It's tough to be a parent at Hallowe'en. I used to make costumes for the kids. Ah, stressful times. As any parent of young ones knows, Hallowe'en is a key day and your whole identity is on the line. You are not what you eat, or what you drive, or what you wear. You are what your kid goes out as for Hallowe'en. The cooler the costume, the cooler the parent.
I tried. God knows I tried. How could I not try, staring down at their earnest eager faces. Help us, Daddy! they cried. Help us to fit in to the school and community! Help us to find validation and acceptance from our peers! Help us to become fully actualized as children!
So I worried, and thought, and planned. I bought and borrowed, cut and pasted and duct-taped my way through a dozen or more anxious years. Witches, ninjas, pirates, ghosts, M&Ms (don't ask), scuba divers .... I tried everything. And yet somehow there was always something a bit off about my work. The other costumes always looked more convincing than mine. I tried to work out what it was. Did other parents use better boxes (for the robots -- check out the picture!) than I did? Whiter sheets (for the ghosts)? Blacker sheets (for the ninjas -- though there was one black satin ninja in kindergarten who made me look at his mom differently). I never found out.
Last night brought me back. Imo and Ed had to come up with costumes for school today. And it was tough going. Every suggestion was ridiculed. Too hard. Too lame. Too boring. Too easy. Too popular. Too stripey. (I was surprised at this one.) The Hallowe'en stakes are high as ever, but the rules are more complex as you get older. Cool is more than simply how you look -- it is how the look is achieved. (Keen moralists, teenagers. Intent is key, as it is in a crime or a sin.) In order to actualize and validate your coolness in high school you must never appear to be working at it.
I'm glad I'm not a parent of young children any more. But I'm extra glad I'm not in high school. Thou shalt not appear to be trying too hard is a tough commandment to live up to.