As a mother of five kids I have always dreaded Halloween. If I wasn't such a thrifty person or if had a bottomless checkbook maybe it would be easier for me. We could simply order a costume on line or walk into the store and pick one up off the shelf but five kids multiplied by five twenty dollar costumes rings in a hundred bucks. I'm pretty sure I can do better than that. And thus my quest to create cheap and non-embarrassing costumes haunts me every year.
First there's the tricky dance I must perform to convince my kids to dress up in a costume I can reasonably create. And this isn't a money issue. My seamstress abilities are limited to fabric glue and a whip stitch yet my costume resume boasts of a Storm Trooper, Bob the Builder, Michael Phelps, Frankenstein, Princess Peach and the little French orphan Madeline. I realize this sounds impressive and in all honesty my creations have even appeared relatively stunning in photographs but an up close and personal observation reveals faulty construction. Embarrassingly faulty. Which really isn't a huge problem when your kids are between the ages of two and six. But something tragic happens around the age of seven and children become grossly aware of two things; fancy marketing campaigns and their peers.
It seems like the fourth of July is barely over when the stores begin advertising glamorous, cool, muscle-induced costumes that are overpriced and out of my budget. My kids change what they want to be as rapidly as Nickelodeon airs commercials. It's stressful listening to my children claim they want to wear every costume they see while trying to funnel their ideas into a costume I can actually create.
I don't understand this need to wear store bought costumes. When I was a kid (did I really just say that!) we made our costumes. The day before Halloween we snooped through mom's closet or dad's footlocker and threw something together. Kids these days want to wear costumes worthy of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Gimme a break! Here's a sheet. Let's cut out some eyes.
Not that I'm against fancy costumes. My kids have worn them. I just haven't bought them thanks to my friends who share their hand-me-downs or because of the local resale shop we trolled recently. Best $13.00 I've spent in awhile.
Which is why this year is very unique. I was ready for Halloween an entire week before the 31st. This is highly unusual for me. In years passed, when Halloween has been celebrated early due to weekend schedules and funky school calendars I have practically been struck down in a panic attack trying to get all five children in a costume they like, that I can make, that won't break the bank and they won't be embarrassed to wear. See? It's stressful.
But there is something enchanting about Halloween evening. All the precursor stress melts away when the neighbor children come to my door for candy and treats. We take adorable photographs and I stroll the streets, supervising my giddy children, holding my husband's hand when I realize this is one of the most communal times of the year. All the spookiness aside, Halloween is a wonderful evening where neighbors seem more neighborly and the streets, full of laughter and children, seem safer and all my efforts make it worth it.
So don't feel bad for me as I sit surrounded by chocolate bars, candy and popcorn balls. You see there's the huge payoff. I might have five costumes to get ready for Halloween but I also have five buckets of candy to pilfer through. So while I spend every October fretting, stressing and creating costumes, I spend the entirety of November nibbling the fruit of my labor (which unfortunately means I must suffer by packing on a few extra pounds) but this is the price I must pay. Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so! That's why!
(this article originally appears in the Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series)