Childhood Disappointments Don’t Take A Holiday Break

My traumatic Halloween affected my parenting thirty years later.

Little girl dressed as a witch, green from the carrots in front of her Childhood Disappointments Don’t Take a Holiday Break

Back in the sixties, Halloween was a big deal in my middle-class suburban neighborhood. These were the glory days when kids trick-or-treated with pillowcases, and no one talked about the dangers of allowing children to consume sugar.

One year, when I was seven, my mother ruined my Halloween plans in a way that impacted me when I became a parent. I was so traumatized by what happened on Halloween that I was still struggling decades later.


It was a chilly Pacific Northwest evening on October 31, 1966, and I was excited to be dressing up as a witch.

I had a pointy black hat, a gauzy black dress, and a hand-drawn wart on my nose. Under my costume, I was wearing jeans and a heavy top, hoping to keep my scrawny body warm.

During the days leading up to Halloween, everyone got sick of me imitating the wicked witch from The Wizard of Oz. “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too, ha ha ha,” I’d cackle. Hey, you can’t blame me for getting into character.

I had plans to meet up with my friend Dana, who lived up the street, and we were hoping for the biggest haul of candy we could carry in our pillowcases. Our neighborhood was safe, and that year, we were allowed to trick-or-treat on our own, making the night seem even more special.


But before I was allowed to hit the streets with Dana, I had to eat dinner with my mom and brother. My stomach was already feeling fluttery, and I didn’t have much of an appetite, but when my mother cooked, there was no opting out of eating.

I sat at the table in my costume sans hat and waited for my mom to put the food on the table. When she set the platter down, my spirits deflated, and my fluttering turned to nausea. Cooked carrots had a way of doing that to me.

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My mom, oblivious to my discomfort, put some beef pot roast, potatoes, and the dreaded cooked carrots on my plate, and then she stopped, bent down, and said in a grave voice that there would absolutely be no trick-or-treating until my entire plate was finished.


My brother started laughing from across the table because even he knew I hated carrots. The other problem with this meal is that when you cook pot roast with the carrots and potatoes in the same pan, even the potatoes have a faint carrot taste, too.

My mom passed along the sage 1960’s wisdom that cooked carrots are best eaten hot, not cold. No, thank you, I thought but said nothing. I managed to eat my beef and the carroty-tasting potatoes, but I just couldn’t bring myself to try the carrots. So, there I sat.

Dana came to the door looking for me, and my mother informed her that I was still eating but would be up to her house whenever I was done. My brother had long left to hit the streets with his friends and was undoubtedly raking in all the best candy choices.

My mother cleared the table, washed the dishes, and went to the front door to hand out candy. Had I been a more intelligent child, I would have scraped my carrots into a napkin and hidden it in my pants pocket to throw in someone’s yard later that night.


But no, instead, I sat there for an hour feeling dejected because I was always too afraid to break the rules.

Sometime later, my mother returned to the kitchen and coaxed me into taking a bite, telling me it wouldn’t be that bad and to just wash it down with my glass of milk.

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Like so many other things, she was drastically wrong about this advice.

I picked up my fork, speared a cold, limp carrot, and slowly put it into my mouth. I never expected this to be the last time I ate a cooked carrot, but it was.

As my lips curled around my fork and the cold carrot slid onto my tongue, I began gagging. And not just a little fake gag, but a full-blown I nearly threw up my entire dinner gag. My eyes watered, my throat convulsed, and I made a wretched sound.


My mother immediately came to my rescue, telling me to spit the carrot onto my plate, which she whisked to the sink.

She must have apologized three times for putting me through that experience and gave me more attention than I usually received in a month.

With a hug, she sent me out to the streets with Dana, to whom I recounted my evening with stunning clarity as we walked our neighborhood streets.

I am unsure what causes a mother to prepare a dish she knows her child hates on a night like Halloween. Perhaps she forgot my hatred of cooked carrots? Or maybe she thought this would be one way to get me to agree to eat them. I never asked, but I always wondered.


RELATED: Why I Don't Let My Kids Eat Their Halloween Candy

It’s interesting to me the childhood experiences that come back to haunt you as an adult.

I have my fair share of those experiences, but I wouldn’t have guessed this would be one of them.

When I started having children at thirty-five, I had no idea how much my childhood trauma would influence my parenting. As I look back now, I see so many things.


When it came time to buy baby food for my three children, I steered away from the carrots and the squash (which I hated equally as much as carrots). And when they got older, I never made them eat something they said they didn’t like.

I can hear the collective groans of parents reading that last sentence, and I am well aware of my faulty thinking back when my kids were young. Believe me when I tell you that I could not bring myself to force my kids to eat anything.

Parents fight enough battles with their children.

I believe that food shouldn’t be one of them. But, just remember that this is my childhood trauma speaking.

Unfortunately for my kid’s dad, this was a hill I was prepared to die on, and no amount of coaxing would change my mind.


On more than one occasion, this parenting strategy of mine was called into question by my former mother-in-law. She grew up on a dairy farm during a time when kids were expected to eat what was in front of them.

She disagreed with my edict about forced eating, but I would not back down. I taught my kids to say they would prefer not to eat something politely and did my best to remind my in-laws that I was the parent in charge of my little ones.

As we end this tale of woe, I’m happy to inform you that my adult children love cooked carrots. After some initial genetic testing, I determined they are, in fact, my children. While I’m baffled by their culinary choices, I fully believe our kids will form their own likes and dislikes as they become adults, and those choices will not always be the same as our own.


As parents, it’s our job to champion our little ones as they step into their own personalities.

We do our best to guide them with the hope that they make good choices as they mature.

Each year, as Halloween approaches, I am nostalgically thrown back to my childhood, but in a good way. Despite that year when I was seven, I remember fondly how much fun we had pretending to be someone else while filling our pillows with candy.

Nowadays, parents have a lot to consider when Halloween rolls around. There are the dreaded effects of sugar on children, a heightened concern about keeping our kids safe on the streets, and making sure costumes are appropriate.


A few weeks ago, I enjoyed a riveting conversation with my three-year-old grandson about what we would all be doing this Halloween. He’s torn between a pumpkin and a firefighter, and I’ve decided, with his approval, to be a friendly ghost.

Whatever you’re doing this Halloween, I hope you recapture the nostalgia of your childhood as you hand out (sugar-free) candy at your door!

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Kim Kelly (she/her), calls the Pacific Northwest home when she isn’t traveling with her wife in their 21-foot teardrop trailer. She is a writer, speaker, and espresso enthusiast who writes about authenticity, retirement, relationships, and life on the road.