By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
A baby’s first Halloween is kind of a big deal, if you ask his or her mama. I can’t remember lots of things – my iTunes password, my kid’s current shoe size, and I occasionally forget my exact age and have to subtract my birth year from the current year just to figure it out. But even though it has been a decade or more since it happened, I can tell you what costumes my three kids wore for their first Halloween.
In 2002, my firstborn was a baby frog. I have an adorable picture of him being kissed on the cheek by my co-worker’s baby, who was a baby bumblebee that year. Our middle child wore a little Superman onesie in 2004, and there’s a photo of Tom holding him up in the air so his red Superbaby cape could catch the breeze. And our youngest was such a cute baby butterfly in 2007, when she crawled up to the windowsill and peered outside at the jack-o-lantern glowing on the front steps.
Fast forward 10 years to today. Now I’m looking at another milestone of sorts, although it’s not nearly as sweet as those first Halloweens. Two of our three kids have decided that this year they’re not dressing up for Halloween. They’ve officially entered the “too cool” stage of adolescence.
I understand it. I even remember feeling that way myself in middle school. One year you’re a freewheeling grade-schooler who can’t wait to pick out your costume, and the next year you’re almost embarrassed by the idea of dressing up for Halloween like a “little kid.” Seemingly overnight, you outgrow the childhood tradition as if it was last year’s tennis shoes.
When it happened to me, I stopped trick-or-treating and went instead to a Halloween carnival hosted by the Catholic church in my small hometown. It was what all the “big” kids did. The carnival had music and snacks, and the organizers would always convert a few Sunday school rooms into a makeshift haunted house. You wouldn’t think a church-based haunted house would be intimidating, but those Catholics were scary! When zombies came lunging at me from behind the door, I prayed hard that God would get me out of there alive. (Maybe motivating teenage prayer was their plan all along.)
This year, my 15-year-old son said he’d stay home and hand out candy to trick-or-treaters. And our 13-year-old son volunteered to chaperone his 10-year-old little sister around the neighborhood, since she’s the only one still fun enough to dress up and go trick-or-treating. (His volunteer efforts probably have something to do with the fact that he’ll need her to feel generous enough to share her candy stash with him.)
And even though this shedding of the trick-or-treating tradition is normal and even expected, I can’t help but think back to the year I lined them up by the curb outside our house so I could get a photo of the three of them dressed up like Super Mario, Luigi, and Little Red Riding Hood – beaming up at the camera in anticipation of the sugar rush that was sure to follow.
Eventually my oldest boys will probably dress up for Halloween again. In a few years, they’ll go to some high school or college Halloween party and suddenly costumes will be a fun idea again. But during these “between” years, they’re anxious to prove to the world and to themselves that they’ve shifted away from being kids and are cruising up the on-ramp to adulthood.
But it’s bittersweet for us mamas because the on-ramp to adulthood always sneaks up on us way too quickly. If I had known that last year’s Star Wars character costume was going to be the last one for a while, I would have taken a few more pictures. I would have memorized him standing there on the neighbor’s front porch, secretly hoping this might be a house with a full-size candy bar.
What can a middle-age mama do besides shrug her shoulders, be thankful she still has one kid who wants to dress up as a girl on Safari riding an ostrich, and then drown her nostalgic sorrows in fun-size Twix bars. Happy Halloween to me.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com.