I Hated Halloween As A Kid (And Probably Not For The Reason You Think)

But once I became a parent, everything changed.

I hated Halloween as a kid. No really, I did. Loved Christmas, Easter was awesome, Hell yeah St. Patrick’s Day, but Halloween caused me serious anxiety. It wasn’t the scare factor at all. Witches, zombies, haunted houses, none of that bothered me. Random E.T. costumes in the dark got me, but that’s a story for another day. My uneasiness over Halloween had nothing do to at all with it being spooky.

I was shy. Painfully shy. We’re talking comments-in-my-report-card shy. So a holiday in which I dressed in a costume that others would love or hate, paraded around the school, and then went door to door talking to strangers and asking for candy was just my idea of Hell.

In addition to being shy, I was chubby. I felt much less cute in my costumes than the other kids, and the extra attention on my body, even if it was because I was dressed like Papa Smurf, made me uneasy. Plus, it was candy, and I had already started a shame relationship with food. I wanted the candy, I just didn’t want anyone to see me eating it.

I put a huge amount of pressure on myself to choose a good costume. My mother shone in this department. Unwilling to spend a fortune on a piece of printed fabric and a cheap plastic mask (remember the 80s?) my mom made all of our early costumes. Picture Cookie Monster with perfect blue fur and 3D eyeballs. Big Bird with individual feathers sewn on. My sister went as Miss Piggy, and I kid you not, the costume had cleavage. Pinterest didn’t exist in 1985, but if it had, my mom would have rocked it. I was indoctrinated from an early age to dislike cookie-cutter store costumes.

This was easy when I was little enough to wear whatever my mom dressed me in. Once I began to choose my own costume, the pressure started. It had to be clever. It couldn’t be so outrageous that it called attention to myself, but it couldn’t be something anyone else was wearing because I would pale in comparison to them, I was sure of it. It was just too much.

I stopped wearing Halloween costumes at age 12. I was a Christmas tree for my last trick or treating. I didn’t exactly go out with a bang. I still hate dressing up, for Halloween, or anything else. I don’t even like putting on pants.

But then I had a baby. A baby who was going to be cute no matter what I dressed him as! I still disliked store costumes, but I was suddenly very excited to come up with something adorable and clever to put him in. My mom, still on her game, made him a Scarecrow from Oz costume. Now, there have been cute babies before and since, but no baby has ever been as cute as my Scarecrow Baby.

This Halloween thing was ON. The following year, he was a mechanic, complete with an embroidered name tag for his shirt, and a cardboard box car. The year after, he was Mr. Potato Head, with hand sewn, Velcroed, interchangeable face pieces, with a pocket in the butt to store the extra parts.

And it didn’t stop there. His fourth Halloween, he was his own superhero, with a personalized sash and homemade cape and everything. For his next Halloween, I made him a Statue of Liberty costume from scratch. Move over, Mom, there’s a new witch in the house.

After Lady Liberty, he wanted to do his own thing, and that usually meant store bought. Mercifully, costumes have improved a lot since 1985 when you could be He-Man or Rainbow Bright, and it didn’t matter because they looked the same anyway.

But, his first Halloween choosing his own costume was our first Halloween with a new baby, meaning that I never had to stop designing awesome costumes. I’m not saying I timed having children according to optimum Halloween costume execution, but I’m not sorry it happened that way.

So far, Baby #2, now four years old, has been Clark Kent, a lumberjack and Pee Wee Herman (my kid looks remarkably like Paul Reubens, so you gotta make the best of it). This year, he got to choose his own costume and has decided he wants to be The Paper Bag Princess with a stuffed dragon. I’m not sure why he chose it. But it means I get to make his costume, and that makes me very, very happy.

Instead of the anxiety and dread that I felt as a child leading up to Halloween, now it’s me bugging my kids in June about what they want to go as this year. I’m the one pushing to go just a few more houses. I can’t wait for Halloween to roll around, and the more attention we get the better. Thankfully, unlike young me, my kids revel in it too.

And all I ask in return for my hard work on costumes is Reece’s Cups. Fair is fair.

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