Parenting advice: I fall into the same Halloween costume trap every … – Slate

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I have a costume conundrum every year. I tell myself I’m going to be low-key and just buy something cute off the rack.

Then I hate the cheap fabric and don’t want to spend $40 on ugly polyester stuff and get the idea I’ll make something. I now have 100 felt feathers to glue to an owl wing—and that’s after I decided on a “sensible” path and bought a kit. How do I readjust my expectations to be more in with what I can handle with a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old … and my own ADHD?

—Oops I Did it Again Mom

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Dear Oops,

Does it help if I assure you that your kids could not possibly care less (and your younger one doesn’t understand any of what’s going on) about the details of their costumes? That your 4-year-old doesn’t have any interest in how the costume was made, what it’s made of, how hard you worked on it, how elaborate it is, and even how “accurate” it is?

No, I didn’t think so. Because this problem is not about the kids at all—it’s about you. I suspect you already know this because you’re asking what you can do to manage your expectations, not your kids’. I feel for you: You’ve got all this stuff swirling around in your head (what it means to be a “good mother,” what’s “sensible,” what others are doing/not doing, harsh judgments of yourself, fear of the judgment of others, etc.). Shake it off! Halloween costumes for kids are for the kids. They are not measures of your parental fitness. They give kids a chance to march around the neighborhood playing pretend on what feels like a magical night when everyone else is playing pretend too.

I am not being theoretical about this. I speak from experience. Here’s how I dealt with Halloween until my kid was old enough to make her own costume: One year she wanted to be a frog, so she wore green footed PJs, swim flippers, and a green ball cap with two big, felt eyes glued onto its bill (she felt like a frog! she was happy!). One year she was a dinosaur (more footed PJs, hood pulled up over her head, green felt “spikes” added, plus a long (poorly sewn) tail dragging behind her. And so on. I’m not a crafty person and I don’t know how to sew. It didn’t matter. What mattered—and was fun for both of us—was planning the costume and how we would make it (emphasis on we). I too had no desire to buy use-it-once-and-throw-it-away premade costumes—and my kid didn’t want one, because what was the fun of that? She was proud of her wacky, homemade costumes because she’d helped (more every year) to design and make them. Did she often have to tell people what or who she was? Sure. It didn’t embarrass her; it made her feel sorry for the clueless neighbors (“How could they not see that I’m the sun? I have rays”). Honestly, I wish I could share my Halloween photos with you, because they are awesome, and my kid is beaming, every year.

Ask your 4-year-old (and in a year or two, the younger kid): “What do you want to be?” Then put together something simple, with your kid’s help, that indicates whatever the hell that is. (If you must dress up the baby—though I wouldn’t—keep that even simpler, like some Halloween-themed PJs. Or just plain orange ones, and then the older kid can tell people the younger one is a pumpkin.) Keep your eyes on the prize—your child’s delight.


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