Halloween. The word strikes fear into the hearts of parents everywhere – especially when it is repeated every day from Aug. 1 until sometime just before dusk on Oct. 31.
There’s the frightening – “I don’t know what-I-want-to-be-for-Halloween.”
Or the more terrifying – “I’ve changed my mind about what-I-want-to-be-for-Halloween for the 110th time even though it’s time to light the pumpkin and head outside.”
There’s no way to win this holiday. No matter how creative a costume parents might produce, it will never quite match the imagination of a child.
Oh, parents will try. Those who can afford costumes will grab the 2018 Fortnite fashion craze at some local store. Those who can’t afford such luxuries, or those who want to foster that creepy Halloween creativity, will do what parents have done for generations: they’ll get out the face paint and the sewing machine and get to work on Oct. 30.
Well, let me let you in on a little treat of a trick of my own. You can make yourself as scarce as Casper draped in an invisibility cloak and your kids will still haul in plenty of candy. And they’ll have just as much fun at that school party or stroll through the mall. Just disappear when the subject comes up.
The key is to start lowering their expectations when they are very young.
With no money and no sewing skills, I made it known early on that I was a dud of a firecracker when it came to Halloween. My cousin was a crafting whiz and thankfully sent over homemade Halloween costumes for the first few years. Pumpkins. Ghosts. Witches. Eventually, my daughters had enough and wanted to make their own costumes. They knew better than to ask me for help.
Before they even reached Kindergarten, they took to creating an oddly executed assortment of costumed duos, including Robin Hood and Friar Tuck, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Lunette the Clown and Major Bedhead.
I knew my work was done when one of them came slinking down the stairs dressed completely in white and mimicking the annoying voice of Moaning Myrtle with frightening accuracy.
My favourite was the year they chose to be The Intrepid Shapiro and the Fearless O’Toole, a little-known child superhero duo from Mordecai Richler’s Jacob TwoTwo and the Hooded Fang.
“We need capes,” they announced.
“Oh, ya?” I asked vaguely.
On the appointed day, they appeared with the duo’s superhero catchphrase ‘Child Power’ sprawled awkwardly in neon fabric paint across the front of their T-shirts with two – very usable towels – pinned around their necks.
They took the hand-made cardboard swords their father helped them make and flew out the door, oblivious to the snickers and blank faces that met them on neighbourhood doorsteps. I still have a small photo of the dynamic duo which one of them proudly cut out and slathered with glue onto a frame of colourful Popsicle sticks. They thought they looked perfect.
I know there is an intense and constant pressure out there for young parents to perform, from creating perfect Instagram posts to acting as a conduit to creativity 24/7. But that is as scary as that one Halloween crazed neighbour who assures you he’s totally experienced at setting off fireworks. And just as dangerous.
Really, try the Casper thing this year, if only until your child’s own imagination kicks in. The other kids at preschool will be too obsessed with their own outfits to care about anyone else’s. And by the time you light your Jack-o-lantern, your own little pumpkin, or witch, or ghost will have two layers and a raincoat over their brilliant costume anyway.
Lucky for inept Halloween parents like me, the only thing that really matters on this haunted and haunting night is how your kids feel on the inside under all those layers of costume and face paint.
All I know is every night before I shut off the lights, I look at that ridiculous photo of the grinning Intrepid Shapiro and the Fearless O’Toole. Happy I never learned to sew anything but an invisibility cloak.
Lynn Easton writes for the Ridge Meadows Early Childhood Development Committee.