For most, the approach of fall gives thought to sweet family memories, beginning with Halloween traditions. From being “Booed," finding (or making!) the perfect costume and trick-or-treating; it’s no secret why Halloween is at the top of the list for favorite holidays.
While some families love all the tradition that surrounds Halloween, more and more families are creating their own traditions-- those that break the mold from dressing up and suffering from candy hangovers the next morning. Instead, they’re choosing to keep things more low-key, relaxing while keeping the fun factor just as high.
A few years back, after welcoming our 3rd child and dealing with reintegration from a deployment, the thought of finding kids' military Halloween costumes and hauling everyone to trick-or-treat was mentally exhausting. After sharing this sentiment with my husband and realizing that Halloween was on a weekday, we decided to offer a compromise with our oldest two children.
I still remember the long pause when we asked, "How would you guys feel about going to pick out a few of your favorite candies and having a movie and game night at home this Halloween?”
The silence was so loud you could hear a pin drop. We waited with baited breath as the kids assessed the offer. My daughter (the oldest) was the first to speak.
"We’ll still get candy?” she asked very matter-of-fact.
“Absolutely,” we said in unison.
"Can we choose the movie?” my son asked.
"Yes, as long as its age appropriate,” my husband said carefully.
They sat at the dinner table, staring at each other for a few more moments. Then, a smile. My son shot up from his chair and started dancing “Oh yeah, oh yeah!” My daughter broke out an even bigger smile and chimed in on the celebration. “That sounds like the best Halloween ever! We’re playing Apples to Apples, right?”
Thus began our new Halloween traditions and a new era for our family! Each year when I mention our Halloween plans with others I’m shocked at how many people either decide to adopt the low-key tradition, or are already doing something similar. What used to be an expensive and somewhat stressful holiday has been replaced with a lovely family night that we can all enjoy, no matter the circumstance. Thankfully, with this arrangement, it doesn’t matter what night Halloween falls on, if our soldier is home or deployed; we know that Halloween is going to be a great time for all. We still carve pumpkins. We still put candy out for the neighborhood kids with a cute sign. We still enjoy seeing the other kids come around in their adorable costumes. We still “do” Halloween-- just on our own terms.
Of course, there’s been some push back. Some have said that skipping out on trick-or-treating is depriving kids of some of the best childhood memories. The best childhood memories are made when you can create lasting experiences with the people you love. That can be achieved a number of different ways, despite tradition. My hope is that our kids will look back on Halloween and smile. Because ultimately, any moment can be great, if you’re with people you love.
If there’s anything we’ve learned in living the military family lifestyle is that we must be flexible. When our youngest is a bit older, if he insists that we trek around the neighborhood to gather candy, we’ll indulge. Who knows, we may get to our next duty station and decide that trick-or-treating is where it’s at! For now, this is what works for us...and it works for many other families as well.
One thing we all have in common as military families is that none of us get as much time together as we’d like. In the big scheme of things as parents, we get 18 Halloweens with our children before they leave us to enter the world of adulting. Whether you decide to celebrate in the traditional way or in a not-so-conventional way, as long as you’re enjoying it... as long as you’re creating memories; that's all that truly counts.