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If your tween wants candy at my house, they’d better come correct

I love Halloween, and not just because I really enjoy “helping” my daughter finish all of her candy. I genuinely enjoy going overboard on the decorations and seeing all of the trick-or-treaters. But if your tweens want some of this sweet loot, they’re going to have to do better than a last-minute costume and look up from their phones once in a while.

Last year at Halloween, it was my turn to stay at the house and give out candy while my husband took my daughter around the neighborhood. I always like the years that I stay at home because it’s just me, a gigantic bowl of candy, a cheesy Spooky Sounds CD and the couch. All I have to do is open the door, gush at the little kids, and hand out sugary snacks like some kind of benevolent high-fructose-corn-syrup goddess. It’s great.

Everything was going swimmingly — I handed candy out to numerous children in Disney Store costumes and a few in Pinterest-perfect creations when suddenly, just as the crowd was beginning to thin, a group of youths in the 12-to-14 range came knocking at my door. I opened it to find a group of older boys wearing morph suits without the headpieces and at least one of those Scream masks from a billion years ago. One was texting. Without looking up, he held a pillowcase out.

“Aren’t you forgetting something?” I asked.

“Um…” he blinked. “Please?”

“You’re supposed to say trick-or-treat!” I urged, surprised at how lame and old I sounded. He rolled his eyes and mumbled the words at me. I was just about to dig out some candy to give him when I stopped, indignant.

“You should at least dress up,” I chided. I was officially that lady. He insisted that he was dressed up, motioning to the morph suit. It took everything in me to not tell him he’d phoned it in with a neon-colored body condom. He was starting to get impatient, and some of his buddies broke off from the group and started down the street. We stared at each other for a moment, and then I gave in, fishing around the bowl until I found what I was looking for: a single, miniature box of DOTS, those gross fake gumdrops no one likes. I plastered a smile on and dropped in his bag. “Happy Halloween, big guy!”

“Gee, thanks,” he grumbled, and then took off.

I don’t think you ever get too old for Halloween. You can come to my house at any age and I will rain candy down upon you and compliment your sweet Dothraki threads and we can have a laugh. I won’t be the mom who says, “Aren’t you a little big to be trick-or-treating?” because that day should never come. Halloween is the best holiday. Hands down.

But you have to come correct. Put on a costume. Put away your phone. Say “trick-or-treat” and don’t be so sullen and angsty or whatever. Because this year, I am prepared for you.

This year, I purchased some licorice-flavored black jellybeans at Easter and saved them for Halloween. This year, I have a bulk bag of sugar-free Starlite mints. This year, I am armed with floss. Over the summer they sold lemonade-flavored Peeps. I have those too, and they’ve been sitting open in the cabinet getting stale for months.

I’m fighting fire with crappy gross candy. I’m like the Santa Claus of Halloween. The arbiter of pre-pubescent effort. Show up with a little Halloween spirit and I’ll give you a full-sized Milky Way bar. But if you come to my door with nothing but a clown mask and a bored grimace, I’m giving you a lump of Necco Wafers. You’ve been warned.

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