Hour-by-Hour Halloween Survival Guide for Solo Parents of Littles

If you are a military spouse, the reasons are many why you may find yourself in this predicament: duty, TDY, deployment, a geo-bachelor situation, sea trials, you name it. No matter the reason, one thing is clear. Halloween rests on your shoulders, Mama. This magical holiday of costumes and candy that your kids have been talking about for weeks is up to you to pull off.

Because I’ve been there a time or two with my three kids while my husband was, I don’t know, working or something, I’ve come up with an hour-by-hour guide for you to rock this Halloween:

7:00 am: Breakfast: You know what’s ahead today in the sugar department, so if there is a day to make a hot scrambled eggs meal, it’s Halloween. Serve a little protein, and your kids are less likely to meltdown in candy comas before trick-or-treating even begins. It’s all downhill from here.

8:00 am: Text another solo parent who may be looking to partner up this evening. An even adult-to-kid ratio is ideal here, because one of your kids will be sprinting three houses ahead while your little one lags behind, laser-focused on opening a tootsie roll. You can’t be in two places at once. Otherwise, check with a teenage neighbor. It’s likely you can find a 14 or 15-year old who might be too embarrassed to trick-or-treat on her own but isn’t quite ready to give up the game completely. See if she will accompany you and help wrangle kids. She’ll be happy to score some candy as payment. It’s kind of a win/win.

8:30 am: Costumes, round one. Preschool is serving as a dress rehearsal for the kiddos this morning. Nix on the face paint, best to save that for evening unless you want a gigantic mess which can only be remedied by gobs of Vaseline. We’re gonna go ahead and shelve this job for the grand finale tonight, just before passing out in bed.

9:00 am: Preschool drop-off. Good job, Mama! Kids are occupied for the next few hours with pumpkin shaving, pumpkin painting, pumpkin seed eating and you didn’t have to lift a finger. If your kids are not in school yet, cut an apple in half, dip in orange paint and stamp onto white paper. When it dries, have your kid draw jack-o-lantern faces with black Sharpie. Boom. You’re welcome.

11:00 am: Pick up Papa Murphy’s or similar. A take-and-bake situation is key tonight given that pizza delivery on Halloween ranks 2nd only to Super Bowl Sunday in popularity. No way you’re waiting until evening to order dinner unless you want a revolt at home. Extra points for pepperoni arranged like jack-o-lantern face on pizza. YOUR KIDS WON’T BE ABLE TO HANDLE YOUR AWESOMENESS TONIGHT.

11:30 am: Preschool pick-up. Ooh and ahh at all the pumpkin and scarecrow art coming home. Hang onto the best piece, as artwork drastically drops off as kids age. You’ll be tacking that painting of “5 little pumpkins sitting on a gate” on the wall every October until the end of time.

12:00 pm: Lunch. Nothing fancy here. PB & J’s will do. With or without pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter. Trust me, the kids will not care as long as it’s followed by a Twix chaser.

1:00 pm: Nap. Heck yes your kids will nap. Or quiet time. Mama needs to gather all her strength for what’s to come tonight.

2:00 pm: During nap, search house for plastic pumpkin bucket for trick-or-treating. You know you’ve seen it in a closet or something and for sure used it in July in the sandbox. Why can’t you find it on Halloween??

3:00 pm: DVR’d Halloween specials of their favorite shows absolutely count as “getting into the holiday spirit.” Little Einsteins Halloween and Puppy Dog Pals Haunted Howl-oween? On repeat.  Your kids need to save their energy for tonight, after all.

4:00 pm: Costumes, round two. Kids are antsy, but do not, I repeat, do not give in and paint faces before dinner!

5:00 pm: Dinner is served. Pizza (Smarty Pants with the take-and-bake), carrot sticks and milk. You’re good, Mama. All the leftover crusts for you. Wash down with a glass of wine and another pep talk. It’s almost GO TIME.

5:15 pm: Costumes, round three. A whirlwind of light sabers, swords, ninja turtle shells, football helmets, cheerleader pom-poms, Batgirl masks….you’ve entered the 11th hour switcharoo. You’ll know you’re there when you hear, “but Mooooom, I don’t want to be a pirate, I want to be Elsa!”

5:25 pm: After 10 minutes of bargaining, cave and let her trick-or-treat in whatever she finds in the dress-up bin. She can’t appreciate that you spent $55 on a pirate costume from Chasing Fireflies a month ago. Hand-me-down Elsa it is.

Extra points for brightly colored costumes which will make your job that much easier tonight. The last thing you need is to go chasing after your little ninja, who is camouflaged right into the night sky.

5:27 pm: Your kids realize they don’t have plastic candy buckets. In a pinch, you grab re-usable grocery bags. You know from experience that they are also the perfect stand-in for Easter baskets and Christmas stockings. For a second you pity your military kids, but quickly snap out of it. No time to waste!

5:30 pm: Snap a quick picture on your porch and head out for your carefully chosen loop of about 20 houses. Long enough for the kids to feel like they’ve done Halloween, but short enough to have you home before 7:00. Hopefully you are going with some reinforcements, but if not, throw on your best running shoes because this will be no walk in the park.

7:00 pm: Pass out candy to a few trick-or-treaters and then porch lights out and call it a night. This is fun and all, but you know full well your baby will be up at 5:00 am November 1st, and will not care a lick that it’s the day after Halloween.

8:00 pm: Kids faces are scrubbed, they are bathed and tucked in bed, your feet may be aching, but you did it. Now, rummage around and set aside your very favorite candy from the loot. That stash will sustain you for days and be a reminder that you pulled off a magical day single-handedly. Now, pray that November 1st is pajama day at preschool.