Halloween is to practice being scared

November 1, 2010    

Now that Halloween is over, and the ghosts and goblins and trick or treaters and (most importantly) my daughter have gone to bed, I thought I’d reflect a bit on Halloween and when it means to me as a parent.

My daughter is four, and she’s never been fond of scares, so this time of year any time we go out shopping, we’re braving a potential minefield.

Stores seem to love putting motion activated spiders and skeletons up on candy aisles and endcaps. And so I end up carrying my daughter a lot, we have to make a lot of detours. and my wife looks especially haggard more often when I get home from work.

So one particularly bad day at Michaels after a run-in with a particularly scary (to her) skeleton, I was trying to talk my daughter into agreeing not to go immediately home when I stumbled upon a phrase that seemed to work for us:

“Halloween is good for practicing being scared.”

I arrived at this mostly unintentionally. I try to find the proverbial “sliver lining” to talk to her about when she has problems. I hope that will help her to be a more positive, or at least happier person. We also try to emphasize practice and persistence over intelligence and natural ability when we talk to her, because of some studies (like this one) my wife and I have read about how kids that are praised for working hard do better than kids that were praised for being smart.

So thinking about persistence and trying to be positive, I opened my mouth and what I heard come out was something like:

“There are times in everyone’s life when they have to be able to think when they are scared. Imagine for a second that you were crossing the street and a car that you couldn’t see before turned onto the street and was going to hit you. That would be scary, right? If you freeze in your tracks then because you are scared, you are definitely going to get hit by the car. But if you can think even though you are scared, hopefully you’ll be able to move out of the way. And that’s why Halloween is important - because it gives us a safe place to practice being scared, but doing what we want to do anyway. That way, when we are scared and might get hurt, we’ll have practiced being scared, and we’ll know what to do.”

It’s times like that when I consider buying into the Ancient Greek concept that the creative process is governed by external beings (they called them muses) that give us the words to say, because I don’t remember having read or thought that until it came out of my mouth. But I liked it, and it made sense to both of us, and so, I thought I’d share.

Happy Halloween.