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The ghosts of Halloweens past

Halloween milestones represent a child’s growing independence.

Halloween milestones represent a child’s growing independence.

Nothing drives home the point that my kids are growing up more than Halloween. It’s not just the boxes of outgrown costumes (and I have saved them all) or their increased trick-or-treating stamina, which has them covering more mileage on Oct. 31 than my commute to work. It’s that each year is such a visual reminder of the milestones that have come and gone. No other childhood timeline follows such a distinctive path.

There’s the first Halloween, when you dress the baby up as a carrot or Yoda or a favorite football player and take a million pictures to share with the grandparents before tucking her into bed and handing out candy for the rest of the night.

Second Halloween. You scout out organized toddler activities. The kids play and do pumpkin crafts. They eat cider doughnuts. Bedtime as usual.

The third year, you start to worry that all the scary images might be too much for your little trick-or-treater. You avoid haunted houses and steer away from frightening costumes. You hit up the neighbors for candy, and then it’s to bed. This is the last time you get to pick out the costume.

The fourth Halloween, you positively swoon over the preschool parade and party. You spend far too much on a costume and vow to be more frugal the next year.

Fifth Halloween. So much for frugal. There are two costumes this year. One for the class parade (no masks, comfortable and easy to change into) and one for the real deal (bulky, hard edges, battery operated). You make it to all the houses on the block. This is the last year a princess costume will be considered cool, or even acceptable.

Things even out a bit for the sixth, seventh and eighth years. Costumes are kid-inspired and can leave you scrambling to come up with a way to best represent the obscure literary or anime character that has been chosen. Trick-or-treating territory expands. You are no longer allowed to walk to the door with your child. You must wait at the curb. Candy is no longer considered “all good.” Some pieces have more value than others. You will be allowed to choose something from the pile of rejects.

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