The Real Reason Why I Make My Kids’ Halloween Costumes


The Year of the DragonI love hate Halloween. Mostly love.

I love pumpkins; I love soup; I love the idea of connecting with my neighbors, even just for a moment as my small dragon and even smaller bunny knock on their doors and ask for candy.

I hate Halloween decorations. All seasonal decorations, actually. I know, this is lame, but we have a small house . . . blah blah blah. Also, a lot  of decorations are tacky. There, I said it. Tacky! One of my daughters, little E, is lobbying hard for Halloween decorations, as fall is her favorite season. But she doesn’t want gourds (I like gourds). She wants that weird crap that you stick on your windows; the gel black cats and jack-o-lanterns that just end up covered in decidedly real cat hair, and the fake spiderwebs, as if we don’t have enough real spiderwebs. She loves all things halloweeny. Except costumes with masks or gloves or fangs or scary face paint. Hmm, upon further review, I guess she just loves the pumpkin patch, Halloween decorations and candy. I bet she’s not alone when it comes to the under five set. 

The Pink OwlI love making costumes. Before you decide to quit reading because you assume that I will now be all sanctimonious about my AMAZING creations, let me tell you this: You, too, can do this. You can. Here is the truth: I cannot sew. I am not particularly crafty, but I do own a glue gun. I know where the fabric store is, and I know how to google images of owls, dragons, pumpkin fairies, and–this year–the mighty and fiery phoenix. It feels good to make something, and it feels even better to engage with  my girls in this way. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s play.  

Here are some other truths: By making costumes, I do not save any money. (Though I think if one were better at this, she might save money. And someday I will have enough leftover supplies from other costumes that I won’t have to buy anything. Then, I will save a heap of money, because surely one of them will want to be a peacock-eagle-phoenix-fairy-dragon.) This does not save me any time either. I don’t have fond memories of my own dear mother making me costumes. My children are not particularly grateful. But I love doing it anyway. My husband says, “There’s no excuse for you to be like this.”  By “this,” I think he means a little bit obsessive. But there is an “excuse.”

Here it is: It’s about engaging with my girls in a way that is collaborative. A way that is different from making them do their chores, their homework, take baths, pick up their clothes and all the other crappy not fun things I do as their mother. This, the creative and collaborative connection, matters to me. 

Months ago began the discussion of what the girls would be for Halloween. I have a hard and fast “no characters” rule because, really, Strawberry Shortcake?! Elsa!? I cannot make that costume, but I could buy a crappy dress for $20 at Target or a nice one from some chichi catalog for $120 and they’d look just like Elsa, Strawberry Shortcake, Wonder Woman. BUT…my girls would not have used their imaginations at AT ALL! So . . .  the costume discussion goes something like this (starting in about November):

Little E: I think I’ll be Elsa next year for Halloween.
A: No, you can’t be a character.
Me: We’ll see. Halloween is a long time off yet. (See how I’m trying to avoid the argument.)
A: MOM!!!! That’s not faaaaaiiiiiir! She can’t be a character! (See how it didn’t work?)
Little E: YES I CAN!!!
Me: We’ll see. I bet you both change your minds a lot between now and October. It is still 11 months away. (I am so calm and reasonable!)
A: MOM!!!! IT’S NOT FAIR! You always take her side.
Me: A, what would you like to be for Halloween next year? (Redirection)
A: A chamelin (no, this is not a misspelling of chameleon).
Me: A what?
A: Mom! You don’t know what a chamelin is?! (Can you feel the scorn dripping from her words?)
Me: Ummmm, can we google it?
Little E: I think I’ll actually be Wonder Woman instead.
A: Mom! It’s. Not. Fair!!! (Arms crossed, big, fat, super irritating sulk)

At any rate, eventually, September rolls around and I get them to commit to something that we can all agree upon. A is not going to be a chamelin (turns out, it’s actually really hard to google), she’s going to be a phoenix and Little E will be a pumpkin fairy. So, now begins the googling of images. We decide what we like from all the different pictures and what I can actually create with a glue gun, very minimal hand sewing skills, and that weird craft foam you can get at Target or Michaels that is sticky on one side. You’d be amazed what you can make with that stuff! Next, we purchase suCostumespplies at Mill End Fabric store in Sellwood and at Michaels, and then I get to work. Late at night. And by late, I mean like 8:15 pm! I am kind of wild.

Over the next 28 days my husband and I stop binge watching Orange is the New Black and I spend my entire yearly allotment of creativity. It’s hugely satisfying to see my creations walk down the runway, ahem, sidewalk. Now keep in mind that these amazing creations will not last more than the two wearings required of them (remember the glue gun?), but for the moment we are all pleased. And that, as you know mamas, is a huge victory!



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Molly is mother to two daughters: an 8 year old girl who climbs everything and a 4 year old girl who only wears undies. Before becoming a full time mom, she worked as a behavior specialist in the school system, which is not as helpful as you would think when raising your own children. Molly loves feeding her family good food and getting outdoors. While she is all in for parenting with intention, good cooking, Frye boots, and aspiring to a Martha-esque home, Molly freely admits she just isn't all in for homemaking. You can follow her frustrations and celebrations at