Growing up Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. My mother, brother and I would walk to Woolworth’s to pick out our costumes. In those days, costumes came in a cardboard box; they were simple (and probably flammable), just a mask and a plastic smock. (I’m totally dating myself.)
As a girl, I loved the idea of dressing up. I loved my mother painting my face with black eyeliner and red lipstick. Even with my front teeth missing and my hair in pigtails, I felt like a grown-up.
Now that I’m a grown up, I long to feel little-girl young. (Sometimes embracing the little girl within can be a good thing). Reliving my childhood through my son, Norrin, is one of the best things about being a mom. And while it’s been years since Halloween has been my favorite holiday, I want it to be Norrin’s.
But Halloween has been challenging. Norrin has autism and the concept of holidays has been difficult for him to grasp. And like everything else in our lives since Norrin’s diagnosis, Halloween became another lesson that needed to be taught.
Norrin is seven years old (he’ll be eight in January) and this is the year that I believe he finally, finally gets Halloween.
A Look Back at Halloweens Past 1 of 7
Raising a kid with autism, holidays - including Halloween - can be tough. Click through to see how our Halloweens have changed over the years...
The Halloween I Knew 2 of 7
Halloween 2007. It's Norrin's second Halloween and he's 21 months old. This is the time I begin to suspect something is "wrong." I will never forget this Halloween, how exhausting it was trying to keep up with him. Him not talking, not listening or looking me in the eye. Looking back, Norrin wasn't just "being a boy" (like everyone told me), the signs of autism were staring me in the face.
The Halloween I Really Knew 3 of 7
Halloween 2008. Norrin had been diagnosed with autism months earlier. By this time, he was receiving services at home and at a special education preschool. Norrin was starting to say some words (hi and by) and sign others (more and finished). On this Halloween, we took Norrin to the Museum of Natural History. It was crowded with kids and too loud. He was scared of all the characters and didn't care about candy and trick-or-treating. Being around all those other kids, the difference between them and Norrin was obvious. But even through the chaos, I got a smile out of Norrin. And that made me happy.
The Halloween I Worried 4 of 7
Halloween 2010. This was the Halloween we discovered the magic of Sleepy Hollow. I thought Norrin would have a blast at the Great Pumpkin Blaze. I thought it was the coolest thing. Norrin cried (kicked and screamed) for the first sixty minutes. I tried to bribe him with donuts, cookies, and apple cider. Norrin just cried and said he wanted to go home. I was ready to leave, but my husband, Joseph, wanted Norrin to work through it. Eventually Norrin stopped crying, but it made me wonder if we'd ever be able to do anything without a major meltdown.
The Halloween I Was Hopeful 5 of 7
Halloween 2011. This was the Halloween it snowed a few days before. But Norrin was excited about his costume. He willingly put on the helmet and was able to hold his own bag to go trick-or-treating. He liked looking at other costumes. He wanted to watch Halloween cartoons and eat his candy. We didn't do anything exciting that Halloween, but it was the first time in years that Halloween was fun. It wasn't forced, we didn't have to try too hard to make it exciting. Norrin's costume and candy was excitement enough.
This Halloween 6 of 7
Halloween 2013. Norrin has been looking forward to Halloween all year long. (Last Halloween was overshadowed by Hurricane Sandy and I was stuck in Texas.) He's been asking about costumes and telling us he wanted to carve a pumpkin. He took great care picking out the perfect pumpkin. Norrin is so vocal about what he wants to do and asking us questions. He's really trying to understand the concept. I am overwhelmed thinking about how far he's come over the years.
The Halloween I Have Been Waiting For 7 of 7
Over the weekend, we went to an event and Norrin had his face painted. This is a BIG deal. There was a time when Norrin wouldn't let anyone near his face. He'd completely freak out and cry. For him to sit still long enough to have his face painted, to look in the mirror and smile at the sight of himself is definitely a milestone to celebrate. And I was proud. I haven't been this excited about Halloween in years. Norrin has his costume. He's tried it and quickly got into character. He's talking about trick-or-treating and what he needs to do. This is the year Norrin truly understands. It feels pretty awesome.
It’s taken Norrin some time to get discover the holiday magic of Halloween. But I am so happy he did!
Catch up with Lisa on Babble:
- Why NYC Schools Aren’t Equipped to Handle Kids with Autism
- On Taking My Family to Sleepy Hollow for Halloween
- 12 Greatest Lessons Our Teachers Have Ever Taught Us
- How I Survived Being a Working Mom and College Student
Read more of Lisa’s writing at AutismWonderland.
image via iStock.com