“They don’t come with instructions! Ha ha!”
What new parent hasn’t had to smile through clenched teeth when they hear that joke for the millionth time? And what parent hasn’t ruminated that particular thought at least a hundred times while holding a screaming child in the middle of the night?
Over the last two years I’ve made my fare share of parenting mistakes; I’ve misjudged situations, underestimated M, and vastly overestimated myself. By far my worst mistake was not thinking through how C would react to Halloween. I posted about the evening itself back in November, and then I posted a few times about the issues that arose from the debacle. But once we got C back to a regular routine I didn’t mention it again. But the aftershocks lasted longer than a few sleepless nights. What I thought would be just a fun night out with friends visiting neighbors has probably marked C for life.
M has a pathological fear of grown-ups in costumes. It’s pretty much a given that we’ll never host a child’s birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, and he’ll probably never take the girls to one, that will most likely be my job. Ever since that fateful Halloween C has been the same. She can play pretend with wild abandon; she’s a mom, a doctor, a princess, and even sometimes a crab. But when she encounters someone in a costume she freaks. It doesn’t even have to be a full costume, masks are plenty enough to set her off.
Our Halloween outing lasted all of 45 minutes. I thought it would be fun to be out and about in our transformed neighborhood. I never considered the fact that C takes a while to warm up to new situations, that she needs to assess every new place or person she sees before deciding that she can let her guard down. I assumed that everyone loves Halloween, I forgot to treat my child as an individual amongst the masses. It was one night, one night that has most likely marked her for life, one event that has shaped my parenting forever. I’ll never take my kids somewhere just because everyone else does. I’ll try harder to remember to consider their individual personalities and take that into account. Then maybe we’ll have one more person in this family who doesn’t scream at the sight of a person wearing a mask.