My son was crying in the changing room mere moments before swimming class. “Why are you crying?” I asked. I assumed I hadn’t brought the right swimsuit, or something happened at school.
“I don’t know what to be for Halloween.” I should have known. It was the day before Halloween, and both of my kids (13 and 6) and picked out their costumes weeks before. I was pretty proud of myself. We would have it together this year! No last-minute text messages to my friends reading, “Hey, do any of you have a fur coat I could borrow?” the day before Halloween. Little Dude had chosen a werewolf mask, and we planned to cut up the bottom of some of his ratty jeans and a shirt. (He’s obsessed with Thriller – but that’s for another post.) Teen chose an iridescent cape and matching mask, and was going to be some sort of….I don’t know….shiny mask cape person. But now, here we were.
“I’m sorry to hear that. We have two minutes before swim lessons. Let’s talk about this later.”
“But we have to dress up at school tomorrow, for the PARADE. WHAT WILL I BE?” When Little Dude gets stuck on something, he will not let it go.
I took a deep breath. “Why can’t you wear the werewolf costume we decided on?”
“Because it’s too scary. It will make my stomach hurt. It will make my friends’ stomachs hurts. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO HAVE A HURTING STOMACH?”
“No. I don’t. But, listen. You have a million costumes at home. We can just pick something out and you can be whatever you want. Here’s your towel.”
“Can I wear my police costume from last year?”
“Can I wear my Mythbuster-Adam hat with it?”
“Yes. Whatever you want. We need to swim.”
“You can wear your new boots with it!” piped in his little friend that we take to lessons with us, who had been listening quietly to the entire conversation.
“THAT WOULD BE AWESOME.” And just like that, they ran off to swim. Little Dude assembled his costume when we got home. It was, indeed awesome. As we were putting it together, Teen came into the room.
*DEEEEEEP SIGHHHHHH* on the verge of ‘woe is me’.
“I HATE my Halloween costume.”
“Are you F*ing kidding me right now?”
“I hate the mask. You have to tie it and it slides down and messes with my hair. Can I go get a new one?”
“What, like right now?”
“Yeah, something is open, I’m sure.”
“No. No we are not going to get a new mask.” I was on the verge of my ‘I can’t believe you guys are so ungrateful and privileged, when I was your age….’ speech.
“I guess I will just wear no mask. My costume will be a cape.”
Teen was waiting. Waiting for me to tell her a cape is not a costume. I was not going to tell her a cape is not a costume. Because, I’ve reached a new point in my parenting life. The letting go point. I don’t super care what my kids wear on Halloween, as long as it’s medium-appropriate. I used to fret and get stressed and try to find the perfect, cutest thing. Now – meh? This was the first year teen was allowed to go out on Halloween night with friends, and not her parents. She went with a group of friends to the busiest Halloween spot in town, while we went with her brother to the Trunk or Treat at the school, and around the neighborhoods early in the evening with the other little kids. I sensed the new family dynamic forming. A shift. She with her friends, her little brother, dad and I doing the ‘family’ stuff.
Later, when Teen was home safe, handing out candy to the last of the trick or treaters, her dad and I took a walk. As we walked, a group of teenagers her age were in front of us on one side of the small bridge that divides our town from the next. I think I recognized one, but couldn’t be sure, I caught the end of her conversation….”….barely…my mom is such a psycho micromanaging bitch…” Another girl was on the other side of the bridge. They yelled to each other. The girl broke from her friends and ran straight across the bridge, in front of a truck. It was the closest I’ve ever seen someone come to getting hit by a car. The truck slammed on their breaks and honked and even stopped to yell. The girl didn’t seem to notice as she hugged her friend and they chipped on about something. I wanted to scream at her. Grab her by the shoulders and drag her over to the truck so that she could apologize or at least recognize what she had just done. But, I didn’t. I just kept walking.
When I got home I told Teen about it. She said she thought she probably knew it was. She assured me she would never run in front of cars, or vape, or drink, or do drugs, or any of those things. It was a small solace. Just a few years ago, she told me she would never want to go trick or treating with her friends. I nodded and tried to let go just a little bit more, realizing that the letting go point is constantly moving. Parenting is more like rock climbing than sky diving: you let go of one spot, and hope there’s a chink in the rock above to hold on to.