Halloween has gotten too scary and should focus more on fun, Pam Cottrel says. Bill Lackey/Staff

Cottrel: Halloween too scary now, should focus more on the fun

“That hayride is just fine for kids,” they told me.

“Your 6-year-old will enjoy it,” the other mothers said. And so I took our daughter on the hayride that she would never forget.

Last weekend, 30 years later, I asked her about it as we sat in the living room together and she hugged her own 6-year-old. She grew quite serious and sent him off to play in another room.

She understands it now but back then she didn’t realize about the chainsaws. She didn’t know that the roaring chainsaws had no teeth and couldn’t hurt anyone. She didn’t know the demons weren’t real.

But on that dark night the sounds of the chainsaws running along the side of the wagon scared her so badly that she vomited and we both were in tears by the time the ride was over. I got off that wagon holding a trembling child and knowing without a doubt that I was the worst mother ever.

The only break in the terror was the awkward smile we both shared later remembering that one of the scary monsters yelled, “Ewww!” when she puked over the side of the wagon in the dark.

I had no idea that the haunted hay ride on the military base out west was so scary. It was advertised as a family hayride. Our neighbor’s kids had done just fine the night before. I thought our daughter was ready but she wasn’t — and I wasn’t either.

She has forgiven me but her reaction then and apprehension that followed her for years haunts me still.

Please learn from my mistake.

Why does the modern Halloween have to scare the stuffing out of us? Why can’t it be cute jack o’ lanterns, bobbing for apples, trick or treat, warm cider and decorated cookies?

I’ve watched Halloween horror escalate over my life time. The holiday was sweet and fun when I was growing up in a small town, where many of the treats were homemade popcorn balls, cookies and candy apples.

Then somewhere someone found sharp things in the treats and we had to have our candy inspected or even X-rayed before eating, and the homemade treats were forever gone.

The scary movies got more horrific and more believable. Haunted houses worked harder and harder to scare and terrify us. Gruesome costumes replaced the cute ones of long ago and fake blood dripped on the sidewalks. And don’t get me started on how the image of clowns has been changed.

I don’t know why Halloween has gone so bad but I just don’t want to participate any more.

I want my pumpkins to smile.

I cannot help but wonder how unhealthy some of the extreme gore and violence is for our younger more sensitive children. Isn’t the world we live in scary enough? Is it possible for a child to get a kid’s form of PTSD from being scared badly on Halloween? I think it might be.

Please learn from my experience. And think twice before taking a little one into a haunted event. If you have any doubt if your child is ready for that scariness, don’t do it. It’s not worth it.

If the movie is rated R, it’s not recommended for kids under the age of 17. Those ratings are there for a good reason. Grownups can make decisions for themselves but there is no reason whatsoever for a toddler to be in an R-rated movie.

My parents thought I was asleep in the back of the car when they went to the drive-in to see the “Abominable Snowman” back in the 1950s. Silently I watched with round eyes from under the edge of the blanket. I know it was mild as scary movies go, but my folks were surprised when I suddenly needed a nightlight and had nightmares. If they would have gotten a babysitter instead of taking me, the abominable snowman wouldn’t have moved into my closet.

Luckily I forgave them long ago. After all they had no idea how sneaky I was at the age of 7.

There are plenty of fun G-rated ways to celebrate Halloween. Trunk or Treats in the church parking lot or silly kids’ parties are a way to dress up and get some candy, but not have your socks scared off. Silly G-rated Halloween movies and cartoons can be fun with the little ones. After all, who still doesn’t want to wait up for the Great Pumpkin?

One toddler I know is afraid to even ride in the grocery cart through the costume and decorations aisle of a local superstore. Her mama wisely knows that having monsters knock on the door for trick or treat might be a bit much this year, so they have made other plans that night. I salute her. Next year the little one will be more savvy and enjoy passing out the candy.

Please think twice before exposing young children to the intense scariness that Halloween can offer. There will be plenty of time to be scared later on in life.

Meanwhile, dig out the old popcorn ball recipe and carve a smile in your pumpkin

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