I loved Halloween as a kid. I loved the process of picking out my costume and seeing the inventive ways my mom would craft it together. I loved the crispness in the air, the excitement of roaming around the neighborhood past dark, THE CANDY.
But like most things in life, Halloween changed sometime in the high school years. Suddenly the costumes were less about how creative you were, and more about how you looked wearing them. Vandalism was casually thrown around (Mischief Night!) and the social pressures of Halloween parties felt suffocating. This lasted through college, of course, and the holiday’s original draw felt completely lost.
Until I had a kid of my own.
Suddenly I saw a new side to Halloween. Sure, we could harp on people potentially poisoning our children via candy and all of the fear-based reasons to be scared of Halloween, but that’s not the part I see. I happen to think Halloween is better as a parent than it ever was as a kid, and I’ll tell you why …
There are few things sweeter than seeing your child’s reaction after he looks in the mirror, dressed up from head to toe, totally transformed. And when they’re still little enough to go along with whatever we suggest, the options are endless. We could be nostalgic, creative, hilarious, even slightly inappropriate. It’s like dressing up our own real-life dolls! Sure, you could load yourself up with guilt for not making your kid’s costume, or you can stress about finding a costume at the last minute … if you choose. But I happen to think that picking out miniature costumes is way more fun than coming up with my own get-up, no matter how and where it was made. (And that scarecrow costume! It’s singed into my heart forever.)
We’re not the ones ringing doorbells, begging for treats. That bucket of candy that’s getting heavier with each passing street? All you, kid. And when Halloween falls on a rainy or ::gulp:: snowy day (as it has here in New York) we get to stay toasty and dry in the car while the kids run door to door.
And yet when those little monsters and goblins (or Ninja Turtles, as it may turn out) are tucked into bed, that candy is OURS. We’re strategic about what we do and don’t take, of course, but don’t think for a second that parents aren’t dipping into the stash. We’re doing them a favor. All of that sugar is terrible for their bodies (she thinks while stuffing a mini Kit-Kat into her mouth).
That Lorax costume was HEAVY and warm, as New York Octobers require. We send our kids out in bulky layers and uncomfortable masks, weighed down by fur or fabric or costume props. I remember being a kid, having sequin bee antennas flapping into my eyes as I walked from house to house. Parents, on the other hand, have the luxury of watching the kids fumble and stumble over their costumes from a distance.
Rather than worrying about our bare midriffs or super-short skirts (as we did) we’re dressing up babies to look like little old men. On my first Halloween as a new mom, I was 23 years old. My Facebook feed was splashed with frat party photos and lace-up corsets and spandex animal costumes — while I spent my night with a cuddly little animal baby. It was nice to bring some innocence back to a sexed-up holiday. It was nice to remember why this holiday was fun to begin with.
“Wait a minute, you mean I get to DRESS UP in a costume? And go outside in it? AND THE WORLD GIVES ME CANDY?!” The novelty of Halloween is pretty extraordinary to see through fresh, is-this-really-happening, best-day-of-my-life eyes. It’s unhinged joy, bursting from their tiny bodies, settling into our grown-up bones and awakening a dormant child-like wonder that still lives somewhere inside of us, forgotten.
But when we can see it through our kid’s eyes, we remember.
We get to be SILLY and goofy in whatever ways we want. We can deck out the house in spooky lights and cobwebs (because it’s OUR HOUSE now). We can design our own pumpkin carvings and do fun family-matching costumes in ways our parents never did. The little kids in us can come out to play, except this time we’re in control.
And suddenly Halloween is better than it ever was.More On