I’ve never really done the whole Halloween thing. Sure, as a kid I’d dress up and go to the school Halloween disco and dance the monster mash with 47 other vampires, but I didn’t go trick or treating. My family didn’t deck the house out with spiderwebs and rubber bats, nor did we have a bowl of sweets ready by the door to placate hordes of miniature zombies. I’ve never felt the need to do this as an adult either and my home remains undecorated.

However, I now find myself with a daughter in school and the knowledge that other children are talking about Halloween in reverent tones. I’m also aware that she takes notice of the colourful displays in the supermarkets that foist the principles of dressing up and scoffing candy upon us.

So far I’m getting away easy with just a request for a pumpkin that we can carve together. I enjoy crafting with DD so I’m happy to indulge this request, but I wonder how aware of the other aspects of Halloween she really is. The school don’t seem to be making a big deal of it so I might get away with it this year. She’s also rather distracted by the idea of bonfire night at the moment too, mostly because she knows that she’ll be staying up late with daddy.

So how do I deal with Halloween when she does take note of it? Do I get costumed up and throw myself into it with great gusto? Do I encourage her to ignore this vastly over-commercialised “holiday”? Do I encourage her to go begging for sweets door to door?

Why are the answers to these questions never in parenting manuals?


My first memories

Yesterday a Twitter friend asked what people’s first memories were and my answer was simple, but too complex to explain in 140 characters. My first memories are of my dad; Of being scared by my dad.

My parents divorced when I was about 3 years old so I don’t really remember living with my dad. I can’t tell you if it was a happy time, if he played with me and my older brother, if we went for walks, or went to the park. I simply don’t recall that part of my life. All I have are two small fragments of that time. Two tiny moments of my past. Neither of them happy.

My first memory is of walking with my dad and my brother to his preschool/nursery and being given an old five pence piece to put into one of those toy dispensers that look like giant gumball machines. I can remember turning the handle and the plastic ball that held the toy dropping to the ground and rolling away. I chased it and retrieved the ball from the gutter it had settled in, opening it to find a hopping frog inside. Pleased with my new toy, I turned to show it to my father only to see an empty pavement behind me. I remember running round the corner with tears filling my eyes and seeing another empty street. I ran towards the next corner hoping they’d be there, only to have them leap out at me shouting “boo!”. I can remember them both laughing at their joke, but I can’t remember their reactions to me bawling my eyes out thinking I’d been abandoned.

My other early memory is of sitting alone in the front room of the house we lived in before my parents split. I was playing with my army men, standing them on the table in front of me, preparing them to battle, when all of a sudden the lights went out. This is a scary enough occurrence for a small child, the sudden darkness, being alone, but what happened next left me terrified. I heard a wailing and moaning coming from the doorway and looking up I saw an evil grin and fiery eyes moving toward me. I screamed and heard the laughter of my father and my brother, and as they turned the lights back on I saw the jack o’lantern in my father’s hands.

So there you have it. My two earliest memories. Not good ones, not nice ones, but the only ones I have of life with my father as part of the family.

I suppose that these memories stand out because they evoked such strong emotions at the time. I just wonder how much they’ve influenced my relationship with my dad. We’re not estranged by any means, but we’re not particularly close. It occurs to me whilst writing this that it’s been months since I talked to him. Is it because of the memories I have? Maybe we were close when I was little, when we lived together, but I can’t remember missing him after we moved away. All I remember is being scared by him.

Childhood lost.

Forgive me for I have sinned.

I have forgotten the pleasure of simple things.

I have let my imagination dull as my youth has faded.

I have forsaken Peter Pan and taken berth with Captain Hook on the Jolly Roger.

I have grown up…

Luckily, I have a little Lost Boy and a slightly bigger Lost Girl to remind me of the wonders of being young and to show me how to play again.
The sitting room is covered in toys today, same as every day; plastic food, octonauts, doctor’s kit, cars, and numerous other carefully, skillfully designed and manufactured playthings. These toys are played with day in, day out and loved, sometimes to bits. The kids never tire of playing with them, making up games around them, but I do.

There are only so many times an adult wants to play doctors before they’re sick of being sick. Only so many games of rescue the sea creatures before you want to drown yourself. Only so many times you can eat a pretend ham sandwich before you do a Mama Cass. But the kids could play these same games every day, sometimes more than once a day, without getting bored.

My mind is numb toward these games now. I know that when a piece of plastic toast is presented to me I need to make a fuss about the lack of cheese until I’m presented with a toy magnifying glass and I can finally see it. I know that when the medical case is handed to me I’m going to see patients with whichever symptoms have been shown on Get Well Soon that week.

If I had any hair to tear out I’d be flexing my fingers right now.

A saving grace appeared this morning in the form of a Slinky. A toy with no real purpose, no preset way of playing with it, no expectation. The kids were using it as an elephant trunk, a dog lead, a chasing toy, a Tigger tail, a tunnel… This simple twisted length of multicoloured plastic entertained my children for almost an hour and caused giggles by the bucketload! I remembered it simply as ‘the toy that falls down stairs’…

So there it is. The proof that I have lost my imagination, lost my way, lost my childhood. I’ve grown up and I may never find my way back to Neverland.