For the first time in 15 years, I did not take a child trick-or-treating on Halloween. 

In 2007, I wrestled my then-9-month-old into a pink octopus costume and strapped her in her stroller to wheel around the neighborhood. I was so desperate to achieve these parental rites of passage that the appropriateness of collecting candy for a baby who was still exclusively breast-feeding and could not eat candy did not even occur to me. When I got home and looked into the plastic pumpkin we’d lugged around all night, I was sort of shocked by what I’d done. I brought all of the candy to work the next day for the communal candy bowl. 

By the time Georgia was a baby, I’d learned my lesson and would’ve skipped the trick-or-treating … except I had a 5-year-old by then who was very eager to get her hands on some free candy, so Georgia had to go along for the ride. (Ruby, of course, exploited this, smiling sweetly and begging for an extra piece of candy for her baby sister.)

By the time Ruby didn’t want to trick-or-treat with me anymore (circa fifth grade), I was in the thick of it with Georgia, who loves both candy and an excuse to dress up. 

But now, here I am, with a fifth grader and a 10th grader, and neither of them want anything to do with me on the big night. They’re both going out with friends.

Is this bittersweet? Am I sad? Am I lamenting the good ol’ days gone by?

Hell no! Absolutely not, not even a little bit. I love being off the hook for this stuff. There are parts of parenting I adore – reading bedtime stories, combing wet hair straight out of the bathtub, singing along to dumb songs on the radio together, lazy Saturday moring snuggles. Some of these activities are over for us now, and that does make me wistful and nostalgic. But trick-or-treating? No. That was always something I endured rather than enjoyed.

So while they were out collecting Fun Size candy bars and, in the case of the teenager, probably doing stuff I’m happier not knowing about, I stayed home and ate a grilled cheese sandwich in my pajamas. I drank a glass of wine in the bathtub. I read a mystery novel I’ve been trying to finish for weeks now but I keep falling asleep before I can even get through a chapter.

And of course, I waited up until they were both home safely and I could breathe a sigh of relief.

Because even when you’re ready for it, even when you welcome it, there isn’t a damn thing scarier – no goblins, ghosts, or zombies – than letting your children grow up and take their first tentative steps out into the world.