Friday, October 30, 2015

The Costume Conundrum

Halloween tends to bring out strong emotions in the parents of young children: we either immerse ourselves in the spirit of the season, creating elaborate costumes for our children and ourselves, decorating our homes and yards within inches of their lives, carving 27 perfectly-sized jack o’lanterns for the porch, and eagerly awaiting bringing in fancy themed snacks for class parties; or we become the Halloween equivalent of the Grinch, buying whatever costume is still in the store at the last second, tossing an uncarved pumpkin on the steps, and turning off the porch light at the earliest possible moment.

For a parent, Halloween is just about the worst competitive peer pressure that there is. Let’s admit it: we judge each other on our kids’ costumes. Can we make the perfect costume, exactly what the child has been begging for for weeks, have every detail perfect, including hair and makeup and shoes? Is OUR Thor (or Ariel, or Barbie, or Iron Man, or whatever character is popular this year) as authentic and as awesome as the neighbor kid’s Thor (or Ariel or Barbie or Iron Man)? Or do we not love our child enough to handmake armor out of 38,743 individual soda can pull-tabs and to design a magnetized hammer that actually sticks to the ground when anyone but our child tries to pick it up? I think a lot of us simply admit defeat and don’t even try.

And I count myself among that number. I come from a long line of seamstresses, and I am a seamstress myself. I had always had visions of sewing magnificent costumes for my kids, as my mother always had for me. I imagined myself sitting with each of them, poring over pattern books and picking out fabrics, then seeing their growing excitement as they tried on their costume at each stage, as it slowly grew into being under my talented fingers.

But what really happened is that they saw the rack of ready-made costumes at Costco in August and did that little jumping, squealing happy dance that no parent with a heart can resist, and I threw down my 25 bucks and called it a day.

But the truth is, KIDS DON’T CARE. Well, some kids might care. But the vast majority of kids would be pretty happy with a costume made from construction paper and tape.

What the parent sees:

What the kid sees:

Remember, these are kids to whom a cardboard box becomes a castle, a pirate ship, a rocket, and a smuggler’s cave. We see what’s there; they see what’s in their imagination. And the less we give them to work with, the cooler their imagination can make it. An elaborate costume leaves no room for creativity; a “suggested” costume allows for coming up with cool effects and weapons and abilities.
So the mom I admire, and the mom I strive to be, is the one who doesn’t worry about what other people will think about her kids’ costumes, but the one who gives her child a costume that will allow them to imagine, to pretend, to dream, to strive, to think.

But I still hope that someday one of them wants a great costume that I can sew after we design it together. 

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