A few hours after offspring Harry drove away from my apartment with a carload of props for their* two-day photo shoot, I received an email alert from Amazon. A package from Zaza Bridal would be delivered the next day. Huh, I wondered. Harry had carried out a boogie board, microwave, plush pink unicorn and a few small boxes, but hadn't said a word about expecting any other packages.
"Do you need this for Friday?" I typed, forwarding the email from my iPhone.
"Nope. halloween :)," they replied.
I smiled. At 24 years old, Harry had put together five different looks for Halloween 2014. That's when they'd informed me that for drag queens Halloween was the equivalent of the World Cup. "Bring your A-game or don't bother playing," they'd said.
"How many costumes planned for this year?" I wrote, which was the same as asking how many parties they'd be going to. I knew my child would never wear the same get up twice.
"Haha at least 4..." Harry answered.
I laughed out loud reading their short list of costume ideas. "Those all sound great! It's SO fun being your mom. xo," I responded. Then I sat back and reveled in the joy of Harry's enthusiasm for Halloween. It had begun at an early age. I remembered their blue ghost at age five, the "purple thing" outfit and handmade mask at six years old, and the standout vampire geisha at nine.
With an audible sigh, I tapped into the parental peace I'd found that assured me my big Halloween mistakes from the years Harry was two and four hadn't stifled their creativity.
Then I thought about the fiercer and more evolved parents of today, like the dad in Virginia whose young son wants to be Elsa from Frozen this year. Those parents understand that clothing doesn't have a gender. They see Halloween for what it is: a holiday that celebrates imagination and gives children a chance to pretend they're someone or something that they're not and flex their inner desire for freedom.
I've learned that if we stifle a child's creative drive because it doesn't conform to what our binary-driven society has imposed as "gender-appropriate," then we risk blocking an important aspect of that child's development. Halloween or not, the message to send to our gender creative, gender flexible, gender nonconforming kids is to reach for happy and always be themselves. And from my experience, children instinctively know to do just that.
That's the thing about kids, they don't think about what they can't do or shouldn't do; they think about what they can do and want to do. They know who they are and don't care what anyone else thinks.
So this year, while my Harry is planning their five costumes, I'm hopeful that the little boys who want to be this year's Pink Power Ranger and the girls who fancy themselves as Antman get the encouragement they need to find and express every magical ounce of their Halloween joy.
*Julie's offspring Harry, who identifies as genderqueer, has no preferred gender pronoun. She likes to use "they" to think of them as a person first, with gender coming second.