Friday, October 10, 2008

So What Would You Say?

E was busy working at her craft table this afternoon. She came upstairs with the finished product-- two very cute Halloween cards for her friends. The outside said, "Happy Halloween", while the inside had a message to this effect: "I hope you have a spooky halloween. What are you going to be? love, your friend, E". She had illustrated them with haunted houses, complete with cracked windows, "Beware" signs, flying ghosts and witches, and walking zombies. I know they were innocent, thoughtfully made cards, with no ill intent. But this is where "celebrating" Halloween gets a little dicey.

I think that it is a perfect trifecta of kid fun-- dressing up, going out after dark and getting/eating candy. We love it in our house. I would say there are very few people who actually consider Halloween a demonic holiday. For most, it is just a fun kid's day. And it is in that spirit that we celebrate it. But there is undeniably the darker side, the reason many Christians choose not to celebrate this day. But I want to strike a balance. I want my kids to have fun, and enjoy the day, but not embrace the spooky or gruesome aspects. It is this reason I will not allow them to be witches (even "cute" ones) or mummies, zombies, ghosts, etc.

So the question is, how should I have addressed E's drawing ghosts, witches, zombies and haunted houses around this time of the year? Should I have just let her do it, and figure it is harmless? Or was I right in telling her that there are darker parts of Halloween that are represented by these things, even if she doesn't mean it that way. As a Christian family, we celebrate the fun parts, but we don't want to glorify the gory or scary. Instead, she can make cards with pumpkins and scarecrows. I don't know, am I doing the right thing? Is there more I can/should say?


words and streets said...

These are good questions and I applaud you for wanting to struggle through how to address E. This spurred a conversation between Todd and I, which is always good for us in the busyness of life. So thanks :) I can't really summarize what Todd said, though it was really helpful for me. Just things about philosophies, worldviews, things imbedded in traditions, anyways... maybe I'll try to summarize at playgroup on Tuesday. But basically, I think that it is good that you want to strike some balance. I won't post my opinions here, but appreciate the thought provoking questions.

Sullivan's Mom said...

I guess I think about how I thought about Halloween back then... I definitely always was scared of the gore, but I knew it was all part of the "fun." And I'm sorry, but my all-time favorite Halloween ever was when my mom put on a ridiculous witch costume, complete with rubbery warts and an awful realistic nose and took us out - at first I didn't even think it was her - I was scared, but after a few minutes, we were having a blast. Some may argue, but I turned out okay. I think there needs to be a clear line between reality and fantasy - I mean, I'm not sure I'd send my kids on a vampire hunt in the dark, or teach them how to ward off evil spirits, but I guess I think it's all kind of a part of the fun. How did your family handle it when you were growing up? I definitely think that there is more of an anti-fantasy (and some will argue that it's not fantasy, it's the occult or whatever, but .... ) mindset out there these days...people who refuse to read Harry Potter, but clearly I'm not part of that set. Remember to each his/her own. Just because your set of rules or values don't look like your neighbor's, it doesn't invalidate them.
I do think it will get tricky when you start to pick and choose parts of a holiday that are okay, or that work with your set of rules. I guess, when you choose to have fun with Halloween, you choose to have fun with all of it.

Daisy said...

S, I like your comment about a line between reality and fantasy. I guess if we consider this spooky stuff as fantasy, it doesn't seem so bad. I say this because I know that in another year or two we will be reading the HP books to her, and obviously there is wizardry in there, as well as dark magic. So if we say that it is OK to read that kinds of literature, does it mean we are being inconsistent when we say she can't draw those things? I really don't know.

Anyone else have thoughts on the matter?

EEEEMommy said...

Do I even open my mouth? ;)
I thought your response was good, but my next question then was what you posted in the follow-up comment. It's hard to have it both ways. I also think S brings up a very valid point in the last two lines of her comment, which is one reason we don't celebrate just fo the "fun" of it.

I will say that I don't think there are always cut and dry answers. You challenged me before about why LOTR and not HP, which is a valid question, but ultimately, my answer is because I'm comfortable with LOTR and not with HP. That might appear to be inconsistent to one person or compromising to another, but for our family, that's the balance Chris & I are comfortable with whether it makes sense to others or not.
Keep praying, keep wrestling, keep conversing with your daughter. You're an awesome mom!

EEEEMommy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam and Hayley said...

We're going to explain to our kids (when they're old enough to understand) what halloween is, and why we don't believe Christians should be getting into all the gory stuff.
Practically, we'll do what we always do- hand out candy and tracts (but really fun tracts, every year we've done it we've almost run our of tracts and had a huge candy surplus). We'll probably also let our kids eat some candy that we buy for them. As they get older that becomes the point: candy consumption. Halloween is a GREAT way to get the Gospel in the hands of your neighbors. What other day do people come to your door asking for a handout?

Daisy said...

A, I know, I know, I am struggling with trying to be consistent. Because I honestly don't believe HP is wrong, yet I don't want my kids reveling in the gruesomeness of Halloween.

But then here comes the next question- will they be allowed to go to haunted houses? As for S's question, when we were little, we had the same rule about the costumes (that's probably why I say it) but we were allowed to go to haunted houses. And I loved haunted houses. I loved being scared out of my wits, and then stepping out into the normal, safe world, the sunshine making me squint.

It is just so hard to draw a line in the sand and say "Pumpkins and scarecrows on this side/ Witches, ghosts, haunted houses on the other" Even now I am struggling with my response to her. Maybe to avoid the inconsistencies later, I should have just said nothing.

Aargh! This parenting stuff is hard!

PS. Hayley, thanks for your thoughts as well. One of the reasons I love that day is I get to see all my neighbors as we go door to door. My pastor used to use that night as an opportunity to pass out invitations to a Christmas party.

Bala Waxworks said...

Halloween in the elementary yrs is easily understood for the party and fun... when parents can get involved w/ costume choice and if handy enough... homemade/sewn. The potential bonds of children and parent involvement in this holiday can even lead to supporting the class event with cupcakes, candy, chaperoning and walking the child around the block at night going only to the "safe houses." Since Disney movies show good and evil, as well as having theme park amusement rides that make fun of ghosts and haunted mansions... I feel that it's clear to say when a "bad witch" is fantasy and when it's inappropriate to emulate evil or evil spirits. I'm against the dark side when it's deliberate. So, for helping E in deciding what would be best for her... closer to the end of elementary when "goth" might be appealing- just let her know now that you're opposed to similar character choice ie: dark clothing choices, black nail polish and whatever else seems necessary to instill the appearance and conduct that you would like to see her choose. You will do fine and E is very sensible as well. The halloween cards with ghosts, witchs, goblins or haunted houses; if the images have smiles and silly faces rather than blood dripping fangs... what's the harm in pretending? ~L

Amy from Occupation: Mommy said...

I have been thinking about this, and I think it is a hard question. I like what Sullivan's Mom said about fantasy vs. reality and the difficulty in picking parts of a holiday but not others. Although, we don't let the kids dress up as witches, ghosts, etc. either. I am not sure what I would have done about E's cards. Sorry for a completely un-helpful answer!

Sullivan's Mom said...

I concur with most of the above comments - I don't know about the whole appearance thing, though. I guess I have a deep fear of my children feeling like their appearance (outward) will tell the world about themselves rather than their, the goth thing? that makes me a little nervous, which is why the Halloween thing is tricky. I mean, what's the big deal about dressing up as a Ghost? They can be cute...Casper anyone? And Disney movies are full of I guess I think the inconsistencies are what bother me. You're allowed to watch Sleeping Beauty, but don't dress up like the witch in it... even though it's pretend!
It's definitely a tricky one, I keep thinking about it... mostly because I thought Sullivan would make a wicked cute little Ghost this year. Plus it's a cheap costume.
But, my original point... I'm not sure how putting restrictions on wearing black clothes and black nailpolish teach a child that their heart is more important than their wardrobe.

words and streets said...

I have been reading all of these and thinking. I do believe that there are many things that are not simply black and white. There are many issues which are wisdom issues, and I believe that this one (and in fact many parenting issues!) is a wisdom issue. I think I would have totally reacted the same way you did Daisy. I think that you were trying to help E. discern what is wise according to what you are comfortable with. I asked Todd what he would have said, and he said he would have responded by asking E. "why did you draw those things?" and tried to have a conversation about what Halloween is and why it is fun and left it at that. I think he would say (ok I'm talking for my husband here, hope you don't mind husband) to teach what is healthy and why. My temptation at times is to over-spiritualize things and not teach wisdom. I want to be able to delve into conversations about things and not necessarily have my kid come out thinking, "Okay so this is bad and this is good, therefore if I stay away from the bad thing I will be good and if Joey down the street does it then he is bad." That is teaching a self-righteousness worldview to a child, which I want to steer away from. Misleading him to think that he is okay and successful if he stays away from the bad, and therefore not really needing Jesus. It's a serious temptation though, when I really just want my kid to "look" ok, and when I am a "recovering pharisee" myself!! Which is why God gave me my husband. Todd asks Levi a lot of questions like, "Why?" Ok, so fast forward 10-15 years, and your kid wants to say "dress goth." (though I highly doubt this will be E.'s desire, but who knows! so hard to imagine little E. in goth garb.) In gentleness and humility, start with: Why? Why do you want to dress goth? What are you trying to get from it? What will it do for you? How does it make you feel? Ok, so I don't know where to go from there (except staying on my knees for wisdom), but I think sitting down and talking about "why" is a good starting point instead of saying, "no, you don't dress goth because it has the appearance of evil." I don't know. Am I making sense? Thanks for hearing me out. It's been good for me to think about as you all are a few years ahead of us. So to end... I think you are doing a fabulous job in trying to teach your child wisdom in these things. I think as long as you keep the conversations coming and keep those doors of communication open, which it sounds like you really are, well, then that's a good starting point.

Daisy said...

Wow! Great thoughts Allie, thanks for coming back again.

And the story continues...

Apparently they are being asked to write Halloween stories in computer class. Ellie asked me what she could write about (in light of our recent conversation on things halloween).

Rachel said...

This is a really interesting conversation. We're in the don't-dress-in-anything-demonic-or-dead camp in our family, though we embrace some of the innocently "scary" things. My boys are so into gory, dead things anyway that it's hard to weed it out of everything.

These wisdom issues are getting harder and harder and I feel like Halloween cards are only the tip of the iceberg, as all of you seem to be thinking as well (projecting to Ellie dressing in Goth!). It's all very humbling--help me Jesus!