For parents, real treat is in Halloween’s simplicity

     Savannah Lewis, 1, of Germantown, dressed as a character from Yo Gabba Gabba! for Halloween 2013. (Tracie Van Auken/for NewsWorks)

    Savannah Lewis, 1, of Germantown, dressed as a character from Yo Gabba Gabba! for Halloween 2013. (Tracie Van Auken/for NewsWorks)

    I love Halloween. It’s not because of the candy. Well, it’s not only about the candy. As a mom, I love Halloween because it’s a holiday that requires minimum effort to “celebrate” and results in a maximum amount of joy from my kids. Allow me to elaborate.

    Unlike, say Christmas, which requires a trip down to the basement and up to the attic to haul out multiple boxes of decorations, not to mention the expensive purchase of festive plant life: trees, wreaths, poinsettias, Halloween calls for minimum preparations and decorations. I buy a pumpkin for each kid and we are good to go. Even better, unlike that Christmas tree we buy and eventually recycle into wood chips, the pumpkin serves as decoration and the provider of a healthy snack. Roasted pumpkin seeds, people!

    If you go to one of those giant commercial costume stores, it’s true you could spend a lot of money on Halloween. Not to mention, the only costume your kid may find at one of these stores may have her looking either like an oversexed fairy/nurse/witch or something so gruesome and violent even your dog would have nightmares.

    I bet you think I’m going to suggest you stay out of costume stores and make your child’s costume from scratch. Hello! I already said I love Halloween because it’s a low-maintenance holiday. Plus, unlike my sainted mother, I cannot sew, and I do not know how to work a glue gun.

    So here’s how we go about costume choices. I tell my kids they have to come up with their own costume ideas before we go near a store. They have to find the majority of their costume at home, and they can spend $10 or less at the store.

    This year my older kids are going to be a “nerd” and a bandit. The only thing we have to buy is a big pair of glasses for the nerd and some fake money for the bandit. And truth be told, they could do without those little things, but seeing as how I look like a nice mom for taking them to the costume store to buy these little items for $10, it’s a win-win for everybody.

    Halloween is also great because there are no elaborate meal preparations involved. In fact, if I order pizza or make hot dogs on this day, I am the best mom ever. I mean, pizza followed by candy? What could be better?

    And did you notice how easy that meal is for you? Order the pizza, let them eat the candy they collected for themselves, and it’s the easiest dinner and dessert combo ever. Compare that to roasting a turkey and sweating over two kinds of pie.

    But I don’t stop there.

    Considering all I’m doing is ordering pizza — and yes, honestly I usually go the extra mile and whip up a nice salad too — I figure this is the perfect time to allow the children to invite a few friends over to “celebrate” with us. This is my greatest triumph.

    I’ll be honest, after the kids turned five and running around chasing bubbles no longer qualified as entertainment, I pretty much gave up on birthday parties. Again, too much money, preparations and stress for a day where somebody — usually my kid — always seemed to end up crying.

    But Halloween? You invite some kids over to partake in the delicious pizza meal you’ve prepared and then kick them out of your house so they can go trick or treating. When they come back to examine their loot, they’re so hopped up on sugar and excitement, they barely notice that you’ve neither cleaned your house nor prepared anything extra for dessert. You don’t even really have to offer them anything to drink. Although if it’s a cold Halloween, you could consider heating up some apple cider. But only if you feel like it.

    And then, the morning after, kids being kids will automatically wake up in a good mood because they have a bag of candy* waiting for them. In my experience, they will thank you profusely for making Halloween the best ever.

    Here’s where you can smile to yourself, tell them “it was nothing,” and actually mean it.

    *How long will that bag of candy make them happy? This is the quintessential post-Halloween question for parents everywhere. In our house we’ve come to a compromise. I let my kids enjoy their candy for a week without a lot of restrictions. After the week is over, we donate the leftovers or toss it out.

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