So, now that fall is officially upon us and October is less than a week away, I guess it's time to start thinking about Halloween. In fact, the other day I took the boys to Party City to start the process of looking for costumes. At this point Jacob is a total wild card, though he did mention at one point that he wanted to be an explorer/hunter. I think his vision was something along the Indiana Jones line, but maybe more British? Of course, when we got to the store he first asked what the "Mack Daddy" costume was (yes, a pimp costume for kids--I explained it later, in my best G-rated version about men that think they own women and rent them to other men who treat them disrespectfully), and then he decided he wanted the gangster. ::face palm:: So, needless to say, he's still a work in progress. I told him his original idea might be able to be created from pieces, rather than buying a whole costume.
As for Carter, he doesn't seem to have much of an opinion. I'd sort of like to see him as a Paw Patrol character since he loves that show, and I'm a big fan of kids wearing costumes that reflect their interests. But we'll see. My challenge is that I'm bitter about the stupid Halloween store after last year's ninja costume mess, where the costume was priced $10 higher in the store than online and I got backed into a corner for returning it when I found it cheaper elsewhere. I also refuse to take the kids in there because I was so disgusted by the creepy, crude decorations and oversexed costumes. It's all so unnecessary and has turned Halloween into such an over-the-top, adult holiday in comparison to what it was when I was a kid--95% kid fun (school parties and trick-or-treating) and 5% adult fun (grown-up parties and some minor fun decorating). Now it's all about how scary, how sexy, how crude, and how ridiculous it can be. Which, I suppose, all brings me to my next story.
The other day a note came home from school explaining that a few annual events had been discontinued or changed. Among them were two popular fall events, the Fall Fun House and the Halloween Parade. The Fall Fun House was something they put together for the kids to go through. I've never seen it, but Jacob said there were ghosts in it and he really seemed to like it. Well, they decided that it wasn't really developmentally appropriate for the Pre-K and Kindergarten kids, so they're going to change it to a Winter Fun House (what?) when they can better prepare the little kids to go through it. I don't know if that's more of a physical thing (i.e., something they can work on in gym class) or an emotional thing (i.e., dealing with surprise). Either way, at least they're keeping it in some form, though I don't really understand the new concept at all.
The Halloween Parade, however, is going away completely. This bugs me on a lot of levels. Look, I understand that not everyone embraces Halloween. Heck, per my issues above, I have my own concerns with it. But clearly the celebration at an elementary school is going to be as G-rated as possible, so that element of it doesn't bother me one bit. But I know some people's beliefs just don't align with the holiday. There are apparently 30 families that don't participate, and I'd assume some are conservative Christians and some are Muslims. And you know, that's fine. It's not a huge group when you consider how many kids are in the school, so it seems a little extreme, but I don't blame them.
But here's where I get annoyed. The school is saying that they don't want to exclude anyone. Well...I would buy that a little more if they didn't have a number of other events that exclude different people. Not that I'm complaining, but they do still do Christmas events. They do a weekend thing with Santa, but I suppose that since it's not during school, everyone can make their own choice. Same with the event night involving dads, since I'm assuming there are a number of kids with non-participatory dads. But there are still other Christmas-related things at the school, at the very least. In addition, I've blogged before about all of the classroom events involving food that Jacob either can't participate in or has to do differently. Both years his 100th day of school has involved a food counting project, and both times I've had to scour our house for enough items to replace the gluten items on the class list. Last year they did graham cracker gingerbread houses, and gluten-free grahams are not the same size or shape as regular ones, so his house was a little unorthodox. Jacob also can't eat the pizza or cookies at the special events, including a school day picnic at the end of the year. It's not that he can't participate most of the time, but the alternative is still not quite as good.
Since most of the classrooms are peanut-free, I don't know how much the peanut kids are impacted, but I'm sure there are other allergy kids that face the same issues. It's always bugged me that the peanut-free kids have to sit at a separate table at lunch. I don't relish the thought of having to buy $5 a jar nut butter for Jacob's daily sandwich, but if you're talking about not wanting kids excluded, let's start with something that impacts kids every day and I will gladly do our part.
Ultimately I feel like this would be a great opportunity to talk about tolerance. Rather than sterilizing the situation and sweeping it under the rug, talk it out so the kids understand that some people have different beliefs, and that's okay. And rather than doing away with an entire "fun" day, come up with an equally awesome alternative for the non-Halloween kids. Give them the option to go on a really good field trip so they feel special, rather than excluded. Open it up to everyone and let them pick how they want to celebrate a "fall fun day". As long as the other option is awesome, everyone gets to enjoy the day in their own way.
I probably wouldn't care about this as much if I didn't have amazing memories of my own classroom Halloween celebrations. Let's face it--wearing a costume at school and having a party was half the fun of Halloween. Trick-or-treating and the stash of candy was awesome, but it was always fun having another place to wear my costume and to have the chance to see everyone else's. It bums me out to think that Jacob won't get that experience. It probably also decreases the amount I feel compelled to spend on his costume (which wasn't much to begin with) since he'll only wear it once unless we find a party or event to participate in beforehand. I just feel like kids are entitled to have some innocent fun that shouldn't be intruded on by politically correct adult stuff. I know that the excluded kids may not find Halloween fun, but that's why the onus is on the adults to find a way to truly involve everyone, rather than just take away one of the big fun events of the year. I always thought we might run into something like this if we went to a private Christian school, but it turns out the public school is the unlikely culprit.
I have an email composed to the principal, though I haven't sent it yet. I doubt it will do any good. Still, I feel like I probably composed myself more than some parents, so maybe my straightforward points about the other exclusionary policies will strike a chord. Maybe I just want to prove they're more about quieting down one group of people than removing exclusion from the school. I don't know. Either way, the lack of Halloween festivities just bums me out and feels like yet another example of how kids can't just be kids anymore.