It's every parent's nightmare when their child breaks the chilling news to Mom and Dad that he wants to trick-or-treat without them. I'll never forget when Sherman told me he preferred to troll the neighborhood with Penny than with me. While his request had me howling in dismay, I knew he could handle it, so while they went out, I stayed home and ate terrifying amounts of ice scream. At any rate, the comfort level of the parent and the maturity of the child should dictate when he's allowed to go out on his own. Generally speaking, 12 years of age seems to be about right: old enough to make smart decisions and young enough to still get a thrill from trick-or-treating. For your child to have a frightfully good time, however, there are a few caveats and not-so-mysterious rules parents must insist on.
It was a hair-raising experience the night Sherman and I tried to go trick-or-treating in Transylvania. Just being there scared the pants off me, which is funny, because I don't usually wear any. When your child and her friends go trick-or-treating, make sure they take the fright path and only go to well-lit houses on streets that have sidewalks.
I once traveled through ancient Rome's underground tunnels to get to the Coliseum. It was a good thing I carried a torch, because I ran into an escaped lion with an unruly mane. I did what any dog would do in such a situation: I gave that cat-a-comb. Here's the point: Make sure your trick-or-treaters avoid unwanted encounters by equipping them with flashlights and reflective clothing that will help keep them safe.
While it may have been hard for folks to reach my friend Alexander Graham Bell by phone — he refused to keep the very thing he invented in his office — in this brave new cellphone world, there's no excuse for noncommunication. So remind young ghouls and goblins they need to check in with their mummies a few times during the evening.
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