Family life

I’m terrible at Halloween

With Halloween fast approaching, Tracy Chappell realizes she's more than a little behind on the kids' costume prep.

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Avery and Anna get into the Halloween spirit. Photo: Tracy Chappell

Follow along as Today’s Parent senior editor Tracy Chappell shares her refreshingly positive take on parenting her two young daughters. She’s been blogging her relatable experiences for our publication since 2005.

I’m terrible at Halloween.

This is supposed to be the fun part, right? Spooky decorations, cool costumes, and candy overload. How could any parent fail at Halloween?

I always start out with the best of intentions. This year, I say, I’m going to start early. This year, I’m going to scour Pinterest, and our own fabulous costume guide (which is packed with easy-but-awesome costumes) and present my daughters with some amazing dress-up options. Or I’ll tell them to let their minds run free — as free as they can possibly run — to come up with fantastical, incredible ideas for Halloween dress-up, and then I’ll find creative ways to turn them into reality.

And then life gets in the way, and it’s suddenly the week before Halloween and there are no concrete plans. Someone asks one of the girls what she wants to be for Halloween, and if she says something that sounds hard to whip up, I steer her down another path — the one that leads directly to our dress-up dresser. “What about this awesome fairy/dinosaur/witch costume?” I suggest. Usually they’re easy to agree to the suggestions, and it makes life easier. I tell myself that I’m being practical, and they always enjoy Halloween, but I did cringe a little bit when they decided to start wearing the same costumes two (or, gulp, three) years in a row. Was I squashing their creativity at this time of year — and this time of their lives — that’s all about letting their imaginations roam?

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We do enjoy the lead-up to Halloween: We decorate the inside and outside of the house (not extravagantly, but we do love our decorations). We go to the pumpkin patch. This year, I picked up a haunted gingerbread house that we built together; other years we’ve made pavlova ghosts or baked cookies to decorate. This is the kind of stuff I like to do. I’ve just started to realize that my own disdain for dressing up has maybe soured my enthusiasm for helping my kids Think Big about costumes.

Or maybe not. Anna has decided that she wants to be a butterfly, based on a cool pair of plastic glasses my parents bought her. She is going to wear all black, with an everyday skirt she has with butterflies on it, fairy wings she got at a birthday party, and a light-up head thingie she found in our Halloween box. I’m not sure how it will all come together, but she seems pretty jazzed that she’s dreamed this up, and I am too, since it obviously took no sewing, construction or assembly skills on my part. Avery wants to be a witch (which she was last year), or a cat (which Anna was last year). Of course, I suggested she dress up as Belle, since I bought her a way-too-expensive costume for her birthday in the hopes that she’d wear it for this Halloween. Because I’m practical. But I know my job is to help her dreams take flight. Maybe next year…

How do you decide on Halloween costumes at your house?