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Mama Said: Happy Hallowe'en. But don't come round

What are you scared of? Emily Martin delves into her children’s deepest fears

Hallowe’en has always given me the “ick”, a bit. Aside from the fact that I’m scared of blood and gore, I hate horror movies and have a thing about plastic masks, it’s just so distasteful. Dressing up as a road traffic accident and smearing yourself in fake blood? I dunno.

I’m on board with dressing up in general, but dressing up like something revolting is just not for me, thank you. Everything is bad enough without everyone looking horrific and/or dead.

I do buy sweets in for the trick-or-treaters, just in case, but we live on a main road and, in five years, no one has ever come.

Once, years ago when I lived with some girlfriends, we got dressed up for Hallowe’en (I believe I just wore a nice dress) and got some toffee ready by the door. The only visitors we had were a group of pale, ill-looking teenage boys who took our sweets, glared at us and then ran off down the street shouting “LESBIANS!”.

This incident has contributed to my general distrust of children on Hallowe’en. This incident and the fact that children who, for most of the year, are completely afraid of their own shadows and won’t even go to bed because their “dressing gown looks weird” suddenly start wanting fake spiders placed into their spray-painted witch’s hair.

The same children who have to have the landing lights on all night and the doors open or they can’t possibly close their eyes lest the dangers of the house reveal themselves.

Children who have had to give away their copy of Where the Wild Things Are because of the monsters and can’t watch The Witches or Harry Potter because it’s too scary.

Yes, these same children are now dressed as Freddie Kruger and walking delightedly up to houses with gravestones in the front porch.

Fear is a strange thing. I asked my children what they’re most afraid of as research for writing this and my son, staring at the TV unblinkingly, narrowed his eyes and said, “Bats”.

“BATS?” I said confused. “Yes, I hate them,” he asserted, which is strange because I’ve had him with me every day now for nearly four years and I’m confident he’s never seen a bat and knows nothing about them. Maybe that’s why he’s scared.

“I’m scared of those houses that have like spiderwebs and broken windows and stuff,” my daughter said gleefully. I think she means haunted houses.

Enjoying a little thrill of being scared is a childhood thing I definitely remember. Sleeping over at a friend’s house and telling each other ghost stories. Remember that one about the “drip drip drip” noise in the bathroom? That turned out to be the dead dog? Even now as an adult I (and I bet also you) still can’t let even a tiny part of my hand go over the edge of the bed when I’m asleep because of that story.

I’m scared of ghost stories and also spiders. And I’m proud of that and don’t think it’s something I need to correct.

Tom is one of those dads who insists we all act like spiders are absolutely fine around the children, so as not to pass on our irrational fears to them.

If we see a spider, instead of making arrangements to move to a new house immediately, we have to behave like it’s a beloved old friend we’ve not seen for ages. “Wahey! There you are! Cor your legs have got long haven’t they?! Is that KNEES you’ve got? Great to see you! Yes, please be on our duvet, it would be our pleasure.”

Last time Tom caught a gigantic spider in a glass he and the children crowded round looking at it and saying, “Oh isn’t it cute? See it’s not scary. IT is probably more scared of US,” and repeating other idiotic lies to each other while I sat 10 feet away and tried not to vom.

My son has also started saying he’s “nervous” but I’m not totally sure he knows what he means. “I’m a bit nervous about this cake,” he said warily the other day. “WHY?!” I said. “There’s just so much chocolate on it.” He did have a point, it was from the Finest range, but was he nervous? I doubt it.

Anyway, happy Hallowe’en from our house to yours. Don’t come round, thanks.

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