I don’t really know why, as I’m not generally into complete self-delusion, but for some reason, I was quite certain that once I had a child, I would never just run out and buy a Halloween costume at the store. Making homemade Halloween costumes, I said to myself, was a bonding experience, a chance to be creative, the kind of thing that good mothers did.
Then Ruby was actually born; I no longer had any free time; and with the haze of “nesting” hormones gone, I remembered that I can’t even sew on a button. So for her first Halloween, when she was 10 months old, she was an adorable pink octopus in a costume I bought online.
The following year, when she was 22 months, she went as Little Red Riding Hood, a play on her nickname, Red (for Ruby). My costume-making skills had not miraculously improved, but my former mother-in-law, Ruby’s Nana, is incredibly gifted with a needle, so she made Ruby’s costume that year.
After that, when Ruby was almost 3, she declared weeks ahead of time that she wanted to be “a mean tree.” I applauded her out-of-the-box thinking, but I had no idea what she was talking about. Then one day, as I was picking her up at day care, she pointed to one of the Halloween window clings, which was, in fact, a spooky-looking tree. “That, Mama,” she said emphatically. “I want to be that mean tree.” And so an order was given to Nana in St. Louis, complete with a picture of the mean tree in question, and Nana sent back an elaborate mean tree costume. It was exactly what I’d envisioned: a fun, offbeat idea; a homemade costume; everyone working together (even if my contribution was just snapping a picture of the window cling with my cell phone camera).
So last year, I was a little disappointed when Ruby told me she just wanted to be Cinderella. Or Snow White. Or Sleeping Beauty. Or Tiana. Ruby already had all of those costumes in her dress-up box, so I just bought her some plastic high heels and some clip-on earrings, and we hit the town to collect candy. It was fun, and she looked cute, but Cinderella just didn’t have the je ne sais quoi of the mean tree.
This year, it’s not even October yet, but costume plans are already in full swing – and I think I might even be able to handle making the costume myself. This year, Ruby wants to be the Sleep Fairy.
The Sleep Fairy, in case y’all don’t know, is probably the worst parenting idea I’ve ever had. In a deep, awful fog of sleep deprivation, I started Googling things like: “child almost 4 won’t stay asleep in own bed don’t want to do Cry It Out” and “4 year old not sleeping through night any gentle solutions?” And Google called me a huge weenie for not being able to handle Cry It Out. Google pointed me to Super Nanny’s techniques of just wordlessly walking a child back to his or her bed as many times a night as it takes. Google told me I was just going to have to suck it up or she’d be sleeping with me through junior high. Finally, way at the bottom of Page 1, Google suggested that the Sleep Fairy come and bring a small present for every night the child slept in his or her own bed until morning.
It seemed like the gentlest idea, so I went to the dollar store and spent $5 on cheap trinkets. Like most discipline ideas I find online, it worked perfectly – the first time. But because I am a huge weenie, I gave her the rest of the presents anyway, even if she didn’t make it through the whole night. Now she’s almost 5, she sleeps better but not incredibly well, and I (aka the Sleep Fairy) give her a cheap present almost every single day. As I said, this is not one of my proud parenting accomplishments. I cringe whenever she talks about the Sleep Fairy in front of other children or her teachers. They all, even the little kids, give me this look like: “Seriously? You give your child a present just for going to sleep in her own bed? Lady, you are the worst kind of sucker.” I am. I know. I have told her the Sleep Fairy stops bringing presents once you turn 5 and only brings you dreams, and she seems to accept this, but right now, she just gets so much joy out of the silly tradition that I can’t bring myself to just stop it outright.
Anyway, as much as the Sleep Fairy is a source of lingering shame for me, Ruby loves “her” (the Sleep Fairy, incidentally, sometimes leaves Ruby strongly worded notes about the importance of taking her medicine or being a good listener, so at least it wasn’t a total failure). And so this year, as an homage, she wants to be the Sleep Fairy for Halloween.
“What does she look like?” I asked.
“Nobody knows,” Ruby said solemnly. “But I know she has wings, and she must have a wand to ‘poof’ the presents because I’m sure it’s too heavy to fly with a bag full of toys. And I think she wears … she wears a pink tie-dyed dress with boots.”
Sewing is not a skill I will ever have, but thanks to several summers in high school spent as a camp counselor at the CAC arts camp, I can tie-dye with the best of ‘em.
And so this year, I may finally reach my goal of a creative, original, homemade costume that she and I can make together. Yes, it’s basically a costume of Parenting Failure and Overindulgence – but it’s a costume of Parenting Failure and Overindulgence that we’re going to make ourselves! I’ll take what I can get these days.
Are you thinking about Halloween costumes yet? Homemade? Store-bought?