In order to combat the multi-billion dollar slave-labor juggernaut that is the Halloween Candy Industry tonight, for Halloween, when trick-or-treaters come to our door, I’ll be handing out little plastic baggies of homemade kale chips. They’re delicious and nutritious and the only slave labor used in production was my own children, so you can feel good about eating them.
I’m kidding. But we live in an uber hippy town, so there’s a good chance my kids will come across a bag of kale chips during their one-night assault on dental hygiene. Maybe from the bus of gypsies that’s always parked around the corner. I hope it’s really a baggie of kale and not something else.
Our dentist is doing a candy buy back program. Bring in your piles of candy and they’ll give you…what exactly, I don’t know. Floss? It’s cute in a futile sort of way. I imagine this being about as successful as the government gun buy back programs. I might take in the shitty candy that nobody wants—I’m looking at you candy corn—but there’s no way I’m giving up my peanut butter cups. You’ll have to pry those from my dead, diabetic hands.
Fuck I love Halloween. I love wearing really inappropriately sexy costumes (I was a stunning Dorothy one year). I love trying to convince my wife that it would be in her best interest, nay, the best interest of mankind, if she wore a stripper Wonder Woman costume (or any saucy costume that has quick rip-away Velcro). I love that the kids get to wear their costumes to the grocery store or Home Depot for an entire week before Halloween without anyone thinking they’re weird. I love that for one night, I get to walk around my neighborhood toting a cooler full of beer and cops just smile at me. I love telling my kids bleak stories about the Halloween Scares of the ‘80s, when all apples hid razor blades and we trick-or-treated in the mall because our neighbors were psychopaths. But mostly, this Halloween, I love watching my son get dressed up as a ghost in a costume he made with his mother’s help, and try to walk through walls. It’s funny because he can’t walk through walls, even if he has a sheet over his head. But you gotta let kids learn these things for themselves.
When you bring your baby home from the hospital after he’s born, your mind is reeling with the possibilities of parenthood. Mostly, you see rainbows, imagining afternoons at the park playing baseball and making macaroni necklaces for Christmas presents. What you can’t imagine is that at some point during your tenure as a parent, you’re going to have to say the phrase, “son, don’t lick your sister’s feet.”
You’re not an idiot. You know there will be ups and downs. There will be tantrums in the Fun Depot. Smoothies spilled in the car. Maybe some light biting. But having to tell one child not to lick the other child’s feet never even crosses your mind.
But it’s going to happen. The first foot-licking incident will be accidental. They’ll be wrestling barefoot and an errant foot will cross in front of someone’s face and that kid will seize the opportunity and stick his/her tongue out and take a lick. It’s an act of curiosity mainly. The other child will giggle and then it’ll be an all out foot lick fest, at which time you’ll have to say, “son, don’t lick your sister’s feet.”
It’s such a weird thing to say, you’ll actually pause and think, “I can’t believe I just had to say that.”
Soon you’ll be saying it so often, you’ll have to write it on the dry erase “rule board” next to other gems like, “don’t put mom’s pearls on the kitty,” and “don’t tell strangers their hair looks funny,” or “glow sticks are not food” or any number of bizarre societal norms that most of us take for granted.
But the foot-licking thing will be the weirdest. At least for a while. Then the kids will come up with something even weirder that makes you long for the simplicity of the foot-licking days. I don’t know what that thing will be yet. I’m just warning you, it’s going to get weird. Then it’s going to get weirder.
This one’s for the new parents out there: At some point during your parenthood, you’ll decide it’s a good idea to try to make your own pickles with your children. Maybe you and the kids planted a little starter garden and you got a bumper crop of cucumbers that you don’t know what to do with. Most likely, you’ll see an article in a glossy parenting magazine that declares making pickles is the easier than making toast and including your children in the process will guarantee hours of quality family time that will spark long-lasting love and admiration from your children. This article will subtly imply that when you’re too old to take care of yourself, your children will recall the day you helped them make their own pickles and be so overwhelmed with joy and love that they’ll build you an in-law suite complete with a Jacuzzi and on-call masseuse.
In this article, there will be a big two-page photo spread photo of a beautifully multi-cultural family laughing and looking gorgeous while making pickles in their brightly lit kitchen. You will hate that family in that picture because their countertops aren’t covered in stacks of art projects (which are actually, accidentally glued to your countertops so why bother trying to sort them?) and three weeks worth of mail that you haven’t gotten a chance to look through yet. But still, you think, “hey, that looks like fun. We should make pickles.”
But listen, it’s a trap. See how that family in the magazine is smiling? There won’t be any smiling when you do your pickle project. One kid will throw a shit fit because you cut the pickles in the wrong shape (“I said trapezoid!”) and the other will refuse to wash her hands and decide she has to lick every cucumber before it goes into the jar.
And then there’s the recipe. The one in the magazine calls for ingredients like dill, or garlic, or saffron. You don’t have dill or saffron because when you go to the grocery store, you can barely make it out of there with milk and eggs before your kids pee on the floor or lick all of the free cheese samples. Saffron is for people who shop without kids. Forget about saffron.
It doesn’t matter anyway, because your kids have their own idea about what sort of ingredients should go in the god damned pickle jar. Shit like sticks and action figures. I’m not kidding. This will happen. One of your kids will try to slip an action figure into the pickle jar. You’ll be so fatigued by the end of the pickle project that you won’t care. You’ll just close the lid on the jar and set the cucumbers and tiny construction man action figure in your fridge to age.
Oh, and your house will smell like fucking pickles for the next six hours.
Consider yourself warned.
I phoned it in on dinner tonight. An uninspired mash-up of hot dogs, mac and cheese, and steamed broccoli. It’s a meal that screams, “I’m too tired to give any thought into the nutritional value of food, but too broke to order pizza.” My kids immediately called me on my apathy, refusing to eat a bite. I explained to them that hot dogs and mac and cheese were in fact their favorite foods. That they’d asked for this very meal on a number of occasions, but they were too quick for my logic. My son had the best excuse: “Well, it’s Fall. And when it’s Fall, I change the food I eat. I don’t eat hot dogs in the Fall. Or mac and cheese. Just chocolate. And juice boxes.”
That’s a preschooler’s notion of “eating seasonal.”
And he says this while wearing his sister’s oversized pink sunglasses…and no pants…
How the hell do you respond to that?
I’m stunned, and frankly pleased with his creativity, so I just switch from beer to bourbon and decide to have a fire in the backyard fire pit. Fun fact: if you eat four marshmallows, you’ll ingest one gram of protein. So it’s not a total loss.