Max in the autumn leaves, October 2019

If your kid is wearing a half-assed Halloween costume today, come sit with me…

This time last year, it was Max’s first ever Halloween, and I was determined to make it a memorable one. For us, I mean: he was just 10 months old, after all – he wasn’t even going to remember it the next morning, let alone in years to come, but WE would, and this seemed important enough for me to go out and buy him a little Halloween costume, even though we had absolutely no Halloween-related plans, and he would basically just be wearing it around the house.

If I’m totally honest here – and that IS the whole point of this site, after all – I’m pretty sure I mostly did this for Instagram. Because, over on Instagram, I knew – I just KNEW – that The Others would be out in force, with their creative costumes and their surprisingly placid offspring, all of whom would be more than happy to pose for studio-quality photos, wearing some kind of elaborate costume that would go viral on Facebook and make their parents Insta-famous. There would be toddlers dressed in historically-accurate reproductions of Marie Antoinette’s most sensational outfit; there would be mums who’d managed to work out how to ACTUALLY turn their babies into pumpkins… It was going to be HELL, in other words.

And it was, too. When I logged onto Instagram the next morning, everyone’s kid was smiling sweetly in a handmade Halloween costume. Parents were doing laps of honour, while simultaneously fielding calls from Hollywood costume designers looking to hire them.

Max, meanwhile, was in a supermarket-bought Harry Potter outfit, only without the hat, because he refused to wear a hat.

And without a wand, because giving a 10 month old a pointy stick probably wouldn’t win me any Parent of the Year awards, either.

Oh, and also without glasses, a scar, or anything else that would’ve made him look even remotely like Harry Potter.

So, yeah, just a onesie with a cape, basically. And I had to take the cape off when it became obvious that it was just annoying him, so… literally just a onesie, then. GOD.

We tried to take some photos anyway. It was a complete and utter failure.

Max didn’t want to wear his hat, or sit still for photos. He knocked down the artfully positioned pile of Harry Potter books I’d dug out to use as props, and burst into tears every time we pointed the camera at him. The resulting shots weren’t even bad in a funny way, that we could look back on in years to come and be all, “Remember Max’s first Halloween, chortle, chortle!” – they were just BAD. And even though I knew that this was a totally made-up problem, and that the only person putting pressure on me was ME, I still couldn’t help but feel I’d managed to totally half-ass my baby’s first Halloween, by failing to create the precious memories everyone else seemed to be managing without even breaking a sweat. #MAKINGMEMORIES #REALLYHALFASSEDONESTHOUGH

Max playing in the autumn leaves, October 2019

Then, this year, I messed it up again: only this year, I messed it up differently. Well, never let it be said that I’m the type of person to make the same mistake twice: er, even thought I totally AM the kind of person to do that, obviously.

First of all, I tried to half-ass Max’s Halloween costume by not even buying one in the first place. Yes, it surprised me too, to be totally honest, but, at some point in the past 12 months, I’d managed to do a complete 180 on Halloween and all it stands for, and, instead of seeing it as an opportunity to make magical memories that would last us a lifetime, I’d slipped back into my cynical, pre-kids position of seeing it as a complete waste of money, really.

Now, in my defence, because of the whole ‘minimal opportunities to work’ situation, we don’t have a lot of money to waste right now. Max needs new shoes. He constantly seems to need new clothes. Christmas is coming up, with his birthday right after it, and wouldn’t it make more sense to buy him things he’d actually wear/use for more than just a few hours, than something he’d be totally oblivious to, anyway?

I mean, he may be a year older, but he’s not even 2 yet. He has no idea what Halloween is, or how wearing a costume is different from wearing anything else I put on him: so, does it REALLY matter if we just skip it this year, then go all-out next year, when he actually knows a bit about what’s happening?

I thought so.

Or, I THOUGHT I thought so, at any rate.

Then the weekly playgroup Max goes to announced they’d be having a Halloween theme this week, complete with fancy dress and appropriate activities. And, the next thing I knew, I was all over Amazon, desperately trying to panic-buy a last-minute Halloween costume that would look good on the ‘gram but ALSO be practical during messy play.

It did not go well.

I mean, I found tons of great costumes, don’t get me wrong. It was just … none of them were actually things Max would be able to wear to playgroup, really. Most of them, in fact, seemed to take the form of footed onesies (Which would be useless in the slippy-floored sports hall his playgroup is held in), in a thick, furry fabric which would be way, way too warm for an indoor party. Other options, meanwhile, all seemed to rely on things like hats, tails or other accessories that I knew Max would either instantly remove, or just point-blank refuse to put on in the first place.

Abandoning all hope the internet, then, we jumped into the car and made a late-night dash to a retail park nearby to look for costumes in the flesh, so to speak.

That didn’t go well, either: in fact, pretty much all that was on offer was a wide selection of Disney princess costumes for children aged 7+, and a solitary Spiderman outfit that would’ve fit me.

So, the supermarket it was, then.

Max, Autumn 2019

The supermarket, by contrast, had tons of costumes. It was just… did I REALLY need to spend £15 on a polyester skeleton suit that he’d literally wear for 2 hours, before it got thrown in the ‘donate’ pile (No doubt to ultimately end up as landfill), I wondered? I’m still wondering, to be totally honest. At that particular moment, though, I just couldn’t bring myself to spend the money on a 2-hour outfit, which is why we left the supermarket empty-handed, and headed home, still without either a costume or a clue.

(I’m just going to pause briefly here, because I can sense you all gearing up to suggest that I could’ve just made him something, instead. No, I really couldn’t. I am not even 1% ”crafty”, you see – in fact, Not Being Crafty was one of the arguments I once made in favour of not having children: because there just seems to be SO MANY OCCASIONS when you’re required to partake in crafting, and. GOD, I hate crafting. But I digress…)

I just don’t have the skill to make a Halloween costume from scratch, unfortunately, so I was officially all out of ideas… until Terry suddenly remembered the “Daddy and Baby” novelty PJs my parents gave him last year.

There were two packs of these: one allowing father and son to dress as Jedis, the other as Batman and Robin. They’d been too big for Max when he got them, but they should fit him now: perfect! Terry would take one for the team and wear a costume to match Max’s, and, just like that, the day would be saved!

“Remember to look out those costumes,” I said to Terry that night as I went to bed. And then I said it the next night, and the night after that. Finally, the night before the costumes would be required, Terry produced them from the darkest recesses of his closet… and that’s when we realised that they weren’t actually “costumes” at all, were they?

No, it was just a couple of t-shirts:

HAlloween 2019

(And, OK, a couple of light sabres, which we already had. Doesn’t everyone. though?)

“Don’t like this,” commented Max, as I wrestled him into his t-shirt the next morning. “Take this off me, mummy!” And so began yet another half-assed Halloween, once again documented with a total of three blurry iPhone photos, none of which feature everyone looking at the camera at the same time.


Only not really.

But still.

We went to playgroup in our half-assed Halloween costumes, and Max had a ball. He painted a pumpkin orange. (Which was a really big change for the pumpkin, obviously: I hope it’ll be OK…) He pulled gooey eyeballs out of slime. He remained completely and utterly oblivious to the fact that some of the other kids were wearing costumes … while I noted with relief that many others weren’t, and that no one present appeared to care either way.

It was, in other words, not even remotely the Big Deal I’d made it out to be in my own head.

If I’m honest, I still feel a tiny bit guilty – or maybe disappointed is a better word – that I don’t seem to be able to pull off the kind of costumes/photos/experiences the Instagram mums seem to manage on the daily. Because I’d like that, really. I’d like to have a collection of beautiful, well-lit photos to look back on. I’d like to have come up with some kind of cute, creative costume for him, that he’d look at one day, and think, “Aww, that’s so cool that mum did that for me!”

But, well, it didn’t quite work out like that, did it? I might not have the photos or the costume, though, but I DO have an orange-painted pumpkin, and the memory of a little boy shrieking with laughter as he raced around the room, with absolutely no clue that it was his second-ever Halloween. Oh, and, of course, I have next year to get it right this time. There’s always next year.

So, if your kid is also currently dressed in a half-assed Halloween costume; if you didn’t get a single decent photo, and you’re scrolling through Instagram feeling a bit like you’re failing at life, parenthood, and everything else, rest assured, you are not alone – and you’re not failing, either. Or, if YOU are, then I am too: so at least we’re all in it together, right?

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books by Amber Eve
  • Instagram has no chill when it comes to Halloween, does it? People seem to have been ready for it since July, so I can see where the pressure comes from. But if it’s any consolation, there are no photos of any of my childhood Halloweens (it was always a big deal in the north of Ireland because we don’t do bonfire night) and I have overwhelmingly fond memories of them even though, or perhaps BECAUSE our costumes every year were just basically bin bags. Witch costume? BIN BAGS. A ghost? Ghost mask and BIN BAGS. Banshee? BIN BAGS with some added wailing. Any mask went beautifully with bin bags to make a stylish and practical and cheap costume. So don’t worry about half-assing it – we were dressed in literal bin bags (as were most of our peers) and the memories are very happy!

    October 31, 2019
    • Sharon


      My bin bag costume was a mars bar, with mini mars bar wrappers stapled to it. Ah the 80s. That’s what Halloween is about. Half assed costumes that everyone will laugh about in twenty years time.

      November 1, 2019
  • Lyndsey


    I’ve made my two year old a Stranger Things costume out of electricians tape. My sister, who is actually a prop designer, whilst I’m an accountant, suggested maybe I should have just bought him a costume on the internet ?.

    We aren’t even going anywhere. It’s only for a picture for my Instagram. And I only have like 100 followers. What the f’ am I doing?! ?

    My baby daughter’s subway sandwich costume, where’s she’s just wrapped in subway paper and has lettuce glued to her hat worked out well though!

    October 31, 2019
    • Lila


      It’s really no big deal, all over in a few hours, I don’t have any Halloween pictures of any of my kids in costume. I have never made a costume in my life for any playgroup, nursery, or school. Please don’t feel ANY pressure because you have made Max dress up for an Instagram picture, you shouldn’t be feeling like that, it doesn’t matter one but. As you have seen for you Terry and Max it is memories that matter, and you are certainly making lots of those in everything you do. It shouldn’t be for the Internet just for your wee family alone; each to their own, you be you xxx

      October 31, 2019
      • Lila


        *because you haven’t made Max dress up

        October 31, 2019
  • Lara


    This is great! I did the complete opposite and spent a week making my 19 month old a hedwig outfit, which I knew he’d hate because he hates anything on his head and the cape ‘wings’ did not prove favourable on their test run. However I kept going with it and then had to wrestle him into it for his Halloween party. I don’t even use Instagram, but it was definitely all for the photo! To add insult to injury, the only way I could get him to wear the hat (which had the owl eyes and beak) was by keeping his hands busy with a packet of crisps so all the photos look like I’m sponsoring pom bears! Next year I am 100% going half assed!

    October 31, 2019
  • You’ve done better than me, sent mine off to the childminder in regular clothes today. No costume in sight, nor any plans for one. She’s 2y and 4 months, she too has no idea what the heck it is all about, and if I can get away with not bothering you bet I will, because in years to come that will not be an option anymore! She did however have monster porridge for breakfast which I was pretty proud of – just a bit of green food dye stirred in, probably just enough to worry the childminder about the contents of the potty when she wees! 🙂 That counts, right?!

    October 31, 2019
  • Brenda


    I have quite a few Halloweens where there are no photos. None. I was fortunate enough that Instagram wasn’t that big a deal when my kids were going out trick or treating, but there were some cool ideas on Pinterest. Now they just come up with their own costumes being near-adult age. Which is fine by me. I have never really loved “Helloween” much. As an aside, just put Max in that cute Hudson’s Bay jacket and tell people he is a cute Canadian! 😉

    October 31, 2019
  • Nicole


    Costumes are definitely more fun once kids are old enough to pick out their own, or help put it together. I had a great time putting together costumes in elementary and middle school–granted I was usually just some variation on a witch (black dress + “spooky” shawl).

    My only negative costume-related memories are from the ages of about 5-8 when my mom made me wear a jacket either under or over them to go trick or treating. My sister had the worst of it though–my mom made her wear a white turtleneck under her belly dancer costume when she was probably about 12 years old ?.

    October 31, 2019
  • Miss Kitty


    I would say if your kid’s not fussed about dressing up, why bother what anyone else thinks ? Does he tolerate face paint? Even the basic costume (i.e regular clothes) looks like a costume if you can paint a cat nose or tiger stripes on their face. Presuming that he will sit still that long!

    November 1, 2019
  • My baby got a £6 costume from George at Asda … can I sit with you 😉

    November 1, 2019
  • We didn’t really bother with Alice – she had a hand-me-down black cat onesie which was officially her costume, but she didn’t wear it on the actual day. I agree – there’s not a lot of point at that age; they’ve no idea what’s going on. The photos would be nice, but I’d rather they were too busy having fun to stop and pose for me.

    It’s different now Matilda’s four because she’s very aware of it and of what her friends do and do not do. I feel icky buying her polyester tat from supermarkets which is such poor quality she can’t even pass it down to Alice, but I don’t have the time, skill or money (because materials cost even more money than her £8 witch’s dress) to make anything good enough, and we don’t want to be the weird, uptight parents who don’t let our kid have fun. I don’t know – do I tut at us parents for perpetuating all of this purple plastic consumerism or do I tut at the supermarkets for exploiting us? Also: how long can I avoid taking her guising for?!

    November 1, 2019
  • God, reading your blog gives me hope. I don’t actually have a kid yet (and because of you I’ve decided if I have one I’m having an elective C-section!), but I absolutely LOATHE crafting. (And socializing. And other peoples’ expectations.) I also don’t see the point of spending a ton of money on stuff my kid won’t even remember. I figure I’m going to snap one photo of my toddler crying beside a pumpkin because I wouldn’t let them eat hay, and then do some autumnal activity like a corn maze with them and be done with it.

    November 5, 2019
  • I also felt reluctant to spend the money on a costume that would only be worn once but luckily a friend passed me on an outfit her kid had grown out of. One of my parenting disappointments is that I never managed to take fancy milestone photos. I attempted it for a few months but most of them didn’t turn out great and I ended up giving up.

    November 5, 2019
  • I failed at Halloween this year also.

    Last year Brodie wore a pumpkin onesie and even tolerated the hat for a while. Super cute.

    This year I had a hand-me-down Halloween t-shirt ready in his drawer. I knew that October 31st was Halloween. I knew Thursday was October 31st. I just didn’t make the connection that Thursday was Halloween. I forgot to put the t-shirt on him…

    November 8, 2019