A Note from Sloat: This is a Letter to the Editor Sent a Few years ago to The Portsmouth Herald
The all-inclusive nature of the parade, combined with the creativity Halloween inspires, results in an event like no other on the Seacoast. Part holiday celebration, part artistic revel, part cabaret, part platform for free speech, it conjures an alchemy that has confounded some who wish it was geared just toward children.
However, the Halloween Parade is for everyone who would enjoy it. The entire community is invited. There is no jurying process to weed out potentially offensive costumes. What can offend one, can wildly amuse another, so such an enterprise is futile.
As with movies, books and events of all kinds, it is the parents’ responsibility to, well, parent. They know their children. They know their comfort level. They know what delights and frightens them. Like animated programs, not all parades suit all kids.
Your paper thanked us for getting the word out that the parade aims to be family friendly. We also want to get the word out that the parade is “PG.”The “P” isn’t for the participants, the politicians or the parade organizers. The guidance the rating refers to is from parents.
We hope parents will prepare their children, and, if needed help them with perspective – teach them to see the wonder, instead of the terror, in a cardboard box transformed into a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Or to appreciate the simple wisp of imagination it takes to turn a sheet into a ghost. Let children know it’s OK to be bothered or scared by a costume and that they are safe with their parents. Reinforce that the parade is a chain dance of costumes, make-believe and people who aren’t all alike. A child with a highly developed sense of fantasy will not have difficulty relating to that scene.If kids are sensitive or easily scared, bring them when they are older.
Belly dancers have shown up at the parade. Some parents balked. Other parents told their kids that belly dancing was part of the culture in some countries, and didn’t make a big deal of it -- their kids saw more skin on a daily basis at the Portsmouth public pool. Often kids gauge their reactions on their parents’.
Showing tolerance teaches tolerance.
In difficult times, parents have the option to teach a child how to cope or to shield him or her from the situation. Either way, potentially traumatic moments can be transformed by a parent who reacts with a calming sense of grace, sensitivity and awareness.
If you take a young child to the parade, it can be a risk. It can be a growing opportunity. It can be a night of magic and wonder. The outcome does not depend on all parade participants dressing with children in mind. It depends on the decisions their parents make.
--Denise Wheeler, Rye, N.H.