Don't Be Afraid of Halloween

Sophia -3 

Haunted by Halloween
by G-Ma Lori

G-Ma answers questions about the scariness of Halloween and helps to ease fears of Halloween Terrorism.


“Will there be Halloween and Trick-or-Treating this year, G-Ma? Will there?”

 My five-year-old grandson, Matt, was very agitated since his arrival home from school. I knew he would eventually get to his ‘questions’ or ‘concerns’ as he always did.   He is a sensitive a little guy who is very structured and gets extremely upset when things don’t go as expected.  Today was one of those days for him.

“Why do you ask, Matt,” I replied, always fascinated by the way his mind reasons out his questions.   As most grandparents, I have learned to never second-guess what’s going on in a child’s mind.

“G-Ma, Dylan at school said his parents told him there wouldn’t be Halloween this year…” he didn’t pause as he rattled off his concerns hurriedly, “…and Jordan said his mommy and daddy told him the same thing.  I’m already getting my Allosaurus costume ready.  Why isn’t there going to be Halloween?” 

I took his hand and led him over to the couch where we did most of our ‘after school’ chatting right after he gets home.  Sarah, his three-year-old sister, bounced onto the couch and tried to worm her way into the middle.  Women have a way, even at three, of not wanting to be left out of anything important.

“Sarah,” yelled Matt.  “I’m talking to G-Ma.” 

“It’s okay Matt, it’s okay,” I said soothing the two of them and putting Sarah on my lap. “Now, Matt, let’s talk about what happened at yard time (known as recess in my day).  Did the boys say why they wouldn’t be able to wear their costumes and go trick-or-treating?”

“Well, G-Ma, you know the planes hit those buildings—the Twin Towers-- and ever since, these boys are scared even at school.  Jordan still cries when his mommy leaves and he’s five like me.”

“I don’t cry when mommy drops me off.  I’m a big girl,” Sarah contributed.  She flashed her big brown eyes at me.

I quickly realized there were lots of parents reluctant to help their children celebrate this particular Holiday.  Everywhere Anthrax scares dominate the headlines of papers and television.  It is natural that a paranoia of exposure would creep into people’s minds.  But wasn’t that what the Terrorists really wanted—to strike fear at the hearts of Americans, to make us cower in their shadow?  To make our children frightened and intimidated?

 Perhaps some of these parents forgot that their remarks and emotional  reactions of fear and paranoia are studied by their kids and reflected back at the world through the children’s fears of the unknown. 

“Why doesn’t Jordan’s mother want him to have Halloween, Matt?”  I wanted to see what was the root of Matt’s concern.

“His mom and dad don’t want him to be scared.   They said he’s been scared enough by the bad people who blew up the Twin Towers.   So there won’t be any Halloween.”

I wondered about the degree of fear Jordan’s parents were heaping on him, and transferring over to Matt.  If a parent believes the ghosts, goblins, monsters we see at Halloween are as scary as the Terrorists—or even near the level of fear Terrorism reaches—then they are playing right into the Terrorists’ hands I thought.  They are re-traumatizing their child, re-issuing the fear and intimidation that was the Terrorists true weapon of “destruction.”

As a mother I understood the instinct to protect a child from emotional harm.  But I wondered if Jordan’s mother was injecting her fear upon the child, feeding it, rather than helping the child defend himself against it.  Parents have a right to raise their children as they wish, I only wished Jordan’s mother knew about Semper Vigilantes, for then she might not be so eager to turn Halloween into a night of Terror rather than fun.

“The monsters at Halloween aren’t real, are they G-Ma? There aren’t really ghosts, skeletons, monsters in our neighborhood, right? Matt asked.

Before I could give him my answer, Sarah was there with her two-cents worth.  “They are only stories, Matt, like mommy and daddy told us.” Sarah  patted her brother’s hand, reassuringly.  At three she amazed us all with her maternal instincts as well as her apparent fearlessness. 

Earlier in the afternoon after picking her up from pre-school, we were walking to Matt’s school to pick him up.   We had time to kill so we strolled along slowly and ‘window peeked’ as was our custom.  The stores along the route displayed many Halloween figures. Sarah noted, counted and commentated on all of them. 

We were beginning to run behind schedule and as I tried to pull her away from one of the windows, she matter-of-factly stated “the Ghost, the Scarecrow, the Skeleton, the Bat, the Rat, the Witch, the Monsters don’t scare ME, G-Ma.  Daddy, Mommy, Auntie ‘E’, Grampa Joe and NaNa, you, and, oh yes, mostly G-Pa will always protect me and keep me safe.  I’m not afraid of these monsters,…….. or if buildings fall down,” she added.

Sarah had processed the idea that she had an entire family network standing vigilant over her.  It amazed me that one child in the family had such a depth of understanding about protection, while her brother, living in the same environment, wasn’t showing the same kind of fortitude as his younger sister.   Perhaps it was all the talk at school that boys engage in, or their fascination with monsters and scaring others that made fear loom larger in Matt’s mind than it did Sarah’s.   I wasn’t sure what the reason for the difference, but I was sure that I needed to be a Parent of Vigilance with both Matt and Sarah, and help fight their fears, not feed them.  I turned my attention back to Matt’s question about whether the monsters on Halloween were real or not.

“No, Matt, the monsters in our neighborhood on Halloween aren’t real.  Both you and Sarah are right. They can’t scare you because you have your mommy and daddy and all your relatives to protect you.   Remember what you told me about having fear.  Tell me again what your pre-school teacher told you last year,” I held his hand.  I wanted him to understand the source of fear, not tell him what I thought and think that was the answer.  The answer, I knew, came from within a child’s heart.

Matt’s eyes flicked back and forth as his mind searched the past.  He smiled up, happy he could show off his memory to GMa. 

“Ms. Mati said we should only be afraid of what can really hurt us, and nothing else.”  He paused as he repeated his teacher’s comment.  “Oh, I get it, G-Ma, the ghosts, monsters, and other stuff can’t hurt Sarah and me so I don’t have to be afraid.” He nodded his head, answering his own question.

I took his hand and drew him to me for a quick hug.  There was such a light in his eyes when he “discovered the truth from within.”

As I held him I thought about the conversation I overheard at Key Food. A woman was discussing with the clerk why she wasn’t going to let her children eat any of the trick or treat candy they collected.  She was going to trash it.  At the time, I didn’t connect her fears with terrorists ‘contaminating’ the candy with big time bugs like Anthrax and Smallpox. 

For years I worried about pins, glass, etc. being in the candy our children were given, and I always went through all the goodies and tossed the unwrapped or suspicious pieces. That was long before the World Trade Center was attacked.  It was simple Parental Semper Vigilantes then.  But I’m not beyond paranoia either.  I wondered:  “Will terrorists be more thorough and dangerous in their participation of Halloween this year?”  “Should I encourage my daughter not to take the kids out trick or treating?”

 Maybe the Halloween terror had already begun.  The news was filled with stories about mail and packages contaminated with Anthrax. What could I possible say to Matt to ease his fears about “monsters in the neighborhood?”  The more I began to think about it, the greater my own fears began to grow that the Trick or Treat candy garnered on Halloween might poison my dear little ones. 

Then I caught myself.  The terrorists were well ahead of the Halloween schedule. They were attacking us in our homes, infecting our children with fears, making us cower, fearful of going out on the streets.   I was turning the “make believe” monsters of Halloween into streets filled with Terrorists handing out 'Anthraxed' candy.

 Matt stated he should only have fear from something that or someone who could really hurt him…I was allowing terrorism power over me.  Fear couldn’t hurt him unless I let it by feeding fuel to the fire—by being fearful myself.   I couldn’t pass my concerns onto Matt and Sarah.  But I could be cautious, extra cautious.

“I think this Halloween will be no different than last year’s, kids,” I stated firmly, reassuring myself as I spoke.  “ Our neighborhood will distribute good candy, your parents will check the pieces out to make sure it is ‘good candy’; you will have a great time wearing your dinosaur and dragon costumes in the community and at your school parties.”

          I realized children are calmed when parents and others reassure their kids they are protected—when parents are Semper Vigilantes.

The upcoming Halloween might have to be handled differently this year to ease any of the fears of those parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends, etc. if we are especially attentive to the horror and fear of terrorism and bring it all into a clearer perspective.  If parents don’t allow their children to celebrate the holiday, they might bring more attention to the terror of September 11 and fuel the Terrorists’ goals of making us all afraid. Terrorists want us to cancel the festivities of a national evening of fun.   They thrive on ruining any and all ‘normal’ activities just as bullies like to intimidate the weak and helpless.  As a Parent Of Vigilance, I decided we need to keep up with our routine activities,  specifically, not being Terrorized by October 31.  The Terrorists weren’t going to win this battle, I vowed.

“Hey, I have a cool idea, Sarah and Matt, it would be so neat if all trick-or-treaters wore the Semper Vigilantes armbands and when they, and you, enter a house, apartment, store say ‘trick-or-treat’ and ‘Semper Vigilantes’. Just by saying the words, everyone will be aware you and all the other children wearing costumes that are so precious and loved by your parents and by the neighborhoods, they wouldn’t dare try anything.”

“Yes!”  Sarah bounced in my lap.

I got excited at the response.   “Communities besides being vigilant to all the scary monsters out at Halloween trick-or-treating, will additionally be Semper Vigilant. All of the children will know they are protected by the Sentinels Of Vigilance and have nothing to fear; except, from maybe, an Allosaurus like you, Matt, and a dragon, like you, Sarah.”

Already I was feeling better.

“Do Dragons wear armbands, G-Ma?” Sarah pursed her lip. 

“ROARRR  I am an Allosaurus and I will bite your armband off of you, Dragon,” Matt teased as he charged toward Sarah.

“G-Pa will be in a big bear costume, Matt, and he will protect me.  I’m not afraid of you, an Allosaurus, or anyone,” Sarah countered.

I gathered my two love-bugs about me and was thankful their fears were under control and/or nonexistent. And, I was most thankful my momentary lapse of fear was thwarted. 

I hope all parents think of Semper Vigilantes this Halloween and will allow their ‘love-bugs’ to enjoy the holiday they savored so much as children when they dressed up as ghosts, witches, monsters.  If they and their children go 'trick or treating' with the “Always Vigilant” attitude of Semper Vigilantes, they’ll have a safe, fun night—not only on Halloween, but every day and night.

Enjoy the fun.

Semper Vigilantes

G-Ma Lori

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