The Halloween Contest

I don’t get stressed about too many things in life.

Wait. That’s a lie.

I actually do get stressed when I have to pay full price for milk if I have a coupon at home. And when my washing machine breaks. And when I can’t remember where I put my flip-flops.

So let me rephrase.

I usually don’t go stark-raving mad about too much. Unfortunately, Halloween is one of my few exceptions. The pagan holiday of ole’ lends itself to all kinds of angst and drama in my house. It has a lot to do with the stacks of notices sent home on the rules and regulations of school celebrations. The notes get misplaced and I’m left trying to remember the vital decrees and addendums:

Which schools don’t allow me to send candy?

Which schools have nut bans?

Which schools insist I drop “Halloween” and refer to October 31 only as “Fall Festival Day?”

Given that I have three kids attending three different Chicago Public Schools, I live in fear that I’m accidentally going to send Reeces Peanut Butter Cups to the anti-allergy class, erasers to the school where kids are expecting Twizzlers, and Happy Halloween stickers to the crew who thinks Halloween is the moral equivalent of devil-worshipping. It’s exhausting.

Now let’s pile on the stress with the all-encompassing costume dilemma. When it comes time to whip up a unique one-of-a-kind outfit, I am usually at a loss. I nearly failed 7th grade Home Economics and I can’t sew a button on a shirt. Contributing to my Halloween horror is the fact that I have really tall kids who vary between needing an extra-slim and an extra-husky. Store-bought costumes rarely fit them properly.

So one would think I’d carefully plan this all out well ahead of time? Nope. I did find a site online last year that had the sizes I needed, so I placed my order four days before Halloween, paid for 2-day shipping, and hoped for the best. When the package arrived, I threw the box on top of my dresser and forgot to have the kids try on their requested Star Wars themed items until the crack of dawn on October 31st.

Let’s just say the onslaught of panic and hysteria that followed my 6-year-old realizing on Halloween morning that his Darth Vader costume didn’t fit is now part of family lore.

I raced around the house in a frenzy trying to convince Daniel that I’d find him an even better costume. He wiped away tears of disappointment and reminded me that his best friend was going to be Luke Skywalker. I had essentially ruined his life and any chance for future happiness.

I volunteered to cut holes in a brand new sheet so he could be a ghost. He didn’t go for it. I handed him a sword and tried to convince him to be a pirate. Nada. I was getting desperate.

In the back of my closet, I found an old life preserver. Daniel tried it on. It fit. He looked perplexed. I then ran downstairs and grabbed his brother’s violin and told him to hold it. Voila! He shook his head in confusion and demanded to know who he was supposed to be.

“You’re a musician from the Titanic!”

Daniel seemed mildly interested due to his obsession with all things disaster-related.

“You don’t think the kids will laugh at me?” he asked.

“It’s a winner for sure, Dan,” I convinced him as I stuck an RMS Titanic sticker on his back along with an Irish cap on his head.

Those musicians were all Irish, right? Or was it Scottish? Eh…the judges won’t know.

For as much as Daniel wanted to be Darth Vader, he also wanted to win the yearly Halloween costume contest at his school. The prize was a giant plastic pumpkin filled with candy. While he wasn’t thrilled with his impromptu outfit, the promise of being the day’s big winner was too enticing to pass up.

“You’re sure I’m going to win?” he asked skeptically.

“Absolutely,” I assured him. I then started worrying about the ramifications of being wrong. I’d probably have to pony up for a stack of Pokémon cards. Stupid Pokémon cards. What a rip-off those things are.

I sent him to school with my fingers crossed. Once again, I had positioned myself for massive parenting failure if my gamble didn’t pay off. Yet something inside me said a Titanic costume was unsinkable. Why God Himself could not sink this costume.

Thanks in large part to the Leonardo DiCaprio-loving 8th graders who judged the contest, Daniel did bring home the giant pumpkin. Iceberg averted. Still, I kicked myself for being so careless and not planning this all better. Then again, I am not much of a planner in general. My “birth plan” for each child consisted solely of a Post-It note asking for the biggest dose of painkillers a human being can tolerate.

I have learned my lesson. So when I was online a few weeks ago looking through Transformer outfits, I was surprised when Daniel came up beside me and asked, “You’re not ordering a costume off the internet, are you mom?”

He insisted we again come up with a home-made costume that could top last year – one that could capture that elusive pumpkin prize. He wanted something bolder, more noteworthy for his school’s hallmark competition. Was I transitioning into the win-at-all-cost kind of mom I swore I would never become?

Nah. It wasn’t like we were winning any science fairs. Or speech fairs. Or fundraising fairs.

So I came up with an idea. I’m a little nervous on how this is going to be received, or if I’m stepping outside the bounds of mainstream humor and sensitivity, but I’m willing to own it. It will either win Daniel another giant orange pumpkin, or it will be added to the annals of my parental shortcomings and embarrassing failures. I have a feeling a couple of the mothers will just roll their eyes and question why they put up with me.

Stay tuned for next week’s results. This ought to be good.

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