This Halloween, a Canadian town has banned trick-or-treating for anyone over 16, a “relaxed” update to its previous age limit of 14. Those who break the rule could be slapped with a $200 fine, though how that will ever be enforced remains unclear. (“ID, please.” Looks Batman up and down. “Okay, here is your packet of six Skittles. Enjoy responsibly.”) Other cities have also adopted trick-or-treating age cutoffs, usually around 12.
Parents of teens are peeved that there’s still a debate over the perennial question: How old is too old for trick-or-treating? Because who’s to say? There comes a time when children pass the adorable twick-or-tweet stage, though the magic of dressing up in costumes and roaming the neighborhood on a fall night with their friends hasn’t gone away.
If you haven’t heard, teenagers need to get out more. Smartphones are destroying a generation. More teens than ever are struggling with severe social anxiety. And, on average, adolescents get less exercise than the typical 60-year-old. And yet, adults don’t want to see them. As Mom.me writer Marsha Takeda-Morrison points out, those in this age group are constantly portrayed as “drugged out, trouble-causing bands of miscreants who only stop to take a sloppy swig of their Mountain Dew before they shoplift convenience stores or terrorize their neighbors.” She adds that most of the criticism she’s heard about older trick-or-treaters comes from parents of young children, who “seem to stop their rants once their own kids enter their teen years.” Teens are in an awkward, confusing place—they need community as much as anyone else.
Plus, some kids don’t look their age. On her Facebook page, blogger Kristen Howerton put out this message:
My son is 12, and chances are, he’s taller than you. He might even be taller than your husband. His voice has changed and his shoes are pushing a size 14 and he’s often mistaken for being much older. And tomorrow, he’s going trick-or-treating, just like most of his friends. He’s going for the same reason he did at 3, at 5, at 7 … because dressing up as someone else is fun, because he loves candy, and because the magic of this holiday hasn’t lost its sheen for him yet. At the intersection of boy vs. man, he hasn’t outgrown this tradition, and I don’t have the heart to tell him he should. Not this year. So I hope you will be kind to him, and other boys like him, as they go door-to-door tomorrow. There are many ways are kids are growing up too fast. Let’s let them have this childhood joy while they still can.
When kids outgrow trick-or-treating, they’ll stop on their own. But as long as they’re still into it—and they’re polite and they maybe even attempt to dress up (adult onesies from Target totally count)—smile and hand over the Twizzlers, facial hair and baritone voices be damned.