---- — My wife, Betty, and I have a longstanding tradition we honor every Halloween night — we shut off the lights, lock the doors, and go out to dinner.
I’m no curmudgeon, no latter-day Mr. Wilson yelling at Dennis Mitchell to get off my lawn. But you can call me inflexible or hopelessly retrograde. I’ll proudly wear either label as a badge of honor before I drop another piece of Halloween candy into a pillowcase held open by a grinning, 16-year-old interloper.
I still get a kick out of watching children — using the classic definition of that word — padding down the street, clutching the hands of Mom and Dad, disguised as pirates, princesses, and vampires. I could spend all evening passing out standard-sized Snickers bars to that crowd. Wow, Count Dracula, those fangs are awesome. Have another! But no, too many teenagers over the years, some not even in costume, shamelessly stand behind the 5-year-olds, expecting a handout. They’ve spoiled all the fun.
At first, this invasion-of-adolescents-who-should-know-better took me by surprise. I figured a couple of kids tall enough to play center on the basketball team were outliers. I decided to humor them, and hope that guilt might lead them down the straight and narrow. Maybe they’d forfeit their take to a little brother or sister.
But soon I discovered that, like dumb reality television and lethally caffeinated energy drinks, this was the new normal. One year I asked a kid, who at least had the self-respect to don a red rubber nose, why he’d joined a pack of preschoolers for a night of trick-or-treating. Why wasn’t he working an evening shift at Shaw’s, or doing his homework?
“It’s Halloween, dude.”
Grow up, dude.
If a teenager lacks the common sense to realize he’s too old to beg for candy, then a parent should step in. But apparently that’s asking too much of a generation of adults, too many of whom must be told to leave campus after dropping off Junior, so he can make his own decisions at college.
It’s too much to ask of some adults who scream at umpires and referees, red-faced, during youth athletic events.
And too much to ask of some otherwise rational parents who lose all perspective when a teacher reprimands their child.
Extended adolescence is alive and well in Washington, too, where governance has yielded to what amounts to a food fight in a middle-school cafeteria. I’m waiting for a grown-up to blow a whistle and restore order. And I may be waiting for a long time.
I know. There are far bigger problems out there than people of a certain age refusing to act their age. I’m just trying, in my own small way, to stop enabling that portion of the population.
So happy Halloween, kids. At least to those of you out there young and innocent enough to enjoy and appreciate the evening appropriately.
John Edmondson is a teacher in Hampstead.