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Why I Make My Kids' Halloween Costumes

My parents made costumes with me and my brother when we were kids. One year, I was a lime-green paper-mache octopus that, rather tragically, could not fit through doors. Another year, my brother tried to flee a scary house in his costume -- a long, thin box -- and fell flat on his face.
10/31/2014 11:58am ET | Updated December 31, 2014
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1. Not because it's cheaper. You can buy a Halloween costume on Amazon for under 20 bucks. It's hard to spend less than that at a craft store, what with the siren song of glue guns, glitter and Googly eyes.

2. Not because I have a lot of time on my hands. I'm like many parents: once work, dinner, homework, baths, books and bedtime are done, I usually resolve to relax with a TV show. I find something that is genuinely excellent, suspenseful even, and then I fall asleep three minutes in. Often, there is snoring involved.

3. Not because I'm 'That Mom.' That artsy-crafty mom on Pinterest with all the "super cute" ideas for birthday parties and school lunches? That's not me. For birthdays, we have a few kids over for pizza and a movie. To the extent there's a theme, it's: "Let's all get through this without a trip to the ER, okay?" For school lunches, on the days I get really over-the-top fancy -- and this does not happen often! -- I cut the sandwiches diagonally. So, no, I don't make costumes because I am some sort of domestic diva. In fact, referring to me as a "domestic diva" would cause my entire family to fall to the floor laughing. After that, they would get up and resume eating the cereal we could easily be having for dinner.

The real reason I make my kids' costumes?

Because it's fun. When I'm not at work, I'm usually telling my kids to hurry up, put on their shoes, brush their teeth, run for the bus, eat their beans, put their clothes in the hamper, get to bed, go to sleep, go BACK to sleep... and so on. Every now and again I get to mix it up with something more novel like "stop licking the wall" or "release your brother's head" but, even then, the tone is firm. There are things that need doing, there's a timeline for doing them, and there's a right way -- and a wrong way -- to go about it.

But with the costume making, it's different. For months beforehand, usually in the car, we have conversations about what to be and how we would do that. For example:

"Mom, why would we need foam for the penguin costumes?"

"Because you are not naturally penguin-shaped."

And then, more often than not, we find ourselves agreeing: We agree, for example, that small children are not penguin-shaped, and we decide that on balance that's probably a good thing.

Then, a week or so before Halloween, we assemble the outfits: this year, my 7-year-old daughter had the all-important job of handing me glue sticks, so that I wouldn't have to interrupt my (granted, beginner's ) rhythm with the hot glue gun. Meanwhile, my 5-year-old son was heady with power, overseeing our enormous scissor collection (five different pairs!). As if calling for a scalpel, I'd request a certain pair of scissors, and he'd slap them (safe end out, most of the time) into the palm of my hand. Throughout, there was a tremendous amount of confirming and double confirming.

My parents made costumes with me and my brother when we were kids. One year, I was a lime-green paper-mache octopus that, rather tragically, could not fit through doors. Another year, my brother tried to flee a scary house in his costume -- a long, thin box (robot maybe?) -- and fell flat on his face.

I know that Halloween means different things to different people. Some choose not to celebrate the holiday at all. Other friends focus -- in their costumes and in their activities -- on the ghoulish and macabre. But for me, it's about taking time to play: it's about imagination and creativity and laughter, which brings me to my favorite trick-or-treating exchange of all time. A few years ago on Halloween, I opened the door to a kid wearing homemade prison stripes. I like to make a fuss over every kid's outfit, so I said, "Wow! Are you an escaped convict???" His deadpan reply, as if I were a crazy woman: "Um no. This is a costume."