my office’s “kid-friendly” Halloween party was actually terrifying

A reader writes:

My office held a Halloween party this week after hours and said in the invitation that kids and significant others were welcome. Some of us brought our young kids (ages 2-5 or so). When we arrived the signs were pretty ghoulish (dismembered bloody body parts, etc), and one employee, “Bob,” brought a very gruesome and realistic zombie puppet that truly terrorized the kids in attendance. The parents are really upset, and would not have brought kids if we knew that there would be this kind of adult Halloween horror.

The person who did this is otherwise lovely. I think he was just clueless about how inappropriate this was for a family event. How do we address this? It’s hard enough in our company for moms of young kids, and I don’t want us to be seen as spoil sports.

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Job candidates keep asking if I have time to chat
  • Sloppily written emails from a professional contact
  • How many references is it reasonable to give for one person?

{ 206 comments… read them below }

  1. so very tired*

    Did you work at my office in 2019? Because something similar happened there.

    The party planning committee took over an entire large office space and went all in; the entire room was pretty dark, some people came into work in fairly gory costumes, and while there were kid-friendly activities like a haunted gingerbread house station etc. it definitely did not feel ok for little kids. The event was advertised as family friendly and kids were encouraged to come, but I don’t think the committee understood the assignment.

    I had a blast tho because it was right up my alley. In case you’re wondering I went as Bob Ross. Not a zombie Bob Ross just happy little trees.

    1. Mim*

      Someone in our neighborhood set up on their porch as Bob Ross last Halloween, painting happy little trees on their easel in the background as their spouse handed out candy to trick-or-treaters. (I will say I’m raising my kid right, because she was as excited about Bob Ross as I was!)

      1. so very tired*

        That year I painted a Bob Ross scene (trees in winter) in oil on canvas and my husband wore the canvas around his neck when we went out to parties and bars that Halloween. We were a big hit.

    2. Rat Racer*

      We also had a Halloween party at my office that scared the pants off all the toddlers and preschoolers. One woman was dressed in a full gorilla suit, and my 2-year-old (actually several 2-year-olds) were terrified. For YEARS afterwards, even when she was 6, even when I moved to a different job, every time I had to bring my daughter to the office she would ask in “are there going to be any scary monkeys there??”

      (I don’t blame the woman in the gorilla suit – she didn’t have kids. Someone who doesn’t have children can be forgiven for not understanding that gorillas can be scary to small children).

      1. AnotherOne*

        I used to dress as various characters for a retail job and had a parent (w/ child) grab me- and my handler- before I got to the area with all the small kids.

        She asked me to show her child that I was a person because the life sized characters scared her child.

        It’s something I’d never have thought about. I was a disney kid so adults dressed as life sized characters were normal to me as a kid.

        But when I thought about it, I was like yeah- that makes sense. It’s totally reasonable for kids to be freaked by an adult sized children’s book character just wandering around, not saying anything.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Back when I did theater, we did a kid’s show in a tiny black box theater about a knight slaying dragons. The “dragon” was literally two flashlights on a stick that a stagehand moved around inside its “cave” while an actor provided the voice via microphone.

          After every single show, at least one parent, and usually more, asked us to show their kids that there was no real dragon in the cave.

        2. allathian*

          Yeah. My son was freaked out by Santa until he was about 10, and we always gave Santa a wide berth at the mall around Christmas, when most other kids his age were queuing up for a photo opportunity with them sitting in Santa’s lap.

          I really dislike clowns. When I was a kid, I wouldn’t even go to McDonalds if there was a life-size Ronald McDonald statue in the restaurant or by the door outside it. I’ve grown past my fear of clowns, but I’ll probably never get past the dislike.

          1. Random Dice*

            My husband and I were recently horrified by an old Ronald McDonald shaped bench, where kids are supposed to SIT ON THIS STRANGE CLOWN MAN’S LAP, and I thought, oh, right, Ronald McDonald is a pedophile. Ok that all makes sense now.

            /the charity for sick kids though is awesome

      2. Ro*

        I must admit I think part of the issue is people without kids don’t think. It isn’t deliberate malice. It wouldn’t occur to me a gorilla would be an issue (unless it had blood on its teeth or something). I would think twice about something super gory but my definition of super gory and what a parent with young kids might think is super gory could be different. “Kids” is also a wide age group when the needs and appropriateness for a toddler and a teenager are dramatically different.

        I’m getting vibes of when my friend who I hadn’t seen in ages brought her toddler to my house and I said “oh its fine I childproofed it” which to me meant I had moved knives, scissiors, toilet cleaner and medication out of reach. And she proceeded to (gently) point out loads of potential hazards that had never occured to me (including my electric wax melt, a child could just stick his hand in the hot wax but I hadn’t registered it as an issue).

        I think better communication could solve some of these issues.

    3. Spero*

      We hosted an event clearly and on the flyer stated as targeted to under ten and were excitedly told that a partner organization had ‘ordered decorations to donate to it.’ Thank the great spaghetti monster they attached a copy of the invoice – it was all butcher shop theme. Meat hooks, cleavers, fake blood. We had to decline and spend the rest of the buildup to the event trying to find extra ways to involve this partner to show we weren’t trying to reject THEM just the butchery theme decor! So much extra work

    4. Random Dice*

      My 8 year old still can’t watch the movie Encanto because there’s an sequence where a kid imagines the uncle has sinister yellow eyes.

      That’s it – the eyes are yellow.

      He had nightmares for weeks, and two years later hates to even hear the “Bruno” song.

    1. Beth*

      + eleventy billion. I hate horror and gore and have a memory that will absolutely do its worst with this kind of thing.

      1. TeaCoziesRUs*

        Ditto! I’m still salty at the Exorcist commercial that played before Oppenheimer… because I have two daughters… whose faces became part of that ad. Then my awful weasel brain took it and RAN.

        Stupid horror movie ads.

        1. jamlady*

          I have actual trauma from my aunt forcing me to watch the exorcist when I was very little. Her (or any similar) face can actually make me pass out. I would have been so mad if that happened to me in a theater!

      2. Ex-prof*

        Same. If I hit the wrong button my phone for some reason shows me a howling zombie gif, and I’m about ready to take a hammer to it.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      I wouldn’t freak out but I wouldn’t enjoy it much either, especially at work. It’s one thing to go to a professional haunted house or whatever, but I don’t need chainsaws and severed limbs at the office.

  2. Toast*

    Regarding #3 I want more context about why LW is working with someone at the bank. Is this for work? Is this for something in their personal life? TBH spelling errors combined with finance give me red flags for a Nigerian Prince scam.

    1. Arts Akimbo*

      That’s what I was wondering– how sure was OP this wasn’t a scammer? I won’t give any info to anyone if they aren’t using my bank’s email form structure for their correspondence.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Personal banker is a thing. But if you have one, you know it. You have a relationship with the person. You also have enough net worth for the bank to care about you.

      2. Constance Lloyd*

        “Personal Banker” was the official title for Wells Fargo bankers when I worked there. It differentiated bankers who handled for people (personal accounts) from Business Bankers, who handled business accounts. Lots of other red flags, but this alone isn’t one for me.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        That is a real job at a bank, it would be someone who manages your investments. But they must not be OP’s personal banker if they had to ask what his job was so I agree without more context this sounds like a potential scam. I would call the bank, with a number you find listed online, and ask to speak to this person before continuing the correspondence.

    2. NotBatman*

      Yeah, it might be worth calling the bank on the phone and going “I’m working with Joaquin SmithJones the personal banker, and had a question about his latest email — could you put him on the line?” just to be 100% certain he actually works there.

      1. Garblesnark*

        And if you do this, be sure you Google the number for the bank and don’t pull it from the email signature.

        1. Miette*

          Exactly. Sometimes scammers are obvious, and sometimes they are not. I don’t even click on links from my actual bank if they send me anything I need to attend to via email. I’ll always log into my account from a browser.

  3. Momma Bear*

    I know it’s hard to get people to volunteer for such things, but it might’ve been helpful to have a parent on the team to get a better cross section of the office. I hope LW talked to the organizers. That sounds terrifying.

    1. OrdinaryJoe*

      Yes … a parent or two would be great! As someone with no kids, I can use my best judgement but honestly would be fairly lost as to what’s age appropriate vs terrifying. Sexual/R-rated stuff would be easy but where’s the line with fake blood, noises, creatures, etc. No clue!

      1. Mim*

        Honestly, it differs so much from kid to kid! And even from family to family when it comes to parental comfort levels with what their kids are being exposed to at what ages.

        My kid *loved* going to haunted houses by the age of 8 or so. And I know adults who just never were and never will be cool with that kind of thing, which is fine, too.

        The safest thing is to probably make any event with kids invited super tame and chill. Even full face masks of innocent, non-scary creatures/characters can be terrifying for a lot of kids. Especially really little ones, who are still working out the whole imagination vs. reality thing.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Definitely depends on the child.

          This weekend we went to an annual Halloween party. The 12yo stayed at home because although he can cope with jump scares etc he really hates spooky themed food (hot dogs looking like severed fingers, etc). Meanwhile the 9yo was absolutely fine.

        2. matcha123*

          This. I loved horror and gore when I was in elementary school. My mom can’t watch the Thriller music video without getting scared.
          I watched It in fourth or fifth grade, so a gore, horror-filled haunted house would have been great for me.

          People in costumes, like character costumes like the Kool-Aid Man? Those are a nope from me. People always assume kids love those things and those are pure terror for me.

          I think this has less to do with parent v non-parent and levels of comfort.

        3. nnn*

          I’m thinking, because it depends so much on the kid, it would be useful to normalize the idea of having information available about what exactly is in the haunted house, so everyone can make informed decisions. (Which could also include making the deliberate choice not to look at the available information so you can go in spoiler-free.)

          Like, I’m a grown-ass adult, and there are some halloween things that are too scary for me!

          1. Office Lobster DJ*

            I think this is the way forward, because it does vary so widely. People get to make their own informed decision, and it means the theoretical parent volunteer doesn’t feel like they have to speak on behalf of all kids.

            Even something like a disclaimer: “In the name of being family friendly, we ask that attendees refrain from A, B, and C. The event will include X, Y, and Z. While we estimate kids 5 and up will enjoy the party, parents should use their discretion. Please check in with Fergus about any specific concerns.”

            That, and maybe there’s a way to create an avenue where Bob could have been told to put the zombie puppet away without creating acrimony. It doesn’t need to be about who is right and who it wrong, just the organizer saying “Whoa, Bob, seems like that’s too much for the kids. Please stow it away until later.”

      2. Sally Rhubarb*

        I think it depends on the child too. I was an absolute scaredy cat as a kid but I had friends who were completely unperturbed.

        1. Good Enough For Government Work*

          Very much so. One of my happiest memories is being 4 and doing the Haunted Manor in Disneyland California with my parents. The best bit was when the the ghosts came and sat in the ride car with us! I wanted to spend the rest of the day in there and make friends with the ghost.

          Meanwhile, I also have extremely vivid memories of the absolute SCREAMING meltdown my kid brother threw, aged about 7, just in the QUEUE for the ET ride at Universal Studios some years later.

      3. Chirpy*

        And it also depends on the kids! I once previewed a movie for a friend because he wasn’t sure if his kids could handle it (popular kids’ fantasy movie franchise, PG, almost all of the kids over 8 I know would have been fine with it) – he just had a particularly sensitive kid.

        1. Dahlia*

          When I was baby-sitting, the 7 year old was fine with Coraline, but was scared of the Spiderwick Chronicles. The monsters in that looked “real” and freaked her out.

          1. Frieda*

            I made the very grave error of showing Coraline to my kids when they were apparently too young (maybe 7 and 10?) although their argument now (at 19 and 22) is that there is no age at which they would be willing to watch Coraline.

            They’re both Gaiman fans as young adults, though! Just no Coraline, ever.

            1. Chirpy*

              To be fair, I’ve been a Gaiman fan since high school, I read Snow, Glass, Apples long ago so I was prepared for creepy Gaiman, and first saw Coraline as an adult, and I still think it’s creepy….

            2. Radical Edward*

              I can see where they’re coming from. I’ve read most of Gaiman’s books for every age, and nothing has ever creeped me out as thoroughly as Coraline!

              1. Burger Bob*

                I thought The Ocean at the End of the Lane had some definite creepiness, though I can understand finding Coraline more creepy.

        2. MsSolo (UK)*

          A colleague’s eight and six year olds couldn’t watch How to Train Your Dragon or Totoro because they were too scary. It’s really hard to predict how kids you don’t know will react to stuff (specifically, fantasy creatures seemed to upset them easily, compared with stuff that was all humans).

    2. rollyex*

      When my org had events that were supposed to be family oriented they asked for parent involvement, and in at least once case the parents in the org all begged out and one of us (maybe me) said “You know what, don’t orient it to kids” and/or “Maybe just cancel that aspect of the event.” I don’t remember the details, but do remember so bad ideas that we did not want to help with and would prefer the littles just not to participate.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      Even if parents don’t want to be part of the planning, just set things up far enough in advance that parents can give it a once over and judge how suitable it is before they subject their kids to it.

  4. Momma Bear*

    RE: the reference, I was thinking exactly what was said – have a standard letter than addresses the person’s overall performance with the role at that company. Years ago when I did internships and the like, they’d send you off with a letter of reference to be used anywhere. LW can add a line or two about that role if they wanted, but I wouldn’t do a revamp for every job.

    1. Miette*

      I have to say that a 45-60 minute commitment to a reference call is a bit egregious too. I’ve never taken that long to give a personal reference in my life–is this standard in OP’s industry? Perhaps make it clear to the caller that you’ve got only 15 minutes for the call in advance so they can prepare which questions to ask?

  5. Grace Harper-Jones*

    Just had the same at our office halloween party, one of the team did a very realistic vomiting act where he dress as the child from the Exorcist and spit out vomit! My child was very scared and then he threw a skeleton. He is very keen on vomit and always pin up vomit art by his desk so I should have expected. They should not invite children to these events if there are going to be horror scenes vomiting or skeletons.

      1. Ex-prof*

        Seriously. Why would the company ask a guy like that to plan a child-friendly event? Or do anything? Except leave?

    1. ZugTheMegasaurus*

      >”He is very keen on vomit and always pin up vomit art by his desk”

      I have never been so baffled in my life as I am by this statement. I had no idea that people were “keen on vomit” or that they *make art of it*?!

      1. A (Former) Library Person*

        Yeah, this is one of those Rule 34 things. To each their own, I guess, but this seems to blast through whatever thresholds there are for “appropriate at work”, even at a Halloween party, given the visceral reaction a lot of people have to emesis.

        1. A (Former) Library Person*

          Also, if you’re searching that term on the internet, be careful because it’s inherently NSFW.

    2. (Health, Safety) Environmental Compliance*

      I……..never, ever, EVER want to know if any of my coworkers happen to be “keen on vomit”. That feels like a fetish that should not appear in the workplace.

    3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Oh no. Just because someone is keen on something does not mean it is office appropriate.

      I mean some people are keen on p*rn does that mean they can hang up nude models in their office.

      Someone needs to rein this person in, and not just on Halloween.

    4. BlanketFort*

      Are you the person who wrote the question about the coworker who had a vomit fetish, fb-friended you, and their fb was entirely vomit themed?

      1. Grace Harper-Jones*

        No I am not! But I have looked up that question on here … and i am quite sure it is about the same person

          1. Miette*

            Wow–I can’t imagine knowing someone else in my work has had an infamous question on here–I’d just HAVE to know who sent it in so we could commiserate lol. That said, there’s probably not all that much vomit art out there, so possibly not.

            I don’t believe in judging a person for having a kink, but the term “NSFW” was invented for a reason.

            1. Grace Harper-Jones*

              I have looked up the vomit colleague on facebook and I am now sure it is the same man. Also the pseudonym on the original post gives it away (but you would not know unless you knew him). We work in a large organisation so I do not know how I could find out who sent it in – but they mention that they have recently started on the original question so I might be able to work it out. Maybe I need to ask if anyone else reads Ask A Manager without giving away that it is about a vomit question! I am jealous of people who do not have vomit art in their office LOL!

    5. ZSD*

      This reminded me of that letter from August where the guy at work as had a vomit-filled Facebook account. It’s one of the few letters I specifically *don’t* want an update for!

    6. DramaQ*

      There is so much wrong with this paragraph that needs unpacked. Also really fighting the urge to Google “vomit pin up” because WTF?

    7. Phony Genius*

      I think it’s safe to say that if skeletons are being thrown, somebody did something wrong.

  6. Punk*

    The party question is tricky. I think it’s probably hard to get an adult to change his planned costume for his own office’s party because of someone else’s kids. I admit that this is tapping into my own frustrations, but I personally think it would be better for the office party to not be kid-friendly than to give one group of employees control over another group’s costumes and adult enjoyment.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Honestly, there is adult and there is office appropriate. The two are not the same. Some of what was described is not office appropriate even if kids are not present.

      Unless your office is in the business of halloween decorations (and yes I want an update from I work in Halloweentown), there is no need for bloody severed limbs as decorations.

      1. Nedder*

        Have to agree. You wouldn’t wear your sexy nurse costume to the work party but its totally fine in other circumstances…right?

      2. OMG, Bees!*

        The only time I recall attending an office Halloween event was when I was at a client’s office on Halloween and they insisted I join them. I ended up helping to wrap one man in toilet paper for a mummy race… later found out he was the CEO.

        But it was a very tame party, nothing gory, would have been fine for kids

      3. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        Yeah, Pastor Petty is right. I love love love Halloween but I keep my little Halloween corner on my desk limited just to cartoony, black cat and jack-o-lantern stuff. Anything related to horror really needs to be opt-in so I save that stuff for my friends who love it as much as I do.

      4. MountainAir*

        Hard agree. We’re big Halloween and horror fans in our fam – and also have a toddler who is VERY into skeletons and ghosts right now so excited about like 95% of all Halloween decorations – but it’s the difference between “fun and spooky” and “actually scary and gory” that feels like the line for what’s office appropriate and what isn’t. Spooky is fun for everyone*, scary is not, and in an office you should be trying to make sure people don’t actively feel uncomfortable, child or adult.

        *you can’t necessarily control for kids who are creeped out by stuff like jack-o-lanterns – kids will be kids – but you can make a good faith effort to keep it light and fun.

    2. ecnaseener*

      He wouldn’t have needed to change his plans if the invite had said right from the start “This is a kid-friendly event, no gore please” (or even kids aside, “no gore” is a completely fair limit to set for an office party, it needs to err on the safe side!)

    3. Change name for today*

      Sure but honestly they also need to be up front about it being a gore event because I am sure I am not the only adult who never wants to attend anything with gore.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      In the same way that dad jokes over adult humour are the most appropriate humour for the office, it’s not really okay to get too adult when it comes to gore/Halloween either. It’s not really because of kids, it’s about being inoffensive generally even if kids aren’t going to be there. Thinking it’s okay to bring children is probably mostly based on the idea that professionals are going to be restrained.

  7. Brain the Brian*

    Lots of people conflate “kid-friendly” with “nothing overtly sexual” and forget that plenty of other things are also not kid-friendly. I hope this LW spoke up!

    1. anonymouse*

      Inverse experience: my coworker was absolutely livid about Janet Jackson during the Super Bowl. Her child was watching. She had just turned 7 in January, so she was 6 at Halloween when she dressed up as Michael Meyers. From the movies she’d watched.
      So people need to be very clear when they discuss their ideas for family friendly Halloween.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        I was about the age of your coworker’s child when Janet performed at the Super Bowl, and I honestly didn’t even notice anything awry (yes, we were watching on TV).

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I was an adult watching it. From the main video feed it was a fleeting “Did that just happen?” moment, but with genuine uncertainty that it indeed had. It was the aftermath where it was a big deal. I have always suspected that it was a publicity stunt that resulted in an unanticipated response that ruined her career. But who knows? Maybe it really was a costume malfunction.

          1. Manders*

            I was watching it on my friend’s super nice system, complete with this newfangled device called TiVo. We watched it about 45 times to figure out what had gone on. I think I was in college, or just out of college, when it happened.

            1. Brain the Brian*

              I was on vacation with my parents, and we were watching on a tiny TV in our condo rental. No TiVo there! We just had a solid week of news coverage telling us about it to prove it.

    2. iKit*

      On the flip side there are also people who conflate “kids are welcome” to equal “designed for and with children in mind” or “family friendly”.

      When the organizers said kids are welcome they may have only meant that they are welcome but not that the activities and decor were designed with them in mind, as the OP has now found out. Kids being welcome doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a kid-friendly, sanitized, horror free environment. It’s not necessarily a Disney-ified Halloween party. Parental discretion may be advised.

      This should be MUCH more clearly communicated, of course. So not really on the OP. But this also sort feels like it’s a bit of an extension of the lack of critical thinking on parenting that lead parents to take small children to the Deadpool movies because “he’s a comic book character and that means for children”. It makes me wonder EXACTLY how the invite was phrased and the company culture. Were there clues or indications prior to arriving at the event that might have suggested that bringing small children was ill-advised or more questions asked of the organizers first?

      1. Critical Rolls*

        “Kids welcome” has to at least equate to “neutral.” Like, maybe there’s nothing for them to do, but also nothing that’s going to haunt their nightmares. I do think, for a Halloween party, if you say kids are welcome that means a horror free environment! Frankly, for a work event, it should default to horror free unless there are big, loud disclaimers.

        1. iKit*

          I can see an argument for a work Halloween event being low-horror simply to be more inclusive; that’s valid so that we aren’t traumatizing people.

          But… disagree on the “kid’s welcome” must be equated horror neutral. Plenty of kids enjoy horror. Growing up there were horror shows for kids, horror books, etc. when I was a kid. There still are. Kids CAN enjoy horror. And gore.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            Kids welcome equals neutral because there’s a better chance that the kids (especially very young ones) won’t like the gore than it is that they will. If the company wants a gorier Halloween party, then just communicate that. It’s not hard.

              1. Jennifer Strange*

                If you have younger children who might be sensitive to the more adult-friendly elements of Halloween, then you can open the lines of communication as part of your responsibility as a parent to verify exactly how child friendly the party will be rather than assuming.

                If I tell someone I’m having a party and kids are welcome, then they ask me if it will be appropriate for kids I’m going to wonder if they think I’m an idiot since I just told them kids were welcome. You seem to think the parents are acting in bad faith by taking “kids are welcome” at face value and not grilling them for every specific detail of the party, but there was clearly a disconnect here. No one is a bad person, but communication should be clearer going forward.

                The parents NEEDED to read and process the chosen language a bit better

                The language was that kids were welcome. Despite what you want to insist, there is no hidden nuance to that. Kids are welcome means we are going to present a party that is welcoming for people of all ages.

                Look, I get from some of your other comments that you’ve had issues with folks trying to shoehorn child-friendly places into places that were never meant to be for kids, and I’m really sorry. That is absolutely not okay. But that’s not what’s being discussed here. In this instance, the parents were told something and took it at face value, only to find out that there was a disconnect. Again, no one is a bad person, but it’s on the people hosting an event to be clear about who the event is for. If this were a letter about someone complaining that the Halloween party didn’t invite kids, or that it wasn’t appropriate for kids (when that was made clear from the beginning) I would 100% agree with you that the person complaining was in the wrong. I know somewhere else you mentioned the whole Deadpool thing with people bringing their kids; the difference there is that neither Deadpool nor movie theatres in any way hinted that it was for kids (and the movie was very clearly given an R rating). They communicated what the material was, and some parents chose to ignore that. In that case yes the parents needed to do some basic research and figure it out before taking their kids.

                I know you’re exhausted from having to have kid-friendliness constantly around you, but I’m exhausted from being made out to be a villain because I took someone telling me to bring my child somewhere in good faith only to find out they don’t have a good handle of what is and isn’t universally kid friendly.

                1. Brain the Brian*

                  Bingo, Jennifer Strange. I don’t have kids, and I don’t like kids, but “kid-friendly” means “kid-friendly.” End of story.

                2. Lydia*

                  There is no such thing as universal, so let’s just leave that there. There is a presumption that everyone has the same definition of what “kids welcome” means and it can easily be argued that kid friendly and kids welcome are not the same thing. While most people are going to understand that even “kids welcome” should make an effort to cater to the broadest spectrum of kids, it’s still on parents to verify what is under that umbrella.

                3. whingedrinking*

                  Yeah, I’d agree here. If I’m told kids are welcome, even my child-free brain goes to “at least some accommodation has been made for children, and nothing will be inappropriate for them”. I don’t assume that child-friendly means “really intended for adults, but if you happen to have a kid who’s super into intense gore and violence, I won’t be mad if you bring them”.

                4. Jennifer Strange*

                  @Lydia While I agree there is no such thing as universal, if something is being marketed as being open for kids it’s best to keep it G (or at least PG) rated. Why do parents have to follow up “kids welcome!” with a laundry list of “Well, are you going to have this? Are you going to have this?” instead of the organizers simply being clear from the get go?

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          Or at least have a “scary” area marked off, like a haunted room or whatever, that’s not accessible to kids/avoidable by adults who aren’t into gore or jump scares.

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*

            Its akin to what we did at the haunted house we ran in high school. Little ones = we had a button that killed the sounds and strobe lights in the (definitely horror filled) area where I was as well as two other rooms. They were walked past those areas by the guides without going into them.

      2. Change name for today*

        For most events I agree, but in my experience family friendly events and kids welcome means the same thing for work events. It means it will be appropriate to bring kids regardless of the age. Maybe that’s because so many work events are adults only, that if kids are welcome it’s generally because they want families there vs tolerating.

  8. KTMGEE*

    For LW #1, it says kids were welcome, not that the event was kid-friendly. It’s a slight wording difference, but to me represents something pretty different. I feel the onus is on the parent to check in on what’s planned before bringing their small children.

    1. Critical Rolls*

      Why would kids be welcome at a kid-unfriendly event? Especially if there’s no hint from the nature of the event (like, wine tasting or something). That makes no sense. Not least because there’s a reasonable expectation of overlap between work-appropriate and safe for kids.

      1. KTMGEE*

        To me, it’s the difference between “you can bring your kids if you want,” and “this is an event planned with children in mind.” YMMV, but the first doesn’t tell me it’s an event FOR kids, and the second does. I’m surprised the LW was so caught off guard about the nature of the party, as a parent, seems worth checking about in advance.

        1. Critical Rolls*

          The event under discussion was actively unfriendly to children, as in inappropriately scary. That’s like saying dog phobic coworkers are “welcome” at a picnic held at a dog park.

          Part of the problem here is that a baseline work-appropriate event should be kid neutral, nothing sexy, scary, or dangerous. That’s reasonable to assume. If a work event is not going to meet that bar, it’s on the workplace to proactively tell people there’s going to be blood effects/mud wrestling/sword swallowing.

          1. iKit*

            Removed. This is not relevant to the letter and seems to be about a broader social trend that you take issue with but it’s too heated and off-topic for this post.

            commenting rules

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              Not everything is necessarily going to BE family friendly.

              That’s fine, but then that should be communicated.

              Families, and thus children, may be WELCOME at things but that doesn’t mean these things are FOR them and so parents are going to have to do some preliminary research and make a judgment call as to whether these things are appropriate for their family.

              Sure, but the way for them to research that is based on the information given to them. If the only information that they are given is that kids are welcome , then they aren’t acting in bad faith to assume that the atmosphere will be welcoming for kids.

              If they disagree with these places, these activities, then it means they choose to not go with their families. It does NOT mean that the organizers and owners of these activities and venues must change them.

              Literally no one is advocating for the activities to be changed. They are advocating for clear communication about whether the activities will be appropriate for kids. If I decide to have a horror movie night where we’re going to be watching Halloween, The Exorcist, and Friday the 13th I’m not going to tell my friends to bring their kids.

              People really want to twist themselves in pretzels to make parents the bad guys instead of just acknowledging that there was a communication error.

            2. Monkey Princess*

              I’ve seen the opposite over my life. From a world built for adults where children are an afterthought, to one where more people are compassionate of a wider variety of people, including children and the people who take care of them. .

              I’d definitely be interested to know your rough age, though. I’m fairly old for this board, I think.

              1. iKit*

                This is becoming derailing and off-topic and way too heated for this space, so I’m going to ask you to move on. – Alison

            3. Ellen Ripley*

              There is a huge range between “no sexual themes, but anything else is free game” and “baby’s first Halloween”. Seriously it’s silly to think that a work Halloween party can’t cater to both adults and kids.

              (PS I’m happily child free so don’t accuse me of wanting the world to cater to my children lol)

          2. matcha123*

            I don’t know if I’d go so far to say that the event as described was actively unfriendly to children. I’d consider “kid” to be up to age 12. The writer described toddlers, ages 2 and 3. A 2 or 3 year old will feel differently from an 8 or 10 year old about scary things.
            I specifically remember this being an issue when I was in fourth grade and we were making our classroom haunted house. The teachers had us make two versions: one for the kindergarten and first/second graders, and ones for grades three and up who could deal with jump scares and so on.

        2. NoMoreFirst TimeCommenter*

          I think that if an event that isn’t planned for children but children are still said to be welcome, people would expect it to be safe and not traumatic for the children anyway. It could for example be something that an average child would find boring.

        3. sparkle emoji*

          Most things that weren’t kid-friendly also weren’t particularly office-friendly, as others have pointed out in other comments. Office parties should probably stick closer to inoffensive kitschy Halloween than gory horror fest since there are plenty of adults who also aren’t interested in that, not just kids. Save the super gory fun for your friends who you know are into that.

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            Speaking as an adult who would be very much not interested in attending a gory horror fest Halloween party, I could not agree more!

        4. KH_Tas*

          In the original thread, OP mentioned that bringing kids was strongly encouraged by the company, which makes the company’s behaviour worse.
          I’m also a parent, and I would absolutely expect that child friendly = child safe.

      2. Dahlia*

        I believe that was the great debate in the original comment section the first time this was posted.

        And honestly, kids are not particularly welcomed if it’s not friendly. It’s like saying, “Guests welcome!” about a party and then not having enough food.

        1. Lydia*

          To follow your analogy, most parties wouldn’t run out of food because they didn’t actually want guests. They would run out because they didn’t anticipate the number of guests. This situation is more like that. They were happy to have kids there but didn’t think through what that would look like. It’s hard to believe that absolutely nobody said anything about “maybe that would be too much for kids” but I don’t know the culture there. It’s not even about it never would have happened if parents were on the planning committee because I know plenty of people who aren’t parents and would have known better.

      3. rollyex*

        Because kids vary a lot and it’s not actually easy to say what is or isn’t kid friendly. So it’s up to the parent to decide. If they think the kid will like it, they are welcome.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          No, if a parent is told kids are welcome they are not out of line to assume it’s going to be an atmosphere that is welcoming to all kids (not just the ones who happen to like gore). If the organization meant it for the parents to decide they should have been clear about what the decor was.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      That’s really splitting hairs. If someone tells me they’re having a party and I’m welcome to bring my kid I’m going to take it that it’s going to be kid-friendly, otherwise why mention it?

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        EXACTLY. Its semantics at this point. Kids were expected at the party, you tone it down even if it is not an explicit kid event.

      2. Becca*

        I ran into this recently with my absolute best friend in the world. She bought a townhouse in a city about 90 minutes from the city I live in. She threw a big housewarming with all of her friends and tons of people coming in from out of town, and emphasized to me that she would LOVE if I brought my two year old (who she adores).

        I had to ask some questions — when my two year old started to melt down and needed to go to sleep, where would we put her? How would the other houseguests feel when she inevitably woke up at 7am (since my friend was inviting us to stay with her with a bunch of other folks), no matter how late she stayed up the night before? Would there be marijuana at the party, and would any of it be in cookie/brownie/gummy form? Was anyone bringing pets? What’s the stairs situation?

        I can’t emphasize how wonderful of an auntie my friend is. But, her community is still 99.5% non-parents, and it genuinely hadn’t occurred to her what kinds of complications a toddler might bring to a party. It was such a fun, inclusive, chill event…for ADULTS. Kids were genuinely welcome, but the party was not actually kid-friendly and my friend needed me to ask some questions.

    3. ecnaseener*

      “Welcome” to me implies a modicum of effort made to not make them unwelcome. If they wanted to convey “Kids are allowed but be aware there may be gruesome decor,” that’s what they should’ve said.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        Agreed, I would interpret the bare minimum of “kids welcome” as maybe the kids are bored, but they won’t be scared by any decor and no one is dressed as a sexy nun(which wouldn’t be appropriate for most office parties anyway). If we want to make a distinction between kids welcome and kid-friendly maybe the latter has some activities for kids tacked on. The party in this letter might have been kids welcome for kids above a certain age maybe .

      2. Gumby*

        Agreed. I’d liken it to the notes that the ballet company near me put into their materials the year(s) that one of the full-length ballets that they were performing was The Little Mermaid. I don’t recall the exact wording but it was basically along the lines of “This is not the Disney version, there are themes and situations that might be upsetting for small kids. That being said, kids are welcome but must have their own tickets.” Obviously w/o mentioning Disney specifically.

        I didn’t think anything was particularly upsetting because ballet tends to be more symbolic than gory, but it definitely would not have been enjoyable to a child expecting it to match the movie they were familiar with. I, OTOH, was enthralled particularly at how the people dancing the part of the mermaid didn’t break their ankles! (I find people who are excellent at their craft and then have to perform it poorly but in a way that takes major amounts of talent fascinating.)

        1. Roja*

          I think I know the version of Little Mermaid you’re talking about, actually! I watched it in a streaming service dedicated to the arts and there was no disclaimer, so I went in expecting an light and fluffy ballet. It was NOT THAT. It was a great production, but much, much darker than I anticipated.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        No, work needs to determine whether this is a kid-friendly party or not and communicate the accurately to staff.

        1. rollyex*

          “work needs to determine whether this is a kid-friendly party”

          As a parent, I think each parent is better able to determine that than “work” knowing what kids can handle. What should be communicated accurately is the specifics of the event, and then each parent can decide if it’s friendly to their kid or not.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            But they didn’t communicate the specifics of the event. So how were the parents supposed to know?

            1. rollyex*

              My point is they should communicate the specifics, not make the determination. The former will work better because kids vary a lot.

            2. Jelly*

              They ASK about “the specifics of the event” so that they can then decide if it’s appropriate for their kid(s) in particular. No way can work make that determination – nor should it.

              1. Jennifer Strange*

                No, but they can default to bland/G-rated decorations to be safe. Or just say “not appropriate for kids”. Either one works fine.

      2. sparkle emoji*

        It seems like the organizer may not have understood what was wrong with the gore, which makes me wonder if asking really would have helped.

    4. Two Fish*

      Something described as kid-friendly, definitely should have been kid-appropriate. Especially in a workplace.

      That said, I may have a clearer example of what KTMGEE is getting at. I visited a museum whose theme is something that at best, can be made kid-friendly only up to a point. (Think classic cars or historical aircraft.)

      A sign at the entrance said kids were welcome. They had a scavenger hunt activity, but it couldn’t keep kids entertained for an entire visit. Bottom line was that the nature of the place simply wasn’t suited for kids. From the entrance sign I think the museum had caught some flack over this.

      During my visit I saw a couple trying to deal with their two young children who’d become bored and fussy. Then a woman who’d brought her grandchildren ran up to the front desk and asked, “Have you got anything fun the kids can do?”

      If I’d written an online review, I would’ve said this museum is something adults should do on their own. The museum can’t say kids aren’t welcome, but online reviews can say that kids shouldn’t come because they won’t enjoy the place.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        I think this distinction makes sense, but I’d argue that the decorations the LW described don’t meet the lowest bar of “kids welcome”, forget about “kid-friendly”. The kids were scared rather than bored which no longer qualifies for “kids welcome” IMO.

      2. Burger Bob*

        Well, and if it’s something that realistically kids probably won’t enjoy, don’t bother to say that kids are welcome. If all you mean is that you won’t kick explicitly kids out, well, that’s true of most events, whether they’re aimed at kids or not. If someone bothers to mention that kids are welcome, the implication is that you should feel free to bring your kids and, by extension, there will be something appropriate for kids to do.

  9. Mim*

    My partner and I once accidentally scared the bajeezus out of a co-worker’s kid with our costumes at an office Halloween party. We were dressed as characters from a children’s TV show — characters who are *not* scary. But we hadn’t thought through the reality that any larger than life full-coverage character costume is just kind of inherently creepy. Especially to kids, who are outsized by the gigantic whoevers.

    We felt so bad, and took the costumes off immediately. Obviously, this is different than having a planned amount of gory or spooky content at a party advertised as child friendly. I’m just thinking out loud about how adults in costumes can be inherently scary for little kids. And also how some other adult costumes tend to be themed as things that… aren’t child friendly in other ways. (Cue “Sexy” from the Mean Girls musical.)

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      OH MY GOODNESS! You meant well, but sometimes kids are afraid of things like that and you had no way of knowing. Like clowns, or santa, or the easter bunny.
      My cousin, who was 5 at the time loved Dora the explorer. And one day the family took a trip and there was Dora. She was terrified. Theres a picture of her standing like 6 feet from the Dora costumed person, with her dad holding her. She wanted her picture taken but was too scared! Then she kept telling everyone that she got to meet Dora!

      1. Formerly Ella Vader*

        My nibling loved Frozen (the Disney musical) and loved his own costume, but when one of the lifeguards at their swimming lessons showed up for a late-Hallowe’en session dressed as Elsa, my nibling freaked right out and sobbed. I think maybe the uncanny-valley and real/not-quite-real boundary and implications might be different for small non-neurotypical kids than it is for adults.

        So glad your cousin got to tell that story as a positive memory!

      2. Liane*

        As a star wars displayed who belongs to 1 of the major clubs for this, I’ve organized children’s hospital visits. At least one had a rule that our people in costumes with face masks or partial/full face helmets (like Vader, starfighter pilots, some aliens) had to enter rooms “buckets off,” as we called it, so the kids could see we were real people in costumes. If kids & parents wanted, we could then put our headgear back on for pictures.

        1. Snowy*

          Waves at fellow Legion member! :D

          Yeah, even at non-hospital events, I’ve found it’s best to have someone with a visible face in the line of helmets. It definitely helps some kids.

      3. New Jack Karyn*

        Om my gosh–kids are so funny! “I love it–but I’m scared–but it’s Dora!–but really close up is scary!”

        Although we do that too, with horror movies and amusement park rides and all kinds of things. I should amend that to “Humans are so funny!”

    2. Dahlia*

      I used to volunteer at a Halloween event FOR children. Our local grocery store sent over their mascot, as they were sponsoring it, which is a full body costume with a large head. I was crouched down talking to a small butterfly when he showed up, who immediately turned around and fled into my arms XD

    3. Blueberry Grumpmuffin*

      According to my dad, before I was born, my brother was a big Mickey Mouse fan. Then my family went to Disneyland when he was still a toddler, and he got to meet him adult-sized. He started crying and hiding behind my parents. “Mickey’s too big!”

      It’s one thing to love a character when their TV presence is roughly the same size as you. It’s another to witness them blocking out the heavens above you and attempting to pat you with a hand larger than your head LOL

      1. AnonORama*

        There’s a very old Robin Williams comedy routine where he talks about bringing his kids to Disney: “Mickey Mouse for a three-year-old! That’ll be great! …Mickey Mouse to a three-year-old is a six-foot f***ing rat.”

        1. Gumby*

          Depends on the kid even then. I have never seen a two-year-old as excited as my nephew when he got to meet Mickey. The people in the costumes cannot be paid enough because he put up with the longest hug from that kid. Probably a full minute. Granted, I think my nephew is the cutest thing ever and all, but even I would cut that off sooner if I had to squat down to do it as the character was.

    4. Dek*

      I always think about the Patton Oswalt bit where a scary werewolf movie was on at a particularly gory part when he turned the tv on for his kid to watch Dr. McStuffins, so he did his best to fix it by watching a lot of Schoolhouse Rock with her, including the foot-bone’s-connected-to-the-ankle-bone song.

      Cut to later that night, when she runs into their room screaming that her skeleton will come out of her body (like it does in the video). After calming down, she giggles because she was remembering the “doggy wearing a shirt.”

      Kids’ perspectives are weird.

    5. Trippedamean*

      As a parent, I would say that that’s totally forgiveable and not at all the same as the scary Halloween office party. Kids have a hard time understanding the world and that can make a lot of “normal” things scary. It can be really hard to predict what they will be terrified of.

    6. Snowy*

      As someone who volunteers in costume at events as a Star Wars character, lots of kids are terrified by helmeted or alien characters in particular, but also I think just the oddness of being shoved next to a stranger so your parents can take a picture.

      I absolutely hated mall Santas as a kid. I can’t really tell you why, except that I knew they were fakes.

      1. Napmares*

        Yup, Santas and clowns. Too much overlap in the Forced Performative Cheer / Uncanny Valley venn diagram. They both terrified me.

        1. allathian*

          Yup, My son hated mall Santas as a kid, too. But we never forced him to approach a mall Santa, or even tried to persuade him. We just asked him, and took his no for an answer.

          We got free tickets to a kid-friendly circus when our son was 3. The clowns who welcomed the kids were great at greeting and paying attention to those who liked clowns and ignoring those who didn’t. No kid was forced to approach a clown.

          I don’t particularly like clowns, and I was scared of them as a kid, but the clowns did a funny act that got me laughing till I cried, and my abdominal muscles were still sore the next morning from laughing so much. That said, we had to leave at intermission because our son got tired and cranky. I suspect the sensory stimulation got to be a bit much for such a young kid.

    7. Ellis Bell*

      I think this is the kind of thing were not even the parents would necessarily know to anticipate this as an issue, if it’s the first time it’s ever happened. I think it’s in a completely different league of predictions to a gory zombie puppet.

  10. Lola*

    I may be in the minority, but I think keeping the horror and gore aspect out of your work Halloween party is probably the best bet across the board. You don’t know who may have trauma history or sensitivities around these things, and not just children. Combat veterans come to mind. I utterly hated that stuff as a kid, genuinely terrified by it, and don’t particularly enjoy it as an adult.

    In your own time, at your own party, go for as much gore and horror as you want, but at work maybe stick to decorations along the lines of jack o’lanterns and black cats (but not real ones!). Lots of ways to make things spooky without making them downright scary.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      This. Employees shouldn’t have to self-disclose traumas that make them less tolerant of gore and darker themes – it should be enough to know that gore and violence is an opt-in element of the holiday and has no place at office parties.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I agree with this. I think work parties can be family friendly (black cats, gravestones with funny sayings, a lack of dismembered body parts: nothing scarier than original recipe Scooby Doo) in the sense of appealing to a broad range of people. Yes, things that appeal to a broad range of people are rather generic–that’s okay for office parties.

      Like, even if you really like Sausage Party, if the movie is for the office party it should be more like a heist caper with no graphic violence or sex, and if the movie is for the family friendly office it should be something like Scooby Doo or Coco.

    3. Jennifer Strange*

      Yeah, I agree. When you invite friends to a party you probably have a good sense of their squicks/fears, but it’s harder at work. I think of it the same way as having a game day at work. Just because my friends and I play Cards Against Humanity doesn’t mean I’m going to suggest it for a work event!

    4. Critical Rolls*

      Yeah, I said upthread that I think “baseline work appropriate” is actually pretty kid neutral — no scary, no sexy, no dangerous.

    5. Janeway*

      Agreed. You don’t know people’s histories. Work functions should be kept safe and fun for everyone.

      I also wonder what age range of kids party planners had in mind when they said “kid friendly.” There’s big difference in what’s age-appropriate for teens and tweens vs young children. Clearly they didn’t think it through.

      1. AnonORama*

        Honestly, even without a trauma history, some people just find that stuff gross and unpleasant. Particularly not in the office when you have to be there — I can choose not to watch horror movies, but I can’t choose not to walk past a “bloody” “severed hand” in our break room (near the fridge)!

        1. Alisaurus*

          100% agree

          Some people really don’t find it pleasant and don’t want to be around it 8+ hours of their day 5x a week!

          I visited an office once (thankfully was not mine!) and nearly threw up seeing some of the decor. I’m much more okay with the random skeleton and spiderwebs at my current office (still not enthused, but not grossed out as much).

  11. Sneaky Squirrel*

    Something like this could easily be broken up into different office areas without being a “spoil sport”. You could propose a younger children & family side focused more on the trick or treating/costumes/party games aspects of Halloween, and then an enter at your own risk side in which the theme can be spookier for those who would like to be scared.

  12. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    It’s crazy, but I’m so curious what would happen.
    What if the “I work at a hot company LW” could, once a quarter, have a group Q&A.
    Tell each person that calls that you will be available at a public location on a Saturday from 10 to 11 answer questions about your job.
    See if you get 20 people or 2.
    It will be what LW makes it. It will be a jerk move for people who think talking to LW will get their resume bumped up or it will be useful for people who are looking for information about the role and company.
    But how would LW make it clear as hell that it is not an interview and that attending is not some foot in the door?

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I think it really depends on the individual. They may not work in the same areas these people are wanting to apply to and would not be able to answer those questions. If anything it would be the OP just saying what it’s like to work there, benefits, etc.

      Also, the company may frown on this sort of thing. It makes people feel like they are in an interview process. Even if the OP says that they are not part of hiring the others could still feel like they have an in or something. Plus the OP could misrepresent something about the company.

      And finally, why should they? I find it really pretentious that a bunch of strangers are asking for this information. Its one thing if the OP knew these people, but they don’t.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I’m with you. I think these cold calls are absurd and the people making them are either desperate or oblivious.
        I believe nobody will show up because 1) they are pissed LW won’t give them the information right now because they called and asked and OP picked up the phone ; 2) they can’t admit that a cold call from a Linkedin reader is not “building a professional network.”

    2. Lily Potter*

      I seem to recall Allison previously suggest putting together a “Q and A sheet” regarding their profession and/or working for X company, and sending that out to LinkedIn strangers wanting to “pick your brain” or “take a quick call”. Send the Q and A sheet with a note saying that “if you have further questions, I’d be happy to address them via email.”

      The idea of this is to a) get basic information to job hunters since that’s a kind thing to do and b) to weed out people who actually want 1:1 time with you to pitch themselves, as opposed to really just wanting information, and c) keep you off the telephone in most cases

  13. Sally Rhubarb*

    On the subject of related links, oh how I wish there was an update to the Halloween Town post. (& if it was a creative writing exercise…I sure hope the LW learned to write better)

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      Same!!!!!! Last year I spent ages trying to find the Halloween Town because I want to go to there and also I needed to read the newspaper articles about the spoilsport. I never found anything (and would not share if I had because it would be deeply uncool) and am still dying to know more.

      1. Gracie*

        There was quite a few people in the comments pointing out that it was very similar to a TV show, so I’m on Team Creative Writing Exercise

  14. UncleFrank*

    For me, the last line of the letter really stuck out- “It’s hard enough in our company for moms of young kids, and I don’t want us to be seen as spoil sports.” It depends on what the LW means by hard enough for moms of young kids, but I would probably just totally drop this if I was at a company that was already not taking me seriously because I was a mom or I was worried about getting passed over, etc. There’s not much the company can do after the fact and this isn’t going to happen for another year, so if you’re in a situation with limit capital that you may need to spend on other things, I wouldn’t risk any of it on this. Next year, ask more detailed questions about the event or just briefly drop by solo instead of going with your kids.

    (I’m not saying this is a good or fair outcome, but might make the most sense for LW.)

    1. Lily Potter*

      Yeah, this stuck out for me too. The party’s over and there won’t be another one for another year. Company can’t do anything about this year’s party and you can be on alert for next year (and not bring your kids or not). Including a line about how “it hard enough in (this) company for moms of young kids” is just going to induce eyerolls. Spend your internal capital on something that matters – a Halloween party really doesn’t rise to that level IMO.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      That line really made me feel for OP. She’s thinking that here is something at last that she can join in with, that her status as a parent isn’t unwelcome or ignored, and it just turns out to be yet another exercise in cluelessness.

  15. J*

    Part of the Halloween confusion might just be cultural differences! Different people have different ways of parenting and may see different things as appropriate. As a young kid, I remember being at plenty of scary Halloween activities and “scary” or “gory” was never seen as inappropriate but rather as fun. I totally get that this varies person to person, kid to kid, family to family, but this probably wouldn’t have crossed my mind as inappropriate if I were planning it. So feel free to speak up, it may just be genuine lack of knowledge.

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      I distinctly remember attending a Halloween party thrown by my school in 3rd grade where we were chased down a dirt road in the woods by a guy in a Jason costume with a chainsaw (it was on but without a chain) while we rode in the opened back of a hearse.

      I have worked in childcare as an adult so that definitely re-oriented my barometer for what is appropriate, but I can easily see someone who hasn’t spent time with kids since they were one not realizing that things are Different today.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      This a a great point to raise; the whole time I was reading this, I was guessing that people were going off their own memories of childhood Halloweens. People using their own memories as a guideline for what’s child-appropriate is super fraught and likely to be inaccurate. People’s memories only go far back, they don’t typically remember being very, very young, like that stage before you sort out what’s real and what isn’t. They also don’t always have the best understanding of how differently a kid’s personality affects what they can handle. The very same gory events that we loved in the past, may have had some kids at the fringes who wanted to go home, but we didn’t see any of that because the adults handled it away from us. Also, there are adults who don’t like this stuff too. Just because we like something personally doesn’t mean everyone does.

    3. Burger Bob*

      Ehhhh. I think if there’s a chance people are going to bring toddlers (which, they will if you advertise a Halloween event as “kids welcome”), gory is generally going to be a miss.

  16. I should really pick a name*

    I typically tell people to go to our company website and apply to the roles that they are interested in

    This is a perfectly good answer for whether they’re asking for an immediate phone call or anything else.
    It’s not rude or condescending, and it’s giving them direction.

  17. Jane Bingley*

    Gore absolutely does not belong at a work event, even if it’s adults only. I totally get that it’s fun to celebrate, but there should be a PG limit to those celebrations. You can celebrate Halloween without fake blood and undead bodies. That kind of stuff belongs at home, where you know your friends/family and people can easily opt in or out.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, I agree. Even if horror imagery by itself rarely turns my stomach, and I have no problems with fake blood, I’m nevertheless very happy that my office doesn’t go in for decorating for any holiday.

    1. Red Wheel Barrow*

      I remember that someone shared a link to the puppet and that it was extremely unsettling.

  18. Katherine*

    Detailed reference checks should only be the last part of the hiring process. I have on my CV ‘contact me for reference details’ so that my references dont get a million calls from jobs that arent going to hire me, but these days they make you add them on an electronic form before they even accept your application.

    That said, 4 months of job searching is not that long, and most employers want a recent reference, not one from 3 years ago. I hope the LW found a way to reduce the amount of time spent while still being a reference for their former employee.

  19. Taketombo*

    My husbands company moved from a “Holiday” party for kids and families (which was really Christmas, with a long time employee playing Santa) to a Halloween one.

    There was: candy, pizza, and a “smoking” punch cauldron due to dry ice that was at parent’s only height. Pom-Pom spiders, bright witches hats, and a paint-your-pumpkin station. For entertainment, a magician came in and did ballon animals and “Halloween magic”

    It was perfectly OK for a kids office party in a conference room. This is what I think is reasonable to expect (maybe not the mgician) at a kids party

  20. Aggretsuko*

    My volunteer job threw a Halloween event (with kids) this weekend, I volunteered to decorate. They literally have boxes marked “torture” and a weird container of body parts–I note it’s a theater– and since those were the decorations provided this year, I dutifully strew body parts around the fake fountain, hung balls and chains off the walls and hangers, whips were decorating the furniture, etc. One person decorated one of the mannequins in what pretty much looked like BDSM stuff.

    The one thing the lady running it objected to? Bare boobies on the mannequin because she figured some parent might object to that. I draped one of the remaining mummy strips over that.

    I don’t recall any kids even noticing any of this, much less anyone objecting to it.

  21. Semi-retired admin*

    This doesn’t really address the LW about the reference overkill, but what I did to prevent it. I went through a phase where I was applying for and interviewing for several jobs. I got to the reference check/offer stage for several of them. I was being really picky, though, so I turned down most of them. I have three sets of references that I cycled through so none would start to resent or feel overloaded from all the requests.

  22. rollyex*

    On #4: THIS (for the referee):

    “have one pre-written reference (ideally something you’ve already written) and offer to do a phone call if they want additional information.”

  23. Raida*

    I think for the office events, since kid-friendly means a lot of different things to different people, the best bet is to either have a fairly bog standard event with activities for kids and it’s just got not-scary ghosts and pumpkins for the theme. Some colouring in, some games, lots of cupcakes and mini pizzas, just with a little orange slapped on it.

    But if the office wants to throw a Halloween party that’s really going for it – simply be clear on the invite. Link – with a warning – to examples of the tone. People can opt-out. State that kids are welcome, however make it clear it is not an event designed for children – if you don’t want your kids around gore or your kids will be scared by a screeching skeleton then don’t bring them.
    And have a quiet room where people can get away from all the theming if wanted.

  24. Umiel12*

    We don’t ask for references until we are ready to make an offer. I wonder if the employee is having a hard time finding a job because one of their other references is torpedoing them.

  25. Tiger Snake*

    Poor Bob probably was one of those kids/is used to those kids who love gore and scary stuff and had no idea his puppet wouldn’t be a complete hit.

    Honestly, its why I think trying to make kid-friendly scary events is so hard. Until they hit about 9 years old, they’re all so wildly different and unpredictable about what they’re going to find too much and why.

  26. Rosacolleti*

    #3 45 minutes for a reference check? That’s not normal. When I conduct them I try to keep them to a close to 5 mins as possible.

    It’s absolutely fine to say that you have a 10 minute window to talk- most people would be very happy with that. Maybe you’re talking too much?

  27. Office parties don't have to be children's parties...*

    It sounds to me that people who really like Halloween put in their time, effort, and possibly own money to throw a party–and also decided to let everyone make their own judgements on who to bring. Because the party was at an office, where adults work, I wouldn’t assume it had to cater to very young children at all, even if I heard children were allowed to join in. If the parents want a child-friendly event, they should be part of planning it or at least ask about the nature of the event before bringing toddlers. I love kids, but I also love Halloween, and I know that it’s pretty inherently scary for little ones. I wouldn’t just bring kids to a ‘grown-up’ party without checking what it entailed.
    People without kids also often get asked to do more work (and outside event planning like this) in office environments, as well as taken less seriously when it comes to needing time off or having commitments outside of work. It’s not fair to take issue with people for providing an extra, optional, fun thing that wasn’t child-friendly when, ultimately, children don’t work at the company and it wasn’t for them. Next time either the parents should plan the event if they want to set the tone of it, or the work party can simply be for work-aged people.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      Because the party was at an office, where adults work, I wouldn’t assume it had to cater to very young children at all

      Then make that clear and tell folks not to bring their kids.

      If the parents want a child-friendly event, they should be part of planning it or at least ask about the nature of the event before bringing toddlers.

      The parents were told they could bring their children. They are not at fault for taking that invitation in good faith. Yes, they probably won’t make that mistake again, but that was a miscommunication on the part of the party planners.

      It’s not fair to take issue with people for providing an extra, optional, fun thing that wasn’t child-friendly when, ultimately, children don’t work at the company and it wasn’t for them.

      No one is saying they should, they’re saying that if it isn’t child-friendly it shouldn’t be marketed as such. If you want an adults only Halloween office party, have one! Just be clear about that.

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