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October 24, 2008

Wishing for a Homemade Halloween

4 There are many different forms of maternal guilt.  The too much TV, processed food guilt.  The formula vs. breastfeeding guilt.  The not enough quality time in the day guilt.  I don't have any of that.  In general I find guilt to be a waste of time emotion.  But, then Halloween comes around and I am awash in an inexplicable, overpowering guilt - the guilt over not making my daughters' Halloween costumes from scratch.

I know in the grand scheme of things buying your child's Halloween costume at the store or from a catalog is perfectly acceptable, but I can't shake the feeling that this is the ultimate cop out in a mass consumer world.  The Halloween costumes I remember the best from my youth were the ones that my mother made.  These are the ones that took both imagination and planning.   Some were successful; like the time I was a can of Tropicana orange juice and my best friend was a can of Delmonte peas.  Some were not so successful; like the time I wanted to be Olivia Newton John at the end of Grease (in the slutty, greaser outfit.)  My mother put me in a black leotard and tights for that one and I ended up looking more like Marcel Marceau than Sandy.  But, no matter what, come Halloween a costume was made and looked like none other on the streets of Brooklyn.

Its hard to persuade your child to don a homemade outfit when the store bought one is so shiny and perfect, a vision right out of TV.   Even worse, its impossible to fight against the dreaded princess costume - all frills and poufy layers, glittery and generic at the same time.  There is something so blah about seeing the parade of princesses up and down the streets with the same exact costume.   The color may vary but its the same thing none the less.  No one remembers the girl in the princess costume, but they all remember the kid dressed like an ipod.

So, we have improvised.  A store bought costume with a little customization thrown in.  One year my daughter was a unicorn which we purchased on ebay, but we attached a doll size baby carrier to it and put in a baby stuffed unicorn so at least she was a mommy unicorn.  The next year I had a homemade costume breakthrough when my daughter decided to be a tropical tree.  Her preschool did not allow stuffed animals from home to come to school, and my daughter was basically trying to figure out a legitimate way to smuggle them in.  I dressed her all in brown, built a nest in her hair out of yarn and filled it up with fake birds from Chinatown.  Then I sewed fake vines all over her and wrapped a toy monkey around her arm.  It was a costume she will never forget, not just because she was completely unique but because she was so incredibly proud of creating it.

This Halloween my daughters want to be a cat and a pirate.  They both ended up buying their costumes.  It was hard to say no and insist on making their costumes when they were both so excited about buying the ones they saw in the store.  But, hopefully we will be able to twist and tweak them, make them a little more personal and specific.  In the end I know that this homemade costume guilt is like most mom guilt, pointless and completely adult-centric.  For the last three years one of my daughters was some variation on a princess.  She was thrilled to dress up in that mass produced dress.  And, in the end, that is what Halloween is all about - the act of dressing up and being a kid out trick or treating with the feeling that you are something or someone else - homemade or not.  Though I'm secretly hoping that next year one of my daughters will want to be a washing machine or a lego or something that we can create together from scratch.  Until then I'll be eating left over Halloween candy and dreaming of homemade Halloweens gone by.

This is an original nycmomsblog post.

Rebecca Levey is a freelance writer and mother of twin girls.  She lives, parents and tries to maintain her sense of humor in New York City.

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