When you are an actor, and you are starting out in show business, at the very bottom of your resume your agent will ask you to list your ‘special skills’; anything that could be considered a unique skill that may help you to book a job with extraordinary requirements. These can include such things as, “Fluent in Pashtun”, and “Tenth Degree Black Belt”, or in my case such things as “valid driver’s license”(unimpressive), and “accents”(non-descript, obviously false).
I do have one ‘special skill’ however, that serves me precisely once a year, quite well: “The Ability To Plant The Seed Of The Perfect Hallowe’en Costume In My Child’s Brain And Make Her Think It Was Her Idea The Whole Time.”
You see, in our family, Hallowe’en is a sacred night. Well, maybe not sacred in the sense that it is also Satan’s Birthday Party, but sacred in the sense that it is The Best Day Ever and You Get To Dress Up and then there is CANDY.
But the costume is key.
It’s important to strike a balance between ‘creativity’ and ‘ingenuity’. It should not scream “store bought” as my husband’s childhood costumes always did.
Jason: “Mommy, did Woody Woodpecker wear a one piece plastic suit that said “Woody Woodpecker” on the front? I don’t remember that from the cartoon…”
Jason’s Mom: (long pause) “Yup.”
It’s really not ideal for the entire costume to be store bought—but you do want elements of it to be store bought, so that you are not plagued by the inefficiency/crapitude, let’s say, of a light saber made from jammed together empty paper towel tubes. (Sorry, Allana.) But then you’ve got to get in there and make the costume your own.
Perhaps most importantly, your child has to want to wear the outfit all day long. They have to think that they thought of it, or else it’s going to feel like some weird set of psychedelic shackles, and all they’re going to do all day is complain that they are itchy.
Some children will require that you plant that seed and start laying groundwork as far back as August. For instance, this year, my husband and I decided that we would like our girl and boy to go as Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker. Siblings. Cute. Sidebuns. Done.
We got the original theatrical version of Star Wars way back in the summer and started them on it, every once in a while, casually dropping hints into the conversation about what great costumes those two characters would make. It took a little while, but we kept at it: that’s right—we watched the movie multiple times—in your FACE all known research about the perils of children watching too much tv. Then the Halloween catalogues started arriving at the house, followed by more conversation. My daughter chooses a princess from the catalogue that she would like to be (boring!). We casually remind her that Princess Leia is a princess, but also possibly the coolest princess, because she is from outer space, and let her know that it is still her choice (it’s not) and that whatever she chooses will be fine (also not true.)
Well, what do you know? Said child has been practicing side buns and ‘blaster techniques’ for weeks now. And we could not be prouder…of ourselves.
This year for Hallowe’en, my husband and I will be going as ‘a pair of smug-assed smarty-pantses’. There will be multiple high fives, but only between the two of us.
N.B. None of our ideas have worked on my son. As of today, he will be wearing street clothes and carrying a lightsaber/hammer combo. On the day, anything could and will happen, and both of them are far too shy to trick or treat anyway. THAT’S NOT THE POINT. The point is: SUCCESS!
(Public Service Announcement: If you are shelling out this year and you have the impulse to give away black licorice candy or homemade granola bars or apples, please just turn your lights off instead and hang out in the darkness by yourself. Spreading a message about the savory and digestive benefits of black licorice and/or the dangers of tooth decay/importance of fiber is the enemy of Hallowe’en cheer.)