I have never been a big fan of Halloween. Not for any specific reason. It just has never been something I have been particularly interested in. Oh, I remember dressing up as a child. Some years in simple, homemade costumes, other years in more elaborate ones. But, as a parent, I have never been overly enthusiastic about dressing up my kids in crazy, expensive costumes. Most years, I buy something pre-made, that the girls pick out from a catalog, simply because it’s easier. I have tried buying costumes so that parts of them can be re-used or re-worn. But, that has never worked.
As you may guess, O does not like costumes. When he was younger, he was frightened by people wearing even the simplest accessory. I remember when we visited his speech therapist near Halloween one year and she was wearing a headband with fuzzy cat ears. Aside from the headband, all other things were normal. Yet, he would not even look at her until she took off those cat ears. Even now, there are times when his sisters are “made up” that he will shy away from them, especially when A wears her green lip gloss. (To be honest, that is rather frightening for everyone!)
Maybe because I sensed that he wouldn’t like them or because it was easier for me, I did not attempt costumes for O for his first two Halloweens. By the time he was two, his sensory needs were so evident that I knew he wouldn’t wear a costume. Didn’t try one that year either.
It wasn’t until last year, that O expressed interest in wearing a costume. He choose Thomas the Tank Engine (of course). The costume came in the mail about two weeks before Halloween. During those two weeks, I helped him become familiar with the costume, how it looked, how it felt, how it fit, etc. On Halloween night, he did wear the costume, for about five minutes, which was long enough for me to get a picture. He did end up wearing the hat, though, for a good portion of the evening.
This year, O picked his costume again. He wants to be a pumpkin. Technically it’s a jack-o-lantern, which I figured out by showing him photos of different costumes, but I’m not going to argue with him. To him, it’s a pumpkin. This year, his costume will be homemade. I took him with me to get all the materials and am planning to involve him in the process as much as possible. I’m hoping this will help him feel more comfortable with his costume on Halloween.
While the costume, itself, and whether or not he wears it, are not important to me, the fact that he is trying is. His desire to fit in is increasing. He wants to wear a costume because everyone else will be wearing one. I sense that it is important to him to “do Halloween” because his sisters and friends are so excited about it. While this may not be a good reason to do everything, in this situation, peer pressure is providing my son, who experiences the world differently, a chance to be like others.
One of my favorite quotes is by Eleanor Roosevelt. She said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I have absolutely found this to be true in my own life. However, as usual, when looking at the world from my son’s perspective, I see comparison very differently.
I see that there is a time and place for comparison. Comparing ourselves to others can often help push us to do things that we want, but maybe are afraid, to do. As long as we use comparison for motivation and not to devalue ourselves, it can be beneficial. It can motivate us to do more, to be more, if that’s what we desire. When we see others do something, we know that it’s possible, and we don’t feel as afraid. So, I’m grateful that O is making those comparisons. That way, he can push himself to do more than is completely comfortable for him.
I don’t know what this Halloween will bring. Whether he wears his costume or not, I don’t really care. This is just one more exercise, one more experience that brings him closer to his peers. For O, life is about taking steps, building patterns, and each of these experiences help him develop greater confidence and discover that he CAN do it.