Why I don’t hand out candy on Halloween

For some people, the expectations of Halloween can be more of a trick than a treat.

An increasing number of parents are refusing to hand out, or let their kids eat, piles of sugar-laden candy on Halloween. And who can blame them, with the CDC reporting that empty calories from sugar and fat comprise a whopping 40 percent of the average adolescent’s daily diet? However, my reason for turning off the porch light on October 31 is less altruistic: our family simply doesn’t want to be bothered with trick-or-treaters.

As you roll your eyes, allow me to explain. I am a single mother of two who also works full-time. The last thing I want to do at the end of the day is get up 100 times to hand out candy–perhaps even more than that, given we live in a neighborhood that is brimming with kids. It is exhausting enough looking after my own baby and a toddler, let alone also catering to pint-sized strangers ringing our doorbell, demanding treats, with many of the older ones not even bothering to look up from their phones as they shove their bags in my face with nary a “trick-or-treat” or “thanks.”

The other members of our household aren’t big fans of the trick-or-treat ritual either. After all, the last thing a sleeping baby–and a mom who just spent an hour getting her to sleep–needs is a doorbell ringing nonstop. Meanwhile, my three-year-old son has been dealing with significant fear issues lately and has shied away from Halloween altogether this year, save for the more innocuous activities such as decorating pumpkins and dressing pets in silly outfits. The last thing he needs is to be accosted by strangers in terrifying costumes that could further frighten him and/or give him more nightmares.

And then there are the dogs.

Yes, we have dogs. Dogs that bark wildly at the door every single time somebody knocks or rings–with many kids repeatedly and impatiently jabbing the doorbell until I finally make it to the door. Each anguished bark pierces my already throbbing head. The noise is stressful for me, for my kids, for the trick-or-treaters–and, of course, for the dogs. It’s not fair to the poor dogs to force them to retreat to their kennel upstairs while I hand out candy, especially after they’ve been alone most of the day.

Why don’t I put out a bowl of candy instead, you might ask? Because, as I’ve learned the hard way, giving the trick-or-treaters any invitation to approach our house still leads to intrusions, regardless of how many “DO NOT DISTURB” or “DO NOT RING THE DOORBELL” signs I valiantly post. They will still knock on the door. They will still stomp on our porch and ring the (taped!) doorbell repeatedly. There are still little eyes trying to look into the windows, as if this annual ritual gives them the right to invade our privacy.

To be honest, I don’t feel any obligation to put the needs of trick-or-treaters above my own family’s. There is no other time I will see most of these children–with many of them dropped off in our neighborhood by the van loads, as they proceed to run quickly through the neighborhood to hit as many houses as possible, then pile back into the van to plunder the next one. This is not neighborly bonding. This is frenzied candy stockpiling.

So, yes, I will be the scrooge who turns off the porchlight and closes the curtains in hopes of removing all signs of life at our house on Halloween, forcing kids to fuel their sugar rush elsewhere this year. And my family will be better off for it.