My 6-year-old son is a runner. He’s always on the move. If my wife and I are walking with him down the street, he’ll bolt away, insisting on going far ahead, even up to the next intersection. I love his energy, but it can be nerve-racking.
What I was doing
Like other parents, I want my son to be able to enjoy holiday events, especially Halloween. There’s something special to me about the fun of costumes and trick-or-treating.
When my son was 4, I was eager to give him his first “real” Halloween experience. (Before then, he’d only dressed up for his preschool.) So we took him to a busy street that everyone recommended for trick-or-treating. The street was full of beautiful old homes decked out like haunted houses and each one gave out candy. We were ready for a fun adventure — but it turned out to be a Halloween nightmare!
We waited to go out until after sunset, assuming it would be more festive in the dark. But by then, the sidewalks were packed with people. My son ran off into the crowds and I lost sight of him more than once. I chased after him and yelled out his name, only to find him behind me or far ahead.
The area also attracted a lot of big kids. My son got knocked down at least twice. Wanting to protect him, I grabbed his arm to hold him in place. But he wanted to run and became very angry with me. Other people saw me yelling and pulling him by the arm — talk about judgmental looks! At the end of the night, my son had a bag of candy and I had nearly had a heart attack. I also felt like a pretty bad parent.
What I wish I’d known sooner
What I’ve since learned is that to handle my son’s energy, he has to be in the right environment. That’s really true for a chaotic holiday like Halloween.
The year after our trick-or-treat disaster we did some planning. We started out in the late afternoon when there was still daylight. We chose a quieter street and mapped out our route. We asked other families with younger kids to join us, so we could go as a group. And it turns out that a lot of families with young kids, some of them sensitive to crowds, some of them active like ours, thought this was a great idea.
Choosing the right street made for a better Halloween. My son, of course, ran like he always does. But with more light and fewer people, we could keep tabs on him. And he kept coming back to the group of kids he started out with.
I yelled a lot less. And funnily enough, because the street had fewer trick-or-treaters, the adults gave out more candy. That made my son very happy. Now, I just have to figure out how to stop him from eating all that candy at once.