Mom guilt. We find it in the most ordinary things. The lunches we pack for school. The forgotten signed permission slip. The t-shirt in the school photo when the notice about picture day went unnoticed. The fever you missed. The movie you won’t let them see yet. The list goes on and on and on. Some of it you become inured to. Barely registering it on the seismograph of your day, letting the comment go about the possible GMOs in your kids’ jelly because you were too busy checking the labels to get the one that didn’t include high fructose corn syrup. You just can’t win ’em all.
But other harbingers of mommy guilt are harder to avoid. And they are different for all of us. The majority of these bigger guilt inducers coming from deep within our historical or cultural psyche. I found myself confronted with one in the costume aisle of Party City this weekend.
This year. Both my children will be wearing store bought Halloween costumes.
I know this wouldn’t make many of you bat an eye. But growing up, every year, my mom made our costumes, or we put them together ourselves when we were old enough. Each year, we’d brainstorm ideas then head with mom over to the Piece Goods fabric store, searching the plastic pull out drawers for patterns that could accommodate our witches and 50s girls and crayons. We’d wander the aisles for fabric, picking out buttons from the wall full of a myriad of colors and sizes. I’d stare in awe as the women would measure our wares, sluicing through the fabric in one fluid motion with a pair of orange handled scissors (I still feel a deep-seated satisfaction when I get just the right kind of Christmas wrapping paper that allows me to sluice through the paper in similar fashion. Strange the things that stick with you.). At home, we’d help my mom pin the various pieces as she’d cut and sew and create that year’s costume (on top of her full-time job and mothering duties).
Never. In my childhood. Did I wear a store bought costume.
And in my naiveté, I actually thought that made me weird. In a bad way. There were times when I just wanted to go buy a Smurfette costume with the creepy plastic faces like the rest of my class and be done with it. But I’d always end up proud of them, in the end. Knowing they were real. Knowing that my mom and I had done that. I remember being a clown, Little Red Riding Hood, a hobo, a crayon, a witch. That black witch’s dress going on to become a pilgrim, Dolly Madison, a goddess and Virginia Dare for a variety of school-related projects (it’s all about the right accessories, people).
So, I feel a sort of failure each Halloween my children opt for the plastic-y store bought creations. Now, I have made a few costumes for them in the past – there was the Thomas the Train year (that only made it to three houses because the little dude was sick, total waste) and the crayon I made out of a pillowcase (a low-rent version of the felt one my mom made, but looked great, nonetheless) and last year’s minion. But this year, my astronaut and ninja will trick or treat in all their pre-fabbed glory.
A piece of me misses the homemade costume, if for no other reason than the time we spent as a family working on them. I tried to make an outing of it with the 8 year old to go look for his costume this past weekend. After 10 minutes, he’d picked his number off the wall, immune to my more creative, build-it-yourself suggestions. We then spent 5 more minutes arguing over his sword accessory since this mama knows that thing is just a weapon of little brother destruction. And that was that. A swipe of the card and a hanging of the bag in the closet when we got home and Halloween prep is over. No magic. No moment. No nothing.
Maybe it’s because they are boys and the dressing up thing doesn’t hold as many options as it did for my sister and I. Maybe we are all just too busy and I need to let it go. Maybe they are just too young to believe they can do it themselves. Maybe Halloween costumes just aren’t my thing the way they were my mom’s. After all, I don’t own a sewing machine (nor do I have any desire to do so).
But maybe next year I can institute a homemade costume edict. Force them into a little creativity. See what we all can come up with. Or maybe we’ll just buy another pre-made costume, call it a day, and spend our time doing something else as a family.
It’s strange to see how things that were so monumental to me as a child aren’t even desires of my own kids. It can be hard to let that go. But seeing what new things we create together that have become tantamount to the people they are becoming is pretty amazing, too. In 30 years, when the boys are fathers themselves, I wonder what memories they’ll hold onto?