My daughter started thinking about Halloween over a month ago. She and her friends love to plan costumes and where to trick or treat, and we went through one box of chocolate bars in early October. I get their excitement, but I also think it can be a bit out of control.
I remember when I was a kid asking my Mom what I should be for Halloween. It was all the talk at school, and I remember stressing about it. My Mom was at her desk working at the time, and I remember her looking up at me and saying, “The world is much bigger than you.” Now I usually knew better than to disturb my Mom when she was working – with four kids, plus foster kids, plus working on her Masters degree and volunteering, all while working full time – my siblings and I learned the art of picking the best moments to ask for something. But with Halloween on the horizon, I must have been completely absorbed. I was shocked that she didn’t care. When I think back to that exchange now, I realize it was one of those moments when I was startled out of childhood – didn’t everyone think about costumes in September?
Now I am just like my Mom. So in September, when Kathleen asked if I would buy her a Halloween costume, I said no. She probably predicted that, so she waited at least a week before returning to the subject. She told me that she really wanted to be Winnie the Pooh, and she found the best costume. She looked at me with a smile and paused – she is also mastering the art of manipulating Mom – and then she let it drop: It only costs 160 dollars. “Only”.
My reaction was similar to my Mom’s. I told her that that price was outrageous and gave her a $20 limit. Was I turning into a grump?
Kathleen decided to be duct tape. I found that amusing – really? Duct tape? Two nights ago she wrapped a t-shirt in duct tape and was quite pleased with the start. It did look pretty cool. But before bed, she realized that she couldn’t take off her duct tape shirt….
Last night she bought more duct tape, and we brainstormed bottoms. For the record, I suggested she create a skirt, to manage some practical considerations. But I didn’t push it, and she disappeared with her friend to create her costume. At dinner time, she made a grand entrance into the kitchen and held a pose – there she was, neck to toes, completely wrapped in duct tape. Pretty impressive. And she was quite impressed with herself.
Then the real fun began. She had to sit down for dinner. Not comfortable. Ten minutes later, she had to pee… We all giggled. When she told me that she would have to cut her tights along with the duct tape, she said, “I promise to sew them and wear them again!”
“Okay,” I said, “But you have to wear those sewn up tights again, in public.”
When I think back on my Mom’s lack of interest in my Halloween costume, I think she gave me a gift. I made my own costumes, often with my friends. One year, we spent hours unraveling red yarn to make Raggedy Ann and Andy wigs; another year we all sewed circles together and went as a bag of M and Ms.
My Mom actually gave me the best gift ever by refusing to enter into my kid world and taking control. Sometimes in stepping back, and giving kids the chance to plan and create on their own, independent from adults, we can let kids be kids….we can let them create their own magic.
I hope I can do the same for my daughter.
ps – I asked Kathleen if I could blog about this story, and she said to call it, ‘Mom is always right’
pps – Jacob wore regular clothes to school but he taped playing cards on one sleeve and chocolate bars on the other. He called himself ‘Trick or Treat’.