After a combined 13 years as a parent, this was pretty much my first Halloween.
By “combined 13,” I mean that I have an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old. And by “first Halloween,” I mean this was the first time that I did what I picture parents of “normal” kids doing.
By the way, Halloween has long been my favorite holiday, I think mostly because I love the idea of identity fluidity, of putting on masks, of excuses to look at people. Despite my status as a media professor, I’m not a big fan of horror movies; instead I like Halloween as an oddball American ritual. The fact that we don’t even really understand it while we do it is another reason to love it. Basically, I love the decorations and themes and PG-rated stuff – all the things that kids can easily like. So I was always primed to be a great Halloween dad, but in 13 combined years…nada.
Dar has hated Halloween. He hates being put up in costumes. (To be fair, he hates all clothes.) He hates being led around the neighborhood at night. He hates being escorted to stranger’s doors. He hates being asked to go to doors alone. He hates all the weird decorations. At best, he has no idea what they are. I just told you he doesn’t know when it’s his birthday, he certainly can’t be expected to figure out Halloween.
One plus from this year: he was actually willing to wear his costume hat. He normally refuses to wear any hat at all. WIN.
I wouldn’t say his brother has hated Halloween, but he’s small, and has found it very scary. We went trick-or-treating two years ago, when R was three, and maybe the second house had some silly hand jump out from behind a pumpkin, and R freaked and wanted to go home, and we did. Last year, when he was four, it rained. We tried, but it definitely rained.
This year the stars aligned for several reasons: it didn’t rain; for the first time, both my kids are at the same school; it’s an elementary school which means that it basically shuts down/gives itself to parties when Halloween falls on a weekday (which it did); I didn’t really have to work (except on my many projects) because none of my semester’s three classes meet on Tuesday; I had the perfect Halloween costume. Let me describe for you the perfect Halloween costume: the costume that you think EVERYONE will have but you find out NO ONE has. That’s your perfect costume. That was me as David S. Pumpkins this year.
I was happy to provide pumpkin-shaped cookies to both my kid’s classes, as well as popsicles for my younger kid’s kindergarten class, because they voted that they wanted a popsicle party on Halloween (go figure). My popsicles made it to kindergarten but I missed the party because I was flitting about, and occasionally getting in some good writing/editing. I managed to watch the fifth-grader dance as well as the Cal Band. I heartily participated in Thousand Oaks’ Halloween Parade. This is Dar’s fourth such parade but my first time in it; I didn’t even know they closed off Solano for it.
I haven’t bothered to chaperone Dar at school on Halloween partly because I have often had work, partly because I figure the day is already a nice break for his one-on-one aide. Not sure what to make of Dar’s opinion of all the school Halloween folderol…he certainly can’t tell us. Maybe he hates all the noise and decorations, maybe he thinks they’re okay. I did manage to snap a photo of him smiling, but that was like catching a passing unicorn.
My Tuesday routine, established in September, is to pick up Dar’s brother when he gets out of school at 1:20, take him to the nearby bookstore where we read, and then pick up Dar at 2:05. Yesterday, however, we could hear Dar SCREAMING bloody murder from all the way across the school. How Halloween-appropriate! Oh, reader, we haven’t even done the post-IEP blog post yet! At some point I need to tell you about how newly out-of-control Dar now is. Anyway, yesterday, I decided to give his aide a break and take Dar home early. I don’t really believe in such things, partly because time-in-school mandates matter, but maybe all those screams indicated the witching hour.
That evening, Dar’s brother and I went trick-or-treating, basically for his first time. We did Russell Street, Berkeley’s premiere Halloween location, with his best friend. I think two years of seeing kids on Halloween on TV helped normalize the experience for him, or else he would have freaked. He still had one big meltdown, although in his case I can just pick him up and hug him and carry him until he calms down.
But isn’t this blog supposed to be about Dar? Sure, but this week it’s about the compartmentalization of Dar. Every parent eventually realizes that they can’t spend every minute worrying about or being involved with their kid. That lesson gets a little harder when it comes to things like holiday rituals. For example, I don’t want to be the one to tell the parent who isn’t allowed to see their kid on Christmas (for example, because of a court order) “Hey, just stop thinking about your kid for five minutes.” Nope, I won’t be the one to say that.
However, right this minute on this blog I will boldly declare that I want to enjoy my younger kid’s next ten Halloweens or so, and to do that I have to let Dar be Dar…which means he sits in the house with his Mom while I go trick-or-treating with R. It kinda works well for everyone because his Mom doesn’t want to go out, and I don’t like leaving the bowl of candy on the porch (people just steal it). So here it is: going forward on Halloween, I absolve myself from Dar-worries. I plan to have as much fun as I had this year. Going forward I plan to release my inner David S. Pumpkins.