It’s hard to believe Halloween is this week. I just got my decorations up and my youngest daughter is still deciding what she wants to be. It will be a busy week in our household.

As exciting as this holiday can be for our children, it is also one of the deadliest times of year for child pedestrians. In fact, on average, twice as many children are killed while walking on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Scary but true!

There are ways you as a parent and driver can keep in mind to keep the holiday safe.

Top safety tips for parents and children:

  • Keep Costumes Creative and Safe. Make sure your child can be seen by drivers. Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and choose light colors. Make sure the costume is the right size to prevent trips and falls. Masks can obstruct vision, so choose non-toxic face paint and make-up whenever possible. Have your children carry glow sticks or flashlights so they can see — and be seen — better.
  • Walk Safely. Make sure your children cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. Remind them to look left, right and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross. Make sure they make eye contact with the driver of the car before crossing in front of it.
  • Put electronic devices down and keep heads up and walk, don’t run, across the street.
  • Walk on sidewalks or paths. If your neighborhood has no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.
  • Slow down and stay alert. Watch out for cars that are turning or backing up and don’t dart out into the street or cross in between parked cars.

Top safety tips for drivers:

  • Slow down in residential neighborhoods. Remember that popular trick-or-treating hours are 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. (And more children will be out later this year because Halloween falls on a Friday).
  • Be especially alert and take extra time to look for children at intersections, on medians and on curbs. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.
  • Reduce any distractions inside your car, such as talking on the phone or eating, so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.

We want this to be a fun-filled evening, with our children coming home safe and sound and full of exciting stories to share.

For additional Halloween safety information, visit our website or review Safe Kids USA’s safety tips.

Purnima Unni is the Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program Manager for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. She is a wife and mother of two girls, ages 16 and 13. She loves to cook, travel and watch murder mysteries. She is fluent in three languages and wishes she had a green thumb.


Motherhood: The Importance of Community

An eager mutt on a leash was anxious to explore the park’s wooded trail, his attempts to propel forward in vain. His master had stopped. The man, presumably a young father, stood next to a flushed-faced young woman with a cloth backpack straining her shoulders and a small, ruddy-faced baby in her arms. As my young-adult daughter and I passed them on our  walk, I overheard the couple discussing the shortest route back to their car. It was August.

Quickly, my mind unreeled a tape of August two decades ago. In my memory, I could feel every sensation she probably felt, as if it were my own again. The backpack overloaded and adding much unwanted heat to my fatigued body. The clammy baby, also heavy and hot, in my arms. My breasts, filling with milk waiting to be expressed into a warm, expedient suckling mouth.

August, 20 years ago, Grace was 2 months old and I was awakening to the need for community. Quickly, with a little networking, I formed the perfect group for us. Like the milk that sustained our infants, we six mothers sustained each other with friendship and joint navigation of our own new paths through the woods of motherhood. It wasn’t so much about getting our children together but connecting, sharing, and communing with each other at the launch of this exciting, life-changing, and a bit perilous pilgrimage upon which we’d embarked.

By the time our babies reached age 3, we’d begin traveling different routes, enrolling in different preschools nearest our homes scattered about town. Grace would be diagnosed with autism, and soon, elementary schools in different parts of town would further widen the separation. Now, only two of us remain in Nashville. But I think back to 20 years ago and recall how formative those connections were for the early days of raising my daughter.

Community is important. If you are a new mother, reach out to find yours. This is not a journey to navigate alone.  

Motherhood generates natural bonds for women, but for some, creating relationships isn’t easy. Maybe it’s even a bit scary. Please push on through those fears. There’s manna out there. A lifeline, even. I promise.

It may take a few tries to find a group that suits you. For me, it was important to find people with common ideas. I reached back to women I’d met at birthing classes and prenatal yoga, or those I was meeting at La Leche League meetings. For others, simply being a new mother is the only needed connector. Mothers’ groups can be found in local newspapers or magazines and online, or through “mommy and me” classes.

One of my mothering friends Anne said back then (and the truth still holds):

“You don’t realize how good it feels to have mother-to-mother support and what you’ve been missing, until you find it.”

My mothering community was a priceless gift that still gives. Seriously, I continually unwrap and treasure mine after all these years. It gave me a foundation of support and confidence I could not have mustered going at it alone. Motherhood is meant to be experienced in community.

While the days of frequent nursing and cradling a hot, clammy baby are remote history, author-blogger-speaker, Leisa A. Hammett, is still helping foster community with the creation of a pending 501(c)3 nonprofit social enterprise, called Art Tank, for artists with disAbilities. The art of her now 20-year-old daughter, Grace Walker Goad, can be found on Facebook at Grace Goad | Autism Art and her website, www.GraceGoad.com, currently under reconstruction.

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