You can tell kids there are no such things as monsters. But you'd be lying. Let's be honest for a change, for the sake of Halloween and all that's hallow. There are monsters out there, and most of them are dressed up like humans. Jaycee Lee Dugard, the California girl who was kidnapped at age eleven and kept as a sex slave for 18 years in the back yard of a sex offender - she knows there are monsters. The boy who watches his father beat his mother bloody in a drunken rage- he knows there are monsters. The children molested regularly in their own beds by trusted family members- they know there are monsters, maybe not under the bed, but monsters grim and terrifying all the same.
Even children kept safe and secure know there are things to fear, monsters in the ranks, and with this truth comes a sense of horrible vulnerability. If you are a child, smaller, and weaker, and denied the power that adult monsters wield, how can you keep yourself safe? You may do everything right, follow all the precautions, and still the monsters may get you. Children often feel powerless about the monsters in their lives, the big, strong, powerful things that control or hurt them. What defense do they have?
And then in walks Halloween. Evil, pagan, satanic Halloween and it is the perfect gift of empowerment to children (and adults who still need to face their monsters). For three hundred and sixty-four days out of the year, monsters wear human flesh and walk among us indiscernible. On one night a year, humans don monster flesh and take the night back, and most of them are children. Petite blond girls and shy bookish boys put on the veil of ghosts and ghouls, witches and serial killers. They carry swords and cleavers. They bathe themselves in fake blood and smile the wicked grin of the fanged. They take on claws. They look out of the too-large eyes of monsterhood and demand from adults that they be given treats. It is a threat, this Trick-or-Treat. It isn't meant to be polite or "thank you for the candy." It is a child's chance to become the monster for a change. It is Max sailing away to Where the Wild Things Are. It is childhood embracing the dark, becoming King of the Beasts, and coming home unscathed to dine in decadence.
And so, if you're thinking of insisting that your child dress as a cowboy or a ballerina this year. Well, don't. If that is what they want to be, by all means, empower them. But if they want to be something gruesome or frightening, remember this; children know there are monsters out there. They have seen them on the news, in the paper, and possibly in their own neighborhoods or homes. But there is something about becoming the monster, about donning monster flesh, and monster bone, and the monster crown and yelling "Let the Wild Rumpus begin!"
There is something about Halloween that actually dispels fear, if we let it.