COCKTAILS AND BUTT-SITTING

I’m writing this post as I sit in an Urgent Care Clinic in Brooklyn, the day before we head home, waiting for a doctor to see the Boy Child.

It’s actually our second visit to an Urgent Care Clinic in as many days, so as well as doing the US tour of rest stop bathrooms, particularly those within ten minutes of our point of departure, we seem to be specialising in US walk-in medical facilities too.

Both kids have needed medical attention this trip. Nothing major, just major enough that we’ve been afraid to stick them on a 24-hour international flight without arming ourselves with all the knowledge and medication.

That said, these visits have been brief detours in the overall frivolity that has been this trip. Really just a blip on the radar of holiday fun.

One of my dearest friends made me laugh the other day when she messaged and said we looked like we were having an epic holiday. “When I travel, I literally sit on my ass all day and drink cocktails,” she wrote.

It got me to thinking – this particular brand of holiday, the long haul travel, the constant sightseeing, the driving of unfamiliar roads and sides of roads, the multiple – shared – hotel rooms, the packing and repacking, the washing, the mere presence of our offspring – none of it makes for a particularly restful holiday.

And it didn’t come easy in the first place either. There’s epic planning, hours of research, the cost, of course, and then the subsequent, perhaps inevitable heartache over the reasonableness of the cost.

I’m absolutely not complaining. I love travelling, as a departure from lying by a pool or on the beach.

We’re lucky enough to have family on the Sunshine Coast where we visit regularly and so we get our fill of idyllic beach time (plus more than a few cocktails) there. I think this is why we haven’t felt the need to do the the beachy/resort thing in a little while now.

But.

As I sit here trying to explain to person after person that I don’t have medical insurance, nor do I have a preferred pharmacy, nor a local residential address and actually, we do birth dates backwards to you guys, I find myself wondering whether we might have erred in pushing ourselves (and the kids) so hard this holiday.

We have a huge few months of life and work ahead of us, what if cocktails and butt-sitting was exactly what we needed?

Nah.

The thought is gone almost as soon as it arrived.

This trip has been incredible and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. And to share it with my family…. There are barely words.

Even if the kids don’t remember it in any real detail, hopefully they’ll remember a few abstract notions.

If not where we went specifically, then maybe what it’s like to emerge from the darkness of a subway station to the streets of the Manhattan for the first time, the overwhelming, slightly terrifying chaos of somewhere new and different.

If not what we saw on Broadway, then maybe the thrill of the lights dimming and the first few notes of an overture.

If not the specifics of Amish life, then maybe the fact that there are whole communities, countries around the world, living a fundamentally different experience to their own.

If not the names of each of the Niagara Falls, then hopefully the incredulity of their mum and dad signing them up for a boat trip where they got totally soaked, fully-clothed, on a mild Canadian autumn day.

If not the regional specialities tried and tasted, then hopefully the surprise and joy in the understanding that mum and dad take a holiday from meal rules too.

Which is fine for a while, but eventually evolves into dinner discussions about which home cooked meal we’d like to eat first when we get home.

Which then evolves into a conversation about The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’s protagonist, Ichabod Crane, and how perhaps if the headless horseman would have piffed mum’s pumpkin risotto at him in that dark, instead of a whole Jack O’ Lantern, then maybe he wouldn’t have been so scared.

Or maybe they’ll just recall how mum and dad were there, for the most part, all day, every day, and every night, and we how we did it all together.

Often annoying the crap out of each other but mainly just enjoying living, learning, loving and being together, without distraction.

If I’m honest, that would be enough.*

*Yes, this is a Hamilton reference. As ever – not sorry.

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THE TRUE HORROR OF HALLOWEEN

I’ve written about Halloween before. If you missed it, it’s here.

But if you’re already so riveted by this incredible piece of literature and can’t be arsed navigating away, I can summarise:

I can take it or leave Halloween. But I just wish that we as Aussies would pick a side.

So we’re doing this? Great. I have a section of scrapbooked Woolies magazine recipes and ideas for five years worth of whole-family-themed costumes ready to go. Bring it.

Or is it ex-nay on the alloween-hay? Great. Hurray for the fight against childhood obesity.

The thing is, the upward pressure is definitely there from those under 5 feet tall.

But when push comes to 31 October shove, lobbing up to your neighbour’s doorstep and demanding confectionary is easier said than done, given our current antipodean indifference.

And until this year, this is what I’ve always tried to explain to our children/use as an out: not everyone in Australia celebrates Halloween.

So when we decided to take a trip to the States this year, the kids cottoned on pretty fast.

Are we going to be in America for Halloween?

Yes.

And everyone in American celebrates Halloween?!

…Yes.

SO CAN WE GET DRESSED UP AND GO TRICK OR TREATING IN AMERICA ON HALLOWEEN?!?!?!?!?

….oh my, what have I done…yes…?

What I didn’t count on, though, was that Halloween in the US as an Aussie interloper is fraught with as much doubt as it is at home.

We planned to be in Sleepy Hollow, NY, for the big night because it was in the path of our general homeward trajectory and also because what’s spookier than a Headless Horseman?

So once we were en route and the kids’ feverish anticipation for trick or treating threatened to boil over, I thought I’d better do some research.

And the results, fittingly, were horrifying.

If Halloween falls on a weekday, some towns actually do their Halloween festivities on the Saturday prior, which we’d missed.

What’s more, apparently there’s a nation-wide push to move Halloween from 31 October to the last Saturday in October. #therealissues

Also, there are timing guidelines from town-to-town so that householders aren’t expected to sit by their doors with a bowl of lollies until all hours of the morning – and – those general timing guidelines are designed to be cross-referenced with the weather forecast of the evening for maximum rain avoiding.

Then, Google led me down a path of demographic trick or treating justification, for example: if we simply wandered out of our hotel and started knocking on doors, it’d be a while before we reached anything other than a petrol station, Dominos or a car yard.

But apparently the town two towns over has a population in which 1 in 4 residents is under the age of fourteen, so surely a hotbed of neighbourhood trick or treating activity?!

Or not? I’m so lost.

And then, the straw that just about broke the haunted camel’s back, the Google search yielded a guide to known sex offender’s homes in your area, to keep your kids safe on Halloween.

Nooooope. I’m out. Too hard basket.

And yet… the kids were so excited. And they’d put up with a whole holiday completely devoid of any theme park action. We’d even stopped at a Walmart to pick out costumes – Cinderella and a Minecraft Creeper.

How could I let them down?

And this is the real horror of Halloween – meeting your kids’ lofty expectations. It was hands down the most stressful part of our trip to date.

In the end, it wasn’t a white knight (or headless horseman) that came galloping to the rescue, it was Hoff.

Apparently (in a fit of genius) he searched “trick or treating near me” and up popped a local mall, whose retailers were getting into the spirit by handing out lollies to all and sundry.

So we headed to the (gigantic) mall, marveled at all the brilliant costumes, and happily enjoyed the trick or treating experience whilst safe, dry and secure in the knowledge that we were perfectly welcome until 8pm, or until the lollies ran out.

And fortunately, night two in Sleepy Hollow was dedicated to the Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze, should trick or treating turn out to be a major fizzer.

Simply put, it was 7,000 carved pumpkins, on the grounds of a nearby historical manor (the Van Cortlandt Manor), arranged into all manner of whimsy, from a fully functioning skeleton horse carousel, to the pumpkin Statue of Liberty.

It was glorious.

As I stood and watched a maniacal jack (o’lantern) in a box, spring from it’s box (made entirely of carved pumpkins), it reminded me of the true spirit of Halloween – the frivolous spooking of ourselves for no other reason than to raise the heart rate and have a bit of a giggle. With a sprinkling of harvest folklore and imagery thrown in for good measure.

And further, everywhere we’ve been in the last couple of days, there’s been people – shop assistants, hotel staff, medical receptionists (long story) – falling over themselves to ply the kids with lollies and engage in a conversation about their Halloween experiences, which the kids have loved and has been truly touching on the whole, I must say.

So Australia, when you’re ready to take a vote – I’m in. Let’s do this. Vote 1 Halloween. I’m ready.

PASSING THROUGH

We ended up in Rochester, NY, via Nashville, TN.

Kinda.

On our trip last year, Hoff and I visited Nashville. We arrived in town, dropped our bags and jumped in a cab to go to the meeting point for our ‘Nash Trash’ tour.

“Wow, that tour’s supposed to be fantastic,” our cab driver said. “You need to book tickets months in advance.”

I looked at him blankly. “Is there any other way to plan holiday activities?”

On the tour, only one other couple and us appeared to be under the age of fifty. As such, the four of us were quite the targets for our hosts, Sheri Lynn and Brenda Kay.

Particularly the boys, the horny old cougars.

The other couple was Bryan and Julie, from Rochester, NY, and we chatted during a tour stop. They were (and still are) driving their RV around the US and Canada (www.cruisinwiththecareys.com) and they were kind enough to give us their contact details.

So when we decided to drive from NYC to Niagara Falls this year with the kids, I reached out to see if they had any advice, and they enthusiastically recommended their hometown for a visit.

Rochester is not a place I knew much about – only that the founder of the Latter Day Saints, Joseph Smith, – and indeed the church itself – were born there.

(I’m not a religious scholar, by the way, I’m a musical theatre fan. If you’ve seen The Book of Mormon then you know what I mean. And if you haven’t, I’ll ask you again, what are you doing with your life?)

So, as we needed a stop to keep our driving time to kid-friendly maximums, we thought we’d give it a go.

And we’re so glad we did.

What a picturesque, friendly, unassuming place.

I mean…

We had a beautiful dinner that involved actual real-life vegetables.

We walked tree-lined streets with leaves of shades of orange and red that I didn’t even know existed outside a 72 set of Derwents.

We saw beautifully preserved historical buildings.

We went to the The Strong Museum of Play and visited the Toy Hall of Fame.

We had breakfast at a dedicated cereal and comic book shop, and had an exchange with Malcolm, who worked there, that went like this:

Me: Can I try the Reeses Puffs please?

Malcolm: What do you mean ‘try’? You’ve never had them before?

Me: No, we don’t have most of these cereals back home. Also, I’m 36.

Malcolm: (Incredulous) I mean…  I know you guys were a prison colony once, but I thought those days had passed?

You know those Instragram posts with exposed bricks and aesthetically pleasing coffee cup stains which spout earnest #inspo like, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey”?

I hate those.

But I hate them even more when they’re right.

Rochester was never meant to be a destination, more so a necessary stopover on our journey to Niagara Falls.

But it was such a beautiful antidote to the mild stress of fighting the tourist masses to catch that elusive glimpse of something a little higher profile, that we left feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and also pretty darn chuffed that we’d given it a go.

KEEPING IT SIMPLE

There’s nothing quite like traveling to force a bit of introspection.

I’m not sure why. I can only guess that by removing the monotonous domestic duties of day-to-day life, one’s mind is left to reflect with the leftover brainpower.

On this trip, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the kids and our approach to our parenting.

This parenting focus could also be because we spent yesterday in and around Dutch Pennsylvania or Amish Country, where differences in parenting approaches are certainly pretty stark.

I mean, for a minute it seemed a bit like child labour was the theme of the day.

At the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery we learned that the family patriarch literally designed child-sized machinery so that his brood of children could join him working in his bakery as soon as their gross motor skills would allow.

Then we learned that Amish children only undertake formal schooling until eighth grade, and that there’s a distinct emphasis on discouraging anything that is considered ‘too worldly’.

Meanwhile we’re busting our guts to try to literally expose our four- and six-year-old to…the world.

More than that, we’re paving the way for them. While we’re doing this world-exposing, we’re making sure at all times that they’re comfortable – well fed, well rested, entertained and climate-controlled.

See, yesterday was not simply a day spent in and around Lancaster County. It was a meticulously planned and researched itinerary whereby I put a lot of thought into balancing activities in which I knew Hoff and I would be genuinely interested, but also those that I knew we could sell to the kids as well.

So we started at the Pretzel Bakery as noted. The thinking here was – Hoff and I like pretzels and food history, the kids like playdough. Pretzels have a rich history. Shaping pretzels is kind of like playing with playdough. And there you have it – balance.

Then we headed for an Amish buggy ride and visit to an Amish farm for some homemade cookies and lemonade. Hoff and I like beautiful rural scenery, the kids like animals and sugar-laden baked goods. Balance.

Then we threw caution to the wind and opted for proper a tour of an Amish home and farm. We figured the kids might be a bit ratty and disinterested, but it was only a thirty-minute tour so we screwed our courage to the sticking place and signed up. Hoping against hope that the kids would at least remain quiet-ish and not spill drink on any hand-sewn quilts, or knock over any gas lanterns and burn the place down in the process.

Which they didn’t. They were fine. A little wiggly, but fine. The tour guide took to pointing out to the Boy Child which pieces of furniture he could sit on and which were priceless historical artifacts and best avoided, so everyone was – by and large – pretty happy.

And by way of compromise, we ended our day with a ride on the Strasburg Railroad, the oldest continuing operating railroad in the US, because hey – kids love trains…don’t they?

Not necessarily, as it turns out. Or maybe they had train-fatigue after the 130-odd Subway trips we took in NYC.

Because it was at this unlikely point that the kids became particularly unruly. They didn’t really seem to care the President Abraham Lincoln had ridden this very railroad, and somehow seemed more content by putting their dirty feet on the meticulously maintained 100+ year old upholstered seating, despite the PA announcement imploring passengers to definitely not do that.

So, in an attempt to distract from the seat-wrecking and general close-proximity sibling-warfare, I improvised and proceeded to conduct a quiz, using the content of the Amish house and farm tour, to distract the kids.

This was partially to reinforce my own understanding of the material and partially out of morbid curiosity as to how much information they had actually absorbed – which I suspected was mainly only the fact that they don’t have electricity therefore NO NINTENDO. The end.

But not for the first time that day, I was wrong.

Do the Amish people go to church in a church?

No, they take turns to have everyone in their house.

Are the Amish people allowed to have power points in their homes?

No.

How about batteries?

Yes.

How do they power their lamps then?

Gas.

And on it went. Hoff and I looked at each other, dumbstruck. We could’ve sworn they weren’t listening, only surviving. As it turns out, they’d taken quite a lot in, you just couldn’t tell from their faces. I suspect there’ll be a lot of frustrated/pleasantly surprised educators in their futures.

The whole thing was really hammered home later that night, when we got back to the hotel and Hoff proceeded to ready the kids for a trip to the hotel pool, as promised.

The Boy Child was concerned that he should put some clothes on to go in the lifts to the pool, presumably because he hadn’t clocked any other half-dressed hotel guests on his travels thus far. I told him to put a t-shirt on with his board shorts if he was concerned.

“What about my bare feet though?” he queried.

But before I could answer, he appeared to appease himself.

“Maybe they’ll just think we’re Amish.”

Say what now?

“You know, because they don’t wear shoes in summer…? Because they’re feet are tough from all their hard work…? So they don’t need to….? Don’t you remember what the lady told us mum?”

It’s possible I need to stop over-thinking.

THE 10 BEST THINGS ABOUT TRAVELLING WITH KIDS

This time last year, Hoff and I were lucky enough to take a trip to the US….child-free.

We had the best time. And critically, we did all the things we knew we couldn’t get away with if our kids were in tow. We ate well, we drank a lot, we listened to music, went to museums, finished conversations. You name it, we did it.

So here we are again and it’s hard not to compare our child-free adventure last year with our child-full adventure this year.

With that in mind, here are the very best things about travelling with kids.

1. There is no grey.

Have you ever travelled with a group of friends and had that thing were you’re all falling over each other to make sure you’re not too bossy or controlling?

As in, “I don’t mind, what do you want to do?”, “no really, I don’t mind, what do you want to do?”, “no I insist, it’s up to you…”

This does not happen when you travel with your children. All decision-making is expedited because if they don’t want it, they are not having it.

And if you don’t heed their warning and go back to the hotel for a rest instead of getting milkshakes, for example, they will make you pay by falling asleep in the middle of a restaurant in Chelsea Market.

2. They have no shame.

We went to the Museum of Natural History and like any good parent I had dutifully showed the kids Night at the Museum in preparation for their visit. The idea was to instill a sense of excitement in the little tackers, so they could experience the thrill of seeing it in real life, which kind of happened.

But also, their biggest takeaway of the film seemed to be that the Easter Island statue referred to itself as ‘Dum Dum’, when it became bewitched after dark (sorry, spoiler alert) and consequently when we made our way to the Hall of Pacific Peoples, the relative museum serenity was interrupted by my two chanting “Dum Dum, Dum Dum, Dum Dum” at the top of their lungs on approach. Even when I tried to tell them that it’s actually called a Moai and has fascinating origins and tried to convert the whole thing into a Holiday Learning Opportunity™, they weren’t having it and carried on with their chanting.

And this is the story of this holiday. Although at times it’s embarrassing, it’s also pretty bloody funny too.

Like when we saw a life-size model of the Statue of Liberty’s face, and the Boy Child stood with his head half in her nostril as though he was…well…you know…a booger…I had to have a little chuckle. I’m only human. Classic.

3. They say hilarious things.

Trips to tiny plane toilets are a bit of a nightmare usually, particularly when both your children are terrified of the flush and insist you come in with them. Worst kind of mile high club ever.

But on one such trip, the Girl Child was chatting away as she was dutifully going about her business, when she said, “I like our toilet at home better, mum. It’s much less wiggly.”

She was referring to the mild turbulence being experienced at the time. (The actual turbulence. Not a euphemism for things that happen in the toilet.)

Again – classic.

4. Quiet nights spent in the hotel room

On our child-free trip last year, I have to admit, there was an element of ‘mums and dads on the loose’ for Hoff and me. We went out most nights, got home too late most nights, and just generally made very little use of the hard-earned money spent on hotel rooms.

Fast-forward to this year and a quiet night after the kids’ 7pm bedtime is mostly the order of the day.

I’ve really been enjoying having more time to write and share our adventures, and Hoff’s really enjoyed having more time to fall asleep in front of the telly and claim to just be resting his eyes.

5. Reduced going out/booze budget.

See above.

6. Blurring fantasy and reality.

To be perfectly honest, when we travel, a big chunk of our itinerary activities are driven by reliving our favourite pop cultural exploits in the location they took place or were set. I’d love to say that we’re driven by educating ourselves, or experiencing culture, or pleasing aesthetics, but full disclosure, we’re quite basic that way.

Case in point, the second stop on next week’s road trip itinerary is Scranton, Pennsylvania. Because of The Office. And if you need any further information than that then I implore you to stop reading right now and go and watch all nine seasons and also what have you been doing with your life?

The best thing about doing this sort of thing with the kids, though, is that their tiny minds haven’t quite grasped the concepts of fact and fiction as yet, so when you take them to see the Ghostbusters Firehouse, for example, their delight is palpable, (as is their terror as they strain their necks checking for an appearance of Slimer).

7. The value of incidental wildlife sightings

Obviously, kids lose their minds over animals.

We’ve seen turtles in the lake Central Park, squirrels at the playground in Washington Square Park, and we’ve even had a few close brushes with that quintessential native inhabitant of the Upper West Side – the toy poodle.

All incidental, all free, and most importantly – all smiles from the rugrats every. darn. time.

8. Guilty pleasures.

Kids provide a great excuse/incessant nagging to indulge in what would normally be holiday guilty pleasures.

Need an afternoon nap? We’d better do that, you know. For the kids.

Want to buy that Statue of Liberty bobblehead? What a great idea.

Can we have donuts for breakfast? Yes. Yes we can.

What’s that kids? You’ve got a craving for hotel room Pringles? Sure, we can get some.

(Mum, we didn’t ask for those chips.)

(No, it’s fine kids. We’re on holidays, you can have them.)

(We’d really prefer a banana at this point mum, can we just get that?)

(There you go kids, Pringles for everyone.)

(….Mum, are these really for you?)

(You’re so welcome, kiddos.)

9. They’re easy pleased.

In case you haven’t got the sense already, Hoff and I tend to take somewhat of a holiday from parenting when we travel too. Nothing too drastic, just a general relaxing of what are usually some pretty hard and fast rules.

So the kids have been enjoying a little more sugar, a little more screentime, and a little less sleep than usual.

Which means that the phrases:

“Hey kids, who wants to go and have Froot Loops for breakfast then go to the Lego store and buy personalised mosaics in the design of your face then have a slice of pizza that’s bigger than your head today?”

and

“Hey kids, who wants to strip down to our undies and watch telly for more than an hour in the hotel room?”

are met with the same level of enthusiasm. Despite the epic chasms in planning, cost and general effort that goes into each.

10. They’re here.

I missed them when we went away last year. As much as we tried to plan a trip that they would’ve hated, there were things that crept in that we knew they would’ve loved. And every time we saw something, the pangs of separation felt a tiny little bit more acute.

Which is, hands down, the best things about our trip this year. We’re all here together.

TRY HARD

Wasn’t that just the insult of the mid-1990s?

Look at her in her ripped jeans and her Doc Martens. I bet she doesn’t even listen to Nirvana. What a try hard.

(They were right. I didn’t listen to Nirvana. But I still wear Doc Martens to this day. Because screw you 90s grunge kids; warm, comfortable footwear is for everyone.)

But who knew that as a mum, being a Try Hard would actually be a badge of honour?

What, me? A try hard? Your damn right I am. Or I do.

(Like right now I’m trying hard to understand the grammar.)

I write this from a silent Upper West Side hotel room as I wait for my kids to wake up after our arrival here last night.

New York City might be the city that never sleeps, but my kids sure do. Especially after we subjected them to a 28-hour door-to-door, long haul, cross hemisphere, international travel experience.

(Which is how I sold it to them in the first place, incidentally. The trick is in the marketing.)

And boy did I try hard in my preparations for this flight.

I did a trial suitcase pack three weeks prior to the flight to ensure I could cover all manner of social/meteorological situations in which we might find ourselves.

I bought those packing cells which I was worried might be a bit of a scam to convince highly strung family travel coordinators to part with their cash, but actually they’ve turned out to be my favourite things in life after my wedding ring and children.

I pre-selected our seating positions and meal choices.

I packed snacks, medications, fresh clothes and sleeping aids (comforters and eye-masks obviously, not medicinal – settle down Internet.)

Critically, I worked long and hard on packing things to entertain the kids during the flight.

In the days before we left, I was chatting to the Girl Child’s kindy teacher about our trip. She regaled me with stories of the effort she went to for carry on entertainment during a trip she took when her kids were similar ages to ours.

I inwardly beamed with pride when she starting listing an almost carbon copy of the contents of my kids’ backpacks – colouring books, educational worksheets, the makings of a comprehensive travel journal, meticulously crafted but critically lightweight travel games.

I mean, this woman is an actual qualified early childhood educator so maybe I’m was doing something right?

Then she dissolved into laughter and further recalled how once her kids were on the plane and had their seatback screen/personal entertainment devices in hand, they were totally happy and content to get on with the process of flying long-haul, and the only thing her hours of hard work really achieved was to create extra weight in their bags, which ended up being left – largely untouched – at their holiday destination as a result.

And now, having come through the other side of child-friendly, long-haul travel ourselves, I can concur that yep, I probably didn’t need to try so hard with all that stuff either.

The only thing I really should have done was learn how to play Minecraft, which we diligently installed on the Boy Child’s iPad before we left.

(Seriously though, send help. Like are you meant to eat the sheep or domesticate them? I’m so confused.)

That said, the lengths that I went to in preparing for our flight was nothing compared to the planning that has gone into our itinerary from here on in. There may or may not have been multiple spreadsheet tabs and graphic-based brainstorming maps. There were definitely multiple travel guides involved. Both online and hard copy.

My point is, I’ll never stop trying hard in my dogged pursuit of the creation of magical childhood travel memories for my children through our travel. It is my favourite incarnation of myself as a try hard so far.

(Take that, Stussy hat and overall wearing 1992 me).

HALLO-WEIGHIN’ IN

When I was almost two years old, we spent a Halloween in Canada with friends. We went trick or treating and apparently at one of the very first houses, a man opened the door with a gorilla mask on and I spent the remainder of the exercise in a fit of inconsolable, terrified tears.

I’ve had a fraught relationship with Halloween ever since.

This year, my son is five and in his newfound independence, he planned a trick or treating expedition with his kindy mates. He was most put out to find that such expeditions require parental sanctions and promises of supervision and unfortunately, he had neither.

Predictably, a blazing row ensued.

As I generally do when detailing complicated situations to my children, I resorted to explaining the whole Australian Halloween predicament in my own, rambling manner, with rampant disregard for the use of terms and concepts that they may or may not understand.

“Because, mate, Halloween is technically a North-American celebration and it’s not something we’ve traditionally celebrated in Australia. Although it does seem to be catching on and nobody is really sure whether this is a result of cynical retailers cashing in on every opportunity to make a buck or a slow recognition that the whole thing is a bit of fun and doesn’t really do any harm. Except to your teeth, bank balance and insulin levels. Regardless, as a society we are all sitting on the proverbial fake cobweb-covered fence and there hasn’t really been a ruling on whether we’re doing this thing or not and in the meantime, the simple truth is, I don’t feel comfortable marching you through the neighbourhood, dressed like a crazy person, demanding candy from people who may or may not be happy to give it to you. And anyway we call them lollies. Okay?”

On the one hand, I understand it’s fun and kids seem to get a real kick out of the dressing up as well as the lollies. Plus I am very pro-sequins and tulle.

On the other hand, I do recognise that we need to be mindful of the infiltration of American culture into our own, which is already so widespread and perhaps a direct contributor to our habit of cultural cringe.

And do we really need another junk-food-based celebration? I’ve often wondered whether our US friends’ quick succession of Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas provides some clue as to the incidence of obesity in the US.

(If we did do Thanksgiving here, I’d be thankful for the fact that we only have one holiday-related junk food blow-out in the second half of the year, because even that takes me until March to undo the damage.)

Regardless, my main issue with the whole thing is that I’m well aware there are some people firmly in the anti-Halloween camp and I have no interest in interrupting their peaceful twilight on October 31 by knocking on their door demanding treats for my unruly, sugar-hyped kids. In my experience people are generally a little anti-door-knockers on the whole, let alone ones who revel in costumed anonymity and demand stuff from your pantry.

And we all know that these anti-Halloweeners absolutely exist (hah, weeners), because they write predictable columns in the paper each year – one of the more mundane fixtures of the seasonal news cycle, in my humble opinion.

Nevertheless, come 31 October, my pathological people-pleasing tendencies tend to win out, and I err on the side of caution by leaving the whole trick or treating business alone. Much to the chagrin of my children.

I’m not proud of my fence-sitting, safety-first approach. I opened up Instagram last night and was instantly plunged into a slack-parenting-shame-spiral. Post after post of enthusiastic parents not only taking their costumed offspring trick or treating, but getting into the swing of dressing up themselves! I had this overwhelming desire to ask earnest questions like, did everyone in your neighbourhood get together and decide this was okay? Do you have a secret sign so you know which houses to hit for the free gear? Are Halloween costumes and decorations a line-item in your annual household budget? What the hell people? Did I miss the referendum when we decided we are doing this now? I remember the one about becoming a republic…

In any case, unless I get some concrete answers or actual legislation on the topic, I am doomed to err on the side of caution for the rest of my days. It’s not all bad though. Our son has inherited his mother’s ability to negotiate so he suggested that next we go to America to celebrate Halloween. I’m actually more comfortable with that approach, although it’s probably a false economy in the grand scheme of things. Also, is anyone reading this in the US and can we please come and do trick or treating in your neighbourhood next year? I don’t feel comfortable banging on hotel room doors, demanding candy from fellow holidaymakers…