Trick or Treat

One Halloween, I felt like the worst mother in the world.

I was still a relatively new mom, and I was trying much too hard to be one of those over-achiever moms like my perfect sister with her perfect house and perfect children in their perfectly hand-made costumes.  I felt that it was my job – nay, my duty – to make perfect hand-made Halloween costumes, no matter what.

My daughter’s costumes always turned out well, but my oldest son was another story.  Something always seemed to go wrong.  He was a hand-me-down pumpkin on his first trick-or-treat outing because I didn’t finish his bear costume; he was terrified of the clown costume I made for his second, and I was faced with the choice of letting him writhe on the floor in abject terror or slapping a Little Tykes hard hat on his head and calling him Bob the Builder.

It was on his third Halloween that I came close to failing him completely.

Wal-Mart had an adorable pattern for a Pikachu costume, and the boy was all about Pokémon at that age.  I showed him the pictures, let him touch the fabric, pleaded with him, but to no avail.  He just didn’t want it.  He wanted Bob the Builder again.  I tried and tried to convince him that he needed to let his mother make him a costume, but he just had no interest in anything I had to offer.

Halloween Day arrived, and I hung his sister’s Snow White costume in the living room to show her before I drove her to pre-school.  There were no costumes allowed in school; it was called a “Fall Festival Day” rather than a Halloween party.

The Dark Prince and I walked the Princess into her school and then returned to my car for the drive home.    As I pulled out of the parking lot, I glanced in the rearview mirror– and I saw the biggest, bluest eyes I have ever seen, shedding huge silent tears.

I should say right here that the Dark Prince has never been my easy child.  He was colicky from Day 1, opinionated from his first word, and contrary from the day he figured out how to scowl.  He is still a gifted pessimist who can find the dark cloud surrounded by any silver lining.  Now, don’t get me wrong; he’s a tender-hearted and generous soul when he lets his guard down, but the boy has always had some serious walls.  He rarely asks for anything, so when he does ask, we know it’s important to him.

“Want . . . Pikachu,” he whimpered that day.

It was eight o’clock on Halloween morning, and my baby wanted to be Pikachu.  Really, now, what choice did I have?

I rushed him to Wal-Mart for the pattern, fabric, tulle, and trims.  I plopped him in front of the TV for a Pokémon marathon, and I sewed for all I was worth.  I cut and sewed and swore (and cried, I’m sure) and hated every single stitch I put into that costume, but it was finished by the time we went to pick up the Princess.

Pikapi?
Pikapi?

He was adorable in the costume.  He looked more like a small yellow cow than a tiny electric Pokémon, but he sure made an adorable yellow cow.

I felt redeemed by that stupid yellow cow costume.  I felt like it proved I was a good mom.  After all, I gave him the costume he wanted, didn’t I?  Sewed it with my own two hands.

But later that night, when Pikachu and Snow White shed their costumes in a heap on the living room floor and fought to share my lap, I changed my mind.  They both had upset tummies and smelled of stale chocolate, and both fell asleep in my arms while I cuddled them close and worried that I had let them eat too much candy.  I should have rationed it out, I told myself; I should have counted it and doled out a mere piece or two.  I should have given them baths and tucked them into their own beds in their own room.  I should have taken more pictures to show their father, who worked second shift and had to miss the fun.  There was an enormous list of all of the things I should have done.

I really beat myself up over not being perfect.  I wanted so much to be a good mom who did everything right.   Instead of enjoying those two not-so-perfect wonders on my lap, I worried and stressed and second-guessed my every move.

But there is nothing in this world as rewarding as holding a sleeping child, and holding two of them that night was truly what my Aunt Marian always called “one of life’s bonuses.”  I slumped on that couch for hours with one child over my shoulder and the other curled up against my belly, just watching them sleep, feeling their warmth seep into my body and my soul.

Sometimes . . . sometimes a mother’s heart gets so full that only a miracle keeps it from bursting.

The Dark Prince turned sixteen yesterday.  He is still dark and pessimistic at times, with an edgy and sarcastic sense of humor.  It has been years since he could sit on my lap; I barely reach his shoulder when he hugs me good-bye before leaving to spend the week at his father’s.  He is a Junior in high school, and all too soon it will be time to let him go.

He is so smart that I haven’t been able to help him with his homework since he was in fourth grade.  He is funny but quiet at school, although I defy anyone to try to shut him up when he gets going on his favorite subjects:  Nikolai Tesla, Teddy Roosevelt, and Anime.   I don’t think he’s had a girlfriend yet, but I could be wrong.  Telling his mother about a girlfriend isn’t something that falls within his comfort zone.

I worry about him, just like I worry about his brother and sister.  But I worry just a bit more about him because, of all my children, he is the least likely to ask for help or tell me about his problems.

I hope he never forgets that he’s got a mom who will drop everything to turn him into an adorable yellow cow if that is what he needs to make him happy.  And I hope I never forget that being a good mom has nothing to do with handmade costumes or being a “perfect” anything.  It’s all about holding them close, breaking the rules once in a while, and remembering how much I love them.

It’s as much about knowing when to hold them as it is about knowing when to let them go.

This post is part of Finish the Sentence Friday, in which writers and bloggers finish a sentence and “link up” their posts. This week’s sentence was “One Halloween, I…”  

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11 thoughts on “Trick or Treat

  1. Wow. First, thank you thank you for linking this up to finish the sentence. Second, wow, what amazing writing and insight and all of the feelings. I so so so struggle with the costumes and the letting them go part of it all. It’s so hard. My son has a hard time with language and other stuff and wow. I just loved this. I, too, will turn my son into a yellow cow at whatever age, if that’s what makes him happy. ❤

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  2. My mother used to hand make our costumes a lot, and not just for Halloween, but every show we were in. Because I was usually an angel in the Christmas Pageant, I just used that costume for Halloween. I keep reminding myself that back in the day when I was a kid, there was no Walmart. No Amazon.com. No Halloween party store opened just for October. There really was no place to buy costumes.

    And one year, I did sort of hand-make a costume for my kids where instead of buying a regular costume, we compiled one. I did end up gluing feathers to cardboard and sewing them onto a pink t-shirt for angel wings. I worked so hard on that costume, and my neighbor the night before Octoberfest threw together cardboard boxes where she drew in crayon letters to make it look like alphabet blocks. She won the most creative costume, and I was like, “Yeah that was awesome, but she didn’t glue feathers.” Whatever, I was happy for her though.

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    • I know exactly what you mean. I didn’t want to be that one super-competitive mom in those contests, but it always bothered me when the prize seemed to go to the ones that were slapped together at the last moment. Funny thing, the kids never seemed to worry about any of it as much as the moms did.

      Thanks for commenting!

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  3. As someone who cannot sew to save herself (my last attempt found me sewing my daughter’s Brownie sash to my pant leg) I am so impressed that you were able to churn out the yellow cow at a moment’s notice. However I do also understand the point that you are making. I truly believe that being Perfect Mommy isn’t real. It’s about our reaction to the stuff our darlings throw at us. Mine are 19 and almost 21 now and man have they taught me a lot. I also hope they never forget I’ll be there for them at any time, any place.

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  4. My oldest is a high school junior too. I struggle with the holding close/letting go, and I worry. Your son may not remember the yellow cow Halloween, but I bet he remembers that mom would do anything for him. You don’t need to be perfect, you just need to be there. So glad you linked up and shared your story!

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  5. Ohhhh but this is gorgeous. Gosh, I’m a bit sad to hear that you spent so long beating yourself up for ‘not getting it perfect’ but I’m really gladdened by the end, because you’ve got a handle on it, by the sound of things. And, by the way, making a yellow cow costume for your son and listening to him when he needed to be heard, and snuggling them up with you to sleep – that was BRILLIANT mom-ing.

    Also, as long as your youngest knows he CAN come to you with anything, then that’s what matters, even if he chooses not to avail himself of the opportunity.

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    • Thank you so much! Yes, we gave up on perfection around here a long time ago. We even have sort of a running joke . . . I’ll mess something up and say, “well, there goes my Mother of The Year Award.” And one of the kids will pipe up: “Don’t worry, Mom, you weren’t even nominated for it.”

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  6. It sounds like you have a bit of a complicated relationship with your boy. But, I think, underneath his casual teen nonchalance he still thinks of you as the Mom who made him the Pikachu costume. Maybe, at some time you can give him a bog hug and remind him that you are here and want to hear what he has to say? I don’t know your son, but I think that lots of the teenaged boys I know would be thrilled to hear that from their Mom….

    Good luck!

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    • “Complicated” is a good word for it. He acts like he doesn’t care about anything or anyone, but he’s first to step up when he sees someone crying or hurt. Of course, he makes fun of them as soon as he is sure they’re all right. 🙂

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  7. That was awesome! I don’t know if I would’ve done the same, although the same has been done for me… nothing complicated, just skirts, but almost always the night before. I hope to be as enthusiastic as you when it comes around again.

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