandt lives in New York City, and her children's grandparents live six blocks from the World Trade Center. "We've all been hurting since these things happened," she tells WebMD. "The way to relieve the suffering of others is through action. The smallest child realizes that."

Her three kids will be out trick-or-treat night -- including her 10-year-old son, who is developmentally disabled. "He saw the huge cloud of smoke at the World Trade Center," Brandt says. "Now he wants to take care of everyone who was hurt by it."

"Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF has quelled his grandiose need to house everyone in our house, to rebuild the Towers. He's very excited about gathering the money. Of course, it's a good thing for anybody to do. But it really makes sense to him."

Oh bruUuther. { insert sarcastic monkey fart noise here } I don't know about you, but I just belched up a little vomit.

First off, I'm all for the UNICEF thing. I've always thought that was cool. Compassion in realistic doses is always a good thing, but give me a break with the whole "Now he wants to take care of everyone who was hurt by it." and "He's very excited about gathering the money." song & dance. Yeah right. Not half as excited as you want him to be, I bet. I'm sorry, but I am so not buying it.

Do I believe that a child could be effected by 9/11? Sure, of course I do. But am I realistically supposed to believe that it's STILL in the forefront of a kid's mind FOUR years later? Now if the kid's parent(s) were directly involved somehow, yes, I could believe that, but let's not get nuts. It's suspiciously like those stage mothers who tell their kid(s) that they (the kid(s) want to be a star, coercing them into repeating what they practiced earlier. What, are you going to fuck "make love to" his first girlfriend for him too? Whatever. If something like 9/11 is still in the forefront of a child's mind 4 years after the fact, trust me, someone's helping to keep it there. Kids today have the attention span of a squirrel with A.D.D., so you'll forgive me if I find this whole "angel in disguise" bullshit a little hard to swallow.

My point: Compassion and awareness are great qualities to instill in your child. Heck, they're great qualities for any age. However, let's not get too absorbed in our own little fantasy world of "My child is a prodigy of all things honorable...and he's/she's humble to boot! (but mommy wanted the newspaper/TV crew/reporter to be aware of their humility)." Whatever happened to letting kids make their own decisions? Reality isn't always a bad thing, 'k?


Blogger Mariana said...

The other thing this article immediately made me think of was mommy dearest Joan Crawford, who made her kids give up on all their favorite toys and give them away to the poor. It's one thing if a child doesn't mind dedicating their Halloween to raising money for UNICEF and other such worthy causes. But what if they just wanted to go trick or treating and getting lots of candy? But then they would have to face the disappointment of their mommy dearest parents, wouldn't they? So that holiday is ruined forever, or at least until their parents say otherwise.

Monday, December 05, 2005 3:02:00 AM  
Blogger BEPS said...

ugh.i'd lay odds this broad is a "home schooler" can you imagine her on the whole "santa" subject. i think i'm going be sick now.

Monday, December 05, 2005 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Kirkkitsch said...

Yeah, I actually flashed on the same thing. That's sad. I understand parents wanting to instill certain values in their children, but by bypassing the child in the process, so you can come off as some kind of WonderParent, is ridiculous. And it seems to be getting worse as time progresses. A see a lot of unhappy, resentful young adults in their future.

Thanks for commenting! :)

Oy vey. LOL! I am so on the same page with you. Yeah, I'm sure they make a big production of going to the mall to pick an angel from the Angel Tree...not to mention letting everyone know that they're some kind of hero for making their child want to help the less fortunate. I say just do it and stop looking for the pat on the back.

Thanks for commenting. I'm glad you and some others 'get' where I was coming from with this post. :)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005 2:32:00 PM  

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