September 24, 2009

The Annual Halloween Costume Dilemma

People post all sorts of family-related things to the online neighborhood parenting group I belong to: questions about teething babies, advertisements for bikes for sale and assorted calls for stuff to borrow.

I saw a post yesterday that both brought back memories and showed me how far I’ve come in this parenting game. Someone was asking for a Halloween costume to borrow because her preschooler changed his mind and wouldn’t wear the one she’d bought.

She had my sympathy. Last Halloween, Alice refused to wear the fancy robot suit she’d been dying to wear a few months earlier, and even though money was tighter than tight, I got her a last-minute replacement puppy suit.

Since then, I’ve come to believe that all costumes should be last minute, and the lamer the better.

When I was growing up, people basically wore colored pajamas and a mask. Look! I’m Secret Squirrel! Or, Look! I’m Wonder Woman! The only difference was the mask. Then, until you got your Christmas jammies, you slept in your costume and considered it a fun extension of the holiday, even as you wondered how all your candy kept disappearing and why mom was complaining about gaining five pounds.

There’s this expectation today, based in part on the better special effects in movies and TV, that costumes must be awesome, and that kids can keep changing their mind until the perfect idea strikes, even if that happens 24 hours before the actual event.

I’m not kidding about the special-effects part, by the way. Have you seen the original Land of the Lost lately? Forget the crazy science that somehow made it possible for dinosaurs, early hominids and space creatures to coexist.

The costumes were outright terrible. You can practically see the zippers on the Sleestaks. And Cha-Ka...I love the little brute, but he looks like a low-rent Wookiee, and it’s not like Chewbacca came from a particularly high-rent district himself. Could it be any more obvious Chewie’s wearing fur over his huge, huge shoes? Despite that, everyone I knew watched and loved the show and Star Wars. We didn’t expect any better because there wasn’t any better.

Halloween costumes

I wish the same were true for Halloween.

I thought we were set this year. Lucy has wanted to dress as the fairy warrior character from her favorite book. She has been growing her hair out for a year so it would look right for the part, which is sort of a big deal when you have curly hair that wants very badly to Rastafy itself into a mess of dreadlocks.

But she stuck with it, and for her birthday in August, I got her a rubber knife that looks like the warrior’s weapon. I also bought her a pair of excellent fairy wings.

As soon as she had all the elements of her costume, she changed her mind. “I think I’ll be a vampire.”

Alice pulled the same stunt, though this year, I was ready for it…sort of.

In spring, when Star Wars was all the rage in preschool, she decided she’d be R2-D2. I started thinking about how we might make the costume, and I even tried a couple of our mixing bowls on her head to see which one I’d use to make the paper mache helmet.

“Alice,” I said, “We’ll do this as a summer craft project.”

I regretted it instantly, and every time she asked, “When are we going to make me my bowl helmet? I want to use the paints,” I shuddered.

We never quite got around to it, and I am so very glad because Alice no longer wants to be R2-D2. She momentarily wanted to be Lucy’s fairy sidekick—until Lucy changed her mind.  Now, she’s on to a new costume idea. New this year, anyway. She wants to be the robot she didn’t want to be last year.

I’m all for it, seeing as how we have the costume and everything. In the meantime, I’m just waiting till the roulette wheel of Halloween dreams stops its spinning. I’m sure I can pull something together on Halloween, which is on a Saturday this year. I have to earn the candy I plan to steal from them somehow, after all.

--Martha Brockenbrough



It sounds like the mom has handled the whole thing with a wonderful mother's heart but as a mother of a 7 &4yr old it would not have gone the same in my house. ha ha. I think our mother's phrase..."You wear what you got and like it" would have come out somewhere. haha We all become those old statments our mother's said sooner or later.


I make it a point to start inquiring on costume choices well in advance. We even sit down in front of the computer and look at the choices so they know what's available. Then I ask them, at intervals, what they've decided. Our purchases aren't made until October but it gives them plenty of time to be sure of their decision.

bz CO Mom

I gave my kids (3&7)a deadline this year. 10 days before Halloween (so we could have time to make or buy what we need). once we've spent any money or effort on the deal, there's no going back. until then they can change a hundred times if they want to. Times UP!


As the mom of 6 total, our youngest three have proven to be worthy opponents when it comes to Halloween costume warfare. Every year we attend the Goodwill Halloween sale and buy several costumes of high quality/low price and wait. When there is a change of mind, we have built in back ups. We have even done the "school" and "trick-or-treat" versions on purpose. The items for our choosiest one are actual clothes or coats to be worn at all times(i.e. a fireman's coat and rainhat,sturdy pirate gear, knight armor, leather vest and sturdy cowboy hat, etc...)The one year I tried to foist my opinion on to him (cutest Harry Potter ever) he promptly broke his glasses and I learned an important lesson in passive aggressive tactics. "If I don't wanna, I ain't gonna"

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