Stop Trailing Your Trick or Treaters by Car!
Today’s timely Trick or Treating post comes to us from Dixie Dillon Lane, an American historian and mother of four enthusiastic trick-or-treaters. She is an associate editor for Hearth & Field. You can find more of her writing at TheHollow.Substack.com, or follow her on Twitter @DixieDillonLane.
The truly scary thing on Halloween:
In a small town like mine, surrounded by farmland and filled to the brim with families, local kids have to get creative when they plan their trick-or-treating. There’s the big Halloween bash the merchants throw on Main St., but the décor and entertainment can get a bit too gory for little ones. And if you are one of the majority of local folks who live “in the county” – that is, outside of town boundaries – you won’t be able to trick-or-treat near your home because, of course, you don’t have very many neighbors.
That’s when kids turn to the next-best solution: the neighborhoods at the edge of town, with their wide streets, bright streetlights and proximity to the kids’ schools. In other words: neighborhoods like mine. Kids are drawn here like moths to a jack-o-lantern’s flame.
There’s just one problem: with the kids come the parents. And with the parents, come the cars.
Spoiler alert: Not poison candy.
Imagine the scene. This quiet neighborhood — so quiet that it has no sidewalks — bursting with pint-sized ghosts, goblins, and, this year, a lot of Barbies and Kens. The delighted homeowners are sitting in their driveways with massive bowls of candy for all comers. The kids are shrieking, running ahead, overcome with excitement. And most are accompanied by their parents.
Now, even as a Free-Range mom, I’m not against parents going trick-or-treating with their kids. It’s a great night for all of us! I usually accompany my kids on Halloween. But I don’t go trick-or-treating with them primarily because it’s fun or because I think my older kids aren’t capable of taking a walk independently (they are).
I go because of other parents’ cars.
Speeding cars and little kids: What could go wrong?
While our neighborhood happily welcomes its yearly influx of trick-or-treaters, what we do not welcome is this: Last year I had to run to yank my young child, mere yards away from me, out of the path of a screeching red sedan whose driver didn’t care that he was speeding into a literal crowd of children on a night when everyone knows children will be walking the roads after dark.
All that driver cared about was his own kids, who were running down the block ahead of his car. He had to follow his own children at all costs – even at the potential cost of another child’s life. And he wasn’t the only one.
How about parking and WALKING?
You see, when parents bring their kids to our neighborhood to trick or treat, some of them do the responsible thing and park on the edge of the neighborhood. They let their kids head out on foot while they wait in the car. Some others make the alternative, wholly reasonable choice of walking along with their kids. Fine. Splendid!
But many of the families do the following instead: the adults, though unwilling to get out of the car and walk along with their children, still refuse to take the risk of allowing their children to walk through the neighborhood “alone.” So they get in their cars and drive through the streets full of excited, distracted children, trailing a few yards behind their own kids in their vehicles, and abruptly stopping when the kids stop and starting when the kids start.
Now, these parents may think they’re doing the right thing. They may think it’s unsafe for their children to walk alone. And in some neighborhoods and at some ages, it may be. And maybe the parent has a bum knee and can’t accompany them. I get it.
But in satisfying their dubious anxieties by driving down a street full of kids rather than letting their older children walk on their own, they pose an actual danger to the children of other families.
This Halloween, do the right thing.
Halloween is such a fun holiday not just because of the costumes and the candy but because it is one of the few truly communal traditions we still have in America. Few nights make us feel so closely bound together.
And that’s what Halloween is for. It’s for kids. It’s for communities. On this scariest of nights, we learn that if we stick together and meet each other with a thoughtful, giving spirit, we really have nothing to fear.
So if a parent is unwilling to join in on these terms, they ought to stay out of it altogether. A neighborhood on Halloween is no place for reckless selfishness.
And it is certainly no place for cars.
Dixie Dillon Lane