Do you have your kids’ Halloween costumes yet? If not, it’s about time to hit the panic button. Popular costumes are almost sold out, and Central Oregon’s not-always-speedy mail service means ordering online could soon be iffy.
As with most aspects of parenting, Halloween, too, brings potential rewards and pitfalls.
Parents look forward to seeing the excited little astronauts, clowns, princesses and superheroes run from house to house shouting “trick or treat.” Sometimes the toughest part of the process is deciding who will stay home to hand out candy and who’s going to stroll around the neighborhood with the ghosts and goblins.
Then there’s the not-so-fun moments that Halloween can conjure.
Whether you’re a super-crafty type who makes costumes by hand, or you prefer to purchase them ready-made, deciding when to commit to the getup your child wants can be fraught with danger. Many a parent has confidently ordered or started making that Spider-Man or unicorn costume in September, only to be shocked in mid-October when their little darling announces they now want to be a Fortnite character or Wonder Woman instead.
Tantrums and tears ensue, and the kids can get pretty upset, too.
Some children wear their costume to death prior to Oct. 31, leaving it with stains, missing or broken accessories and gaping seams by the time the big day actually arrives. In those cases, at least you know it’s money or time well spent on a costume.
Then there’s the child who excitedly decides on a costume and is thrilled when its arrives, only to develop stage fright and stubbornly refuse to wear it to school or out trick-or-treating. No amount of cajoling, bribery or threats can convince him or her to put it on for an audience, and you’re left feeling as though you just wasted $60 or 16 hours of arts and crafts time on the darn thing. Hopefully, it’s big enough that you can try again next year. Or maybe there’s a younger sibling who will inherit it.
Perhaps you have dreams of themed family costumes with parents and kids all coordinating as a school of sharks, Star Wars or Harry Potter characters, or the kids from Stranger Things being chased by the Demogorgon monster.
Well, you’d better move quickly if you want to make that vision a reality. The older the children get, the more opinionated they’ll become and your chance of reaching a consensus on a group costume dwindles rapidly with each passing year.
As the kids get a little older, parents often find themselves taken aback as the options for costumes become more gory or suggestive or somehow both simultaneously. Is it OK to let my 14-year-old leave the house dressed as a pimp and does he really understand what that is? Why does a bunny costume need to be sexy? How much fake blood is too much for a costume worn to school? Answer: If you have to ask yourself that last question, it’s too much!
And then there’s all the candy. So. Much. Candy. Even if you offer to buy it back from your kids or convince them to donate some to troops serving overseas or other causes, there’s still a ridiculous amount of sugar pumping through their veins for several days or weeks around Halloween. And many parents aren’t much better than their offspring at resisting the siren’s call of those sweet treats. Who hasn’t stolen a piece or two (or 10) from their kid’s stash, or eaten almost as much candy as they’ve handed out at the door? Do as we say kids, not as we do.
Remember though, the day is not far off when your teens will announce they’re too old for costumes and trick-or-treating. Or they’ll choose to celebrate at a friend’s Halloween party and all you get is a quick glimpse of their costume on their way out the door. At that point, you’ll forget all the earlier hassles and find yourself feeling nostalgic and pining for Halloweens past. The parenting message here: Enjoy Halloween with your kids while you still can and resist buying those giant bags of candy when they go on sale.
— Kim Himstreet is the 40-something mother of two teenage boys whom she and her husband have raised while living in three different countries and three U.S. states.