My childhood memories of Halloween are inextricably linked to the incredible hand-made costumes my mother would make. In the weeks and months leading up to trick-or-treating, I remember my mom bent over her sewing machine for hours in order to bring our Halloween dreams to life. She was basically a Pinterest mom decades before Pinterest existed.
Among her greatest hits: a perfectly shimmery green fin to sate my Little Mermaid obsession, a sleek Cleopatra dress and rhinestone-studded collar (both of which I wore to play dress-up long past it was probably age-appropriate), and a plush removable Ninja Turtles half-shell for my brother.
So far, my toddler's memories of Halloween are shaping up to look a bit different.
For my son's first Halloween, which happened when I was still very much in the throes of sleeplessness and postpartum recovery, I found a bargain-bin pumpkin hat which was at least three sizes too big for my newborn's head and paired it with a clean-enough plain orange onesie that we happened to own. I felt okay about my in-a-pinch solution until I met up with my neighbor.
Her infant daughter wore a handmade swan costume, complete with a darling white tulle skirt, marred by neither spit-up nor diaper blowout. As we pushed parallel strollers past fake-cobweb-bedecked homes, I couldn't ignore the mailed-in-ness of my son's getup. I felt like a slacker in comparison. I couldn't help but wonder if it was a reflection of my parenting.
Next year we'll do better, I thought.
Halloween came around again, this time I opted for a cute and better-fitting, but still store-bought and not entirely original costume we Amazon-Prime'd two days before Halloween. As I scrolled through Instagram that night and looked at all of the adorable DIY'd duds on my friends' kids, once again, I promised myself I'd get my act together by next year.
Third Halloween's the charm.
This year as soon as the first whispers of pumpkin spice lattes hit the not-quite-brisk air, my mind turned to Halloween. "I've got to figure out this costume thing," I told my husband as I scrolled through Pinterest after my son had gone to bed. I just had to find a great idea and buy all the materials and then find time to assemble them while my son was asleep, I explained to him.
"Or maybe we just buy a costume to save you the time you'd spend shopping and making one," he countered.
Though I was dead-set on a homemade costume, I had to admit, he had a point.
The truth is most days are overwhelming enough without the pressure to craft the perfect Halloween costume. Often I feel worn out just by completing all of the day-to-day tasks motherhood requires. So few aspects of parenthood are optional.
Lunch must be prepped and packed.
Diapers must be changed.
Dinner must be cooked and served—in a timely enough manner so that my son can get to bed on time.
The laundry must be washed and dried (though if you live like me, folding is optional).
Baths must be given.
Meltdowns must be soothed—even if they occur at 1 a.m.
It's exhausting. Our duties start before sunrise and sometimes last well into the night.
And then there are all the things that are optional but I enjoy spending time on, like curling up with my son and a stack full of board books. Or walking around the block to look for buses. Or, quite frankly, squeezing in a little extra shut-eye myself.
Would I take as much pleasure in hand-crafting a costume as I would in doing any of these things? If I'm being honest with myself, probably not.
The time I would spend hot-gluing or stitching or bedazzling could be better spent walking to the playground or reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear for the four-millionth time (a conservative estimate) or watching my son's enthusiastic interpretive dance to "Wheels on the Bus."
I've come to realize that the beauty of that no-stitch-out-of-place homemade Halloween costume is that it's not mandatory. It's one of the rare aspects of parenthood that is totally optional. And I have decided to opt out.
So despite my annual promise to myself, I'm ordering a ready-made costume again. One that might be a little generic and that definitely won't go viral. One that probably won't be as cute or clever as the neighbor kid's or my Facebook friends'.
I've decided that motherhood is hard enough without adding DIY to the mix. I applaud the mamas who manage to feed and bathe and care for their kids and hand-make a costume on top of it—I truly do. I will be the first to heart their Instagram posts or compliment them as we trick-or-treat, but I've decided I'm giving up on becoming one of them.
My son doesn't need a Pinterest-perfect costume, and he doesn't need a Pinterest-perfect mom. And our Halloween? That probably won't be perfect either. And that's okay.
Because it's not the costume or even the Instagram-worthiness of our night that will make the memory, it's the time spent together as a family.