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 although 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 although 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
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.
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:
(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.
WE WIN AT HALLOWEEN.
Only not really.
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?