I have become aware of an alarming trend among parents and youth that I believe might be single-handedly the cause of childhood obesity. It is most prevalent around Halloween.
No, I’m not talking about candy. I’m talking about the vast numbers of people who insist on driving their children around from house to house for trick or treating. I first noticed this trend a few years ago. I am writing this on the day before Halloween, and I expect to see quite a bit of it tomorrow evening. I can only hope that this blog shames at least one family out of this ritual.
Some folks are truly unapologetic about it, hopping in and out of the minivan at each driveway. Some folks dress it up a bit and justify it by filling a trailer with straw and calling it a hay ride. Call it what you will, it is simply lazy.
Really, people. If we are going to have a holiday in which kids collect their weights in candy and spend the next 24 hours or so gorging themselves until they become ill (only to refill once the room in the gut has been cleared), perhaps we might want them to work a tad bit for the privilege. If your legs aren’t tired from walking a mile and a half with your friends to collect snack-sized Snickers bars, well, then, you have missed the point. How can you see your friends and talk to them along the way if you are closing a car door between doorbells? How can you be proud of your haul if all you had to do to earn it was show up?
And before you think this is another one of my fuddy-duddy ‘kids these days’ rants, let me tell you that I think this has more to do with the parents. Kids can’t drive. They don’t have the power to force their parents to haul them around like they really were ninjas and princesses instead of just dressed up like them. If you point a kid at the beginning of a subdivision and tell him that if he rings every doorbell, a resident at every house will give him candy, he will take off running. I don’t know a child in the world that would whine about having to walk, except maybe those who are conditioned to think that it is just too much effort. I do, however, know a whole lot of parents – myself included, I must admit – who whine about how hard it is to keep up with the kids, how cold it is outside, and who wear out before half the doorbells have been rung. To these parents (and myself, every year) I say, “Suck it up.”
I have enough extra weight on me to create a healthy sized third grader. I know that. I have a desk job, and the most physically demanding task I am required to make in the course of any given day is carrying my briefcase into my car. I know I’m soft and squishy. I know I don’t exercise enough, I eat too much, and I really enjoy that I get to rescue my peanut-allergic son from all his Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. So I am not taking any kind of self-righteous physically fit stance here. But I will tell you this: I walk with my children for what feels like seven hundred miles on Halloween night, and if I have two errands to run in two different stores at a strip mall, I only park my car ONE TIME.
I’m just trying to picture what would have happened if, in the late 70s in my costume wearing, candy collecting heyday, I had asked my father to drive me from house to house for trick or treating. I’m pretty sure he would still be laughing. Of course, if I had asked my father to go with me trick or treating, I would have gotten the same response. So maybe that’s comparing apples and oranges.
The point is this. If we are going to be active, involved parents, we can’t ignore the active part. Are we being active, involved parents, or faceless chauffeurs if we are sitting in the car and Facebooking on our phones during all the fun parts? We need to quit telling our kids what to do and start showing them. If we demonstrate to our kids it is too much effort to drive twenty feet down the road to get free candy, we are headed in a hurry to a world in which we only have to get out of our chairs when we grow out of them.
Look for me Halloween night. I’ll be shuffling behind my children who will be four houses ahead of me. I’ll be chatting with my friends, and I’ll probably be whining and complaining and filching the Whoppers (my personal favorite) out of my kids’ bags when I catch up, but you can bet I’ll be on foot.