Monday, October 31, 2011

The Horrors of Halloween

     Today is Halloween, the day each year that my daughter reminds me once again of how I ruined her childhood. I was not a perfect mother, I admit, and looking back, I must confess that some of my choices were rather dismal and damaging. On this particular today, we spend much time discussing the reasons I would not indulge my children in store-bought Halloween costumes, insisting instead on using my creative talents to whip up disguises of princesses or zombies, depending on gender preference.  I couldn't help myself, sometimes; my deep-core, fundamentally rooted frugalness refused to give in to my daughter's pleas and tears for a store-bought costume, and I was hell-bent and determined to get through their childhood without dropping a dime on a store-bought, flimsy, mass-reproduced, made-in-China costume.
      We had plenty of materials on hand to create every imaginable princess, fairy, or bride get-up that a young girl could possibly want. I was in the possession of a thoroughly reliable sewing machine, a cabinet full of make-up, and enough glitter and glue to create just about any illusion required to transform a young girl into a magical creature. My son was perfectly happy with fake blood and ghoulish gashes across his face. All he wanted was a pillowcase large enough to hold his candy, and he was good to go. My daughter, in training for a future as a fashion conscious shop-aholic, spent her years pining for a store-bought costume. Not just any costume, mind you. She wanted to be a blue M&M, perhaps in a subconscious nod to her love of chocolate.  I tried to convince her that I could whip up an M&M costume in any color her heart desired, in about three minutes time at that, and for about $1; plus, I argued,  it's so much more FUN to make a costume!! But somehow,  my home-made concept of a blue M&M just didn't compare to the store-bought version. There weren't enough tantrums, tears, or tirades, however,  that would make me cross the line of my philosophical commitment to refuse to buy-in to the childhood belief that commercial costumes are better than homemade ones, and she never, ever, ever got to buy that blue M&M.  
   It is one of the reasons my children will be left penniless upon my death, having spent all the family funds on therapy trying to correct my past wrongs.  Actually, there are three things I did in their childhood for which they will never forgive me, and for which they will spend the rest of their lives in therapy trying to figure out.
        1. I refused to buy them store-bought Halloween costumes.
        2. I refused to buy them store-bought birthday cakes, insisting instead on my own, thoughtfully inspired confections, whipped up by the loving hands of their very own mother.
        And finally, the Grandaddy of all bad decisions:
        3. I would not let them buy a bear from Build-A-Bear.
       Oh, don't get me wrong, I took them to Build-A-Bear all the time. We would watch the other children pay an outrageous amount of money to stuff a placid acrylic form with polyeurathane foam, then insert a tiny plastic heart that would magically give birth to their newly created, but still lifeless, pets.  They would watch those lucky children select tiny outfits that came with designer price-tags, watch them dress their over-priced bears as cheerleaders or doctors or such, and watch them march happily out of the store with a bear-in-a-box that cost their over-indulgent parents close to $100.  Nope, not for me. I let my children watch those other privileged children create and purchase their overpriced bears; in fact, we stopped at Build-A-Bear quite frequently.  But not once did I ever actually let them go through the process of creating, dressing, and buying their own bear. It just seemed like such a waste to pay $100 for a $3 bear.
      After years and years and years of hearing how damaged this left them, I finally offered on their 21st birthday to take them to Build-A-Bear and actually LET THEM MAKE and PURCHASE THEIR VERY OWN BEAR! They both politely refused, opting for therapy instead.
     So now, once again, as Halloween arrives, I must spend the day hearing how I have ruined the life of my daughter because I refused to buy her a blue M&M costume when she was five years old.  I think she has reconciled with the birthday cake thing, but we spend some considerable time rehashing the Build-A-Bear Fiasco.
     Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, parents just can't win. My decisions as a young parent were all done with the good intentions of instilling in my children a sense of frugality, self-restraint, independence and principles. I didn't realize at the time how much damage I was unconsciously inflicting on the psyche of my daughter.  And so, each year, as this day approaches,  and as the stores and magazines and commercials are flooded with the sirene call to purchase a costume, I am reminded of the  horrors I inflicted on her childhood Halloweens, of how my children had  to march through the high-brow neighborhoods of the toney West End in their cheesey, homemade costumes, and how it ruined her life.
    But at least now, in all my aged-wisdom, I'm willing to spend a buck on some real good therapy-- just not on a store-bought costume.

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