When I was in elementary school, my favorite Halloween costume was a cat. Every year. Now that I am an adult I still have a strong feline proclivity – extra black eyeliner, cat ears, and a tail tied to my jeans. 1-2-3 meow!
My kids’ choices are a bit more varied. My favorite costumes picked by my son were a fuzzy orange Tigger suit, and a few years later, a fuzzy black gorilla costume. Adorable! Unfortunately, both of those years, Halloween weather was above 85 degrees. After a few minutes, my son ripped off the costume heads. I watched with a grimace – he was far less cute headless.
The year she turned five, my oldest daughter was obsessed with Barbie. So I searched and searched for an authentic Barbie outfit. (Who would have thought it would have been so hard to find?) Finally, a week before Halloween, we hit pay dirt. A scrumptiously cute pink and purple shimmery tutu with matching crown. Complete with an official Barbie logo. It cost double my budget but I got it anyway. Phew!
Then, the night before, my daughter changed her mind. Without telling me, she added plastic, bloody vampire fangs. So she became Princess Barbie Vampire, marching proudly in the school parade. Not quite the image I had hoped for the holiday Christmas card.
The following year, my 12-year-old son planned a costume trio with his two best friends. On Halloween day, the head of admissions at the kids’ private school (also my alma mater) was leading a large tour of prospective parents through the cafeteria. My son walked by the group of adults. The admissions head decided to ask him – the sixth grade son of an alumna who was also a board trustee, surely a safe bet – what he was going to be for Halloween.
Without slowing down, my son called out to her, “Me and Julius and Nicky be goin’ as some pimps.”
In all of these cases, I had choices. I could have forced my kids to do what I wanted – to wear the suffocating but cute costume heads, to ditch the bloody fangs, to come up with a PG-13 costume. Just as I could have picked out nice matching outfits every day, scrutinized their homework on a nightly basis, set up a play date rotation with the kids I thought would be the finest influences.
Surely, there are many parents who question my parenting skills and decisions on Halloween night (and many other nights as well).
But I remember well how my wildly creative, daring mom supported my being a cat every year on Halloween. It said something (about my conservative aversion to risk, surely) about me. She probably bit her tongue every October as I bite mine today. But especially on Halloween, that most intoxicatingly kid-centric holiday, I want my kids to be themselves.
Pimp, vampire, headless Tigger…it’s their life, their personality, their Halloween. Not mine.