halloween: our love hate relationship

my son disapproved of halloween costumes as early as pre-k. for the school’s Halloween parade he wanted and wore a batman costume. as he walked through the parade everyone called out excitedly "hi batman!" filled with exasperation, he protested. "my name is not batman!” for the umpteenth time, “my name is nolan!"

that was the last time he willingly wore a costume. i was elated. i could cross Halloween and costumes off the list of things i had to do but didn’t really enjoy  as a mother.

 i would never have to endure the perfect costume scramble again. the scramble of negotiating what your child desperately wants, what’s weather appropriate, what needs be found in the costume section of my local Target and, most importantly, what would make me look like a rock star mom.

 my son, who loves the skin he's in, saved me. i was happy being a Halloween-free  mommy for several years.

 then there was my daughter.

 she  was a complete departure from her brother. if a costume or make-believe was involved, so was she. one any good day, you can find her being a park slope mom: cellphone pressed against her face,  baby doll tied to her body with a makeshift sling, pushing a stroller around the apartment. on another, a young and stylish medical doctor: her pink stethoscope to my chest, white shirt on as her lab coat making a grave diagnosis that required lots of yucky medicine and possibly a shot.

 she reveled in all things imaginary play. didn’t she know that imaginary play was not my territory? if she knew, she did not care.

 my daughter wanted me along for the ride and she wanted me to like it. then, at the ripe age of two, she told me she wanted to be a frog for halloween...a pink frog!?. how did she even know about halloween? we were a very happy halloween-free home for her entire life. and did she say a pink frog? do they even have those at target?

i am a creative woman in my professional life. i enjoy creative pursuits. why was dress up and make-believe so challenging for me at home? i believe with our children--with my  children--there was a desire to always get it right.  the perfect project. the perfect afternoon out. the perfect costume. it became hard to simply be in the moment for fear the outcome would not be one my little people--or i--expected. for me it takes courage to be silly. to walk around and pretend to be an astronaut or a doctor or a princess. these are not things i grew up doing or knowing about in my very beautiful yet staid family.

that year, i grabbed the frog by its leg and was determined to make her the best pink frog costume ever. i used felt and glue guns. i made eyes out of styrofoam balls and purchased a pink sweatshirt and pants. all night i cut and sewed and glued like a designer on project runway. when she woke up in the morning my two year old was elated. she saw a perfect pink frog costume. she did not notice that her styrofoam eyes were lopsided or that the feet were a tad bit crooked. those flaws went unnoticed by her loving two year old eyes and her immense imagination.

 my children in each of their own ways have allowed me to enjoy and dare i say love the the process of Halloween. my son still has no desire to dress up, yet, he genuinely enjoys the costume ideas his little sister dreams up and seeing the final product. he knows what it is to  encourage, to be a supporter and a true fan.

 my daughter decides months in advance what costume we will create each year. she has been a princess, super girl, a pirate, strawberry shortcake and an avenger--black widow. last year she rocked my world and decided she wanted to be me for Halloween. we wore matching outfits that day. she wore a blazer (i do love a sharp blazer), tall black boots, dark rimmed glasses, a school ID badge, carried a camera and rocked a blonde Afro! she took a page from my book and loved me in the loudest and best way she knew how.

i have officially taken the halloween costume scramble off the list of things this mom hates to do, but check in with me on november 1st because this year she thinks she wants to be an american girl doll ... in the actual box!

 a version of this blog post is featured in the october 2015 issue of New York Family Magazine

October 6, 2014