1. Yes, this dad has definitely chosen the wrong way to deal with the situation, but I’m willing to ignore that to enjoy the little kid’s “triple take” fear reaction.
    P.S. Even over here, there are some parents who underestimate the “minimum recommended age” for kids to participate in Halloween activities. We’ve never had a parent on the porch, but there are usually a few toddlers every year (about age 3) who have to be enthusiastically coaxed up the stairs.
    P.P.S. I was a little puzzled by the maskless characters, until I noticed that the copyright date wasn’t 2020: this strip is from 2000.

  2. As a parent I can tell you, that logic does not always factor in a childs decision making process. It might definitely want to go trick or treating but then shy away from the actual going to the door and asking for candy thing. This does not mean the child wants to get home after the first try, it might loudly proclaim it wants to continue, just not with the actual, you know thing it would have to do for it. You offspring might also loudly complain that it looked forward to all the candy, but still being to coy to face strangers at their door.

    On the other hand, after going through the trouble of finding a costume for the child, actually dressing it and going through the neighborhood with it – I can sympathize with any parent who wants to actually go through the motions once they are there.

  3. Another thing about being a kid that I remember: sometimes you don’t want to do things, but then you regret not having done them. So doing things like not actually trick or treating but also not actually not trick or treating is the best option for increasing long-term happiness while minimizing short-term pain.

    Come to think of that, that remains broadly true in some circumstances now that I’m an adult, too, the “doing things you you are scared to do because you will regret not having done them, but managing to do them by circumscribing them with mediations to make them tolerable.” thing.

  4. circumscribing them with mediations to make them tolerable.

    Yes, some medications can be quite helpful for that! 🙂

  5. My question is, where is Max while Wally is at the door? One could infer that he was attached to Wally’s leg the whole time, but then why would it be embarrassing? Anyone who answered the door would be able to see that yes, there is a kid here who is obviously too scared/shy to speak to a stranger (ie normal for that age). Or possibly Max is still on the sidewalk, where the person answering the door should, in theory, still be able to see him. Surely Wally didn’t just leave the kid out of sight, unattended? (And don’t call me Shirley.) So yeah, cute comic, awesome drawing of Max at the end there, but logically it does not make sense.

  6. Bill clearly marked this “Not a CIDU”, and then anyway, his comment should make it clear that he had no patience for this type of humor, not that he didn’t grasp it. If this case isn’t the poster child for the application of the Principle of Charity to the discussion, I don’t know what is…

  7. This was a memory for me.

    I had this issue with my firstborn son. It took a while to teach him how to trick or treat on his own. Yes I had to show him the first few homes, and pretty much experienced that last panel. After finishing our little block I just took him home.

    Some kids are really, really shy. They want the candy, they actually want to wear the costume, and do the trick or treating, but they suffer stage fright when it comes time to do it.

    Mine happened to be one of those. He did grow out of it.

  8. In Germany, there is the tradition of the Schultüte, in which you give a big conical bag of candy to a student upon the completion of the first day of school. I went to school in the US, so at the end of my first day of first grade, my parents showed up with a big conical bag of candy and made a big fuss. I was mortified! None of the other children were being singled out this way, and if there was one overriding priority in my life at that point, it was to be just like all the other kids, even if to my detriment. Inexplicably to my parents, I burst into tears, and if I wasn’t being a spectacle before, I certainly was now, and passing kids were wondering what the hell was wrong with me, if I didn’t want the bag of candy, they’d be more than happy to take it off my hands. Part of the problem was that in the US, “the first day of school” is usually considered Kindergarten, if not nursery (we even add the word “school” to “nursery”, making it really oxymoronical) whereas Kindergarten, literally “Children Garden”, is in Germany just that, a “garden” for children to play, not school. So aside from having to partake in this weird ceremony where my parents insist on giving me large bags of candy, it wasn’t even at any recognizable milestone that they were insisting on blowing my cover of being a normal American kid for. So my picture of my First Day of School has me reluctantly holding my Schultüte, crying.

    Kids are idiots.

    I’m with Bill: if kids want to be idiots, let it be a valuable life lesson, don’t go bending over backwards for them. The best favor will be letting them look back on themselves and wonder what the hell was wrong with them.

  9. @ larK – I’ve had to explain the differences between American and German schools any number of times to my kids (such as when they asked me what my (non-existent) “Schultüte” looked like, or what was in it). The toughest problem was when I occasionally talked about “picking them up from school”, and was instantaneously informed that it was not in “school”, but “Kindergarten”. The same went for referring to kindergarten “teachers”, since German has strictly differentiated titles: “teachers” (“Lehrer“) are found only in “school” (“Schulen“), kindergarten classes are led by “instructors” (“Erzieher“).

  10. “What’s the endgame here, to get him the maximum amount of candy?”

    When I take my kids trick-or-treating, I find that I’m much more avaricious than them. I really want to maximize the amount of candy per time, whereas my kids are content to wander around, skipping some houses that look open, going down inefficient streets. I have to restrain myself from “correcting” their route. There’s no real logic to my frustration, since I don’t eat their candy, and they always end up with much more than they can eat, anyway.

  11. P.P.S. I was a little puzzled by the maskless characters, until I noticed that the copyright date wasn’t 2020: this strip is from 2000.

    The daily strips ended years ago. Elliot pulled the plug on the Sundays a few months back.

  12. Given Max’s ongoing character, if Wally (the stepdad ) tried to take him home without candy, he would pitch an epic screaming fit.

  13. In 2001, my daughter wanted to be Pikachu and my wife made me a great Ash Ketchum costume to go with her. All the grownups looked at me, announcing that “I’m Ash Ketchum of Pallet Town, and this is my Pikachu!” (her cue to shout “Pi-ka-chu!!!”), with a mixture of confusion and pity. Finally she had had enough and we went home, and I discovered while handing out candy for the rest of the night that I had pursued the wrong audience – the kids coming to the door all recognized the costume instantly.

  14. If you haven’t read Stone Soup you might not know that Max is “special needs.” He’s almost unspeakingly silent. I don’t think Elliot ever specified his diagnosis.

  15. I don’t understand this obsession for so-called ‘free’ candy (unless you go out to get some, but don’t give out any at your house, which I imagine happens). On 1 November, Halloween candy is CHEAP . . . go to a store (w/COVID mask) and buy your own; you know, the stuff you REALLY want.

  16. Andrea, it’s the excitement of dumping out your bag-o-treats at the end of the night, seeing what you got, sorting it into “keep” and “trade with the other kids in the morning,” trying to hide the Snickers & Almond Joy bars before your dad sees them and decides they “look suspicious” (ie steals his favorites). Yes, you can buy bags for cheap on 11/1, but it’s not the same as the glorious mix of chocolates, bubble gum, and lollipops given freely by strangers. Plus COSTUME!!!

  17. Even though it’s fun to see how some of the more ambitious houses are decorated, I enjoy giving out candy at the door more than following along with our kids(*). Besides the costumes, in Germany you hear a number of different greetings, since nobody ever says just “Trick or treat!” in English. Most of the kids use some variation of “Süßes, sonst gibt’s Saures!” (“sweets, or we’ll do something sour“), but there are a number of other fairly common ditties, and every year we usually hear at least one new one. Here’s one of my favorites, with an approximate translation:
    Wir sind die kleinen Geister, — (We are the little ghosts,)
    Wir fressen gerne Kleister, — (Who like to eat paste,)
    Und wenn Ihr uns nichts geben, — (and if you don’t give us something,)
    Dann bleiben wir hier kleben! — (then we’ll stick right here!)

    P.S. Since Germany is locking down again as of Monday, we’ve already told our kids that we won’t be participating this year (neither collecting nor distributing), but we bought a number of special treats for them as compensation, and we will be carving a pair of pumpkins for the porch: one will be wearing a mask, and I plan to attach a bunch of little balls to the other one, so that the masked pumpkin has a viral pumpkin to quarantine from.

  18. In my T-or-T days (early to mid 70s), I was all about going as far as I could and getting as much as I could. By the end of the night I was in areas I only vaguely knew (still within walking distance of howe, of course). When I got home, my parents would take my candy an put it away. I would then be give a couple of pieces daily throughout the year as a treat. The candy would normally last until the next Halloween. I know my parents dipped into it too. So they definitely had an incentive for me getting lots of candy: it meant they didn’t have to buy me any candy for the rest of the year.

    One year I came down with the flu and didn’t get very far at all before…stuff…was coming out of both ends. I had to go home and had maybe only a quarter bag. This made me sad.

    If, as someone said, that kid has some special needs, maybe it is a good dad thing to be trying to socialize him into normal kid activity. Maybe this was suggested by the kid’s therapist?

  19. When my daughter was three, her mother dressed her up in an improvised costume, and we went next door where her friend lived. We told her to say “trick or treat” and hold her bag out. She did so, and the neighbor dropped candy in her bag.

    You can imagine the wheels turning in her head at this point.

    “Can we go to some more houses?”

    She’s now an attorney.

  20. A long time ago, a friend of mine went out with his kids. They had their bags and he had a beer stein. After the kids got their treats, he held out his stein and said “Trick or Treat!”

    It actually worked. At one house, the guy filled his stein with beer. At another house, the guy filled his stein with scotch whisky! He doesn’t remember what happened after that.

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