Picture it: 6:30am, Halloween morning, my son’s room.
I woke up early — couldn’t sleep I was so excited. I’d been planning my 20-month-old son’s Halloween costume for weeks. He was going to be Luke Duke from the Dukes of Hazard (even though, as my husband pointed out repeatedly, Luke was the brunette and our son is blonde as the sun). But that didn’t matter to me. I found toddler cowboy boots, a belt with a buckle big as your head, a cute little cowboy hat, and a western shirt that would make John Wayne proud. I’d assembled the costume beside the changing table the night before in preparation for the big day.
I woke my son up, foolishly expecting him to be just as excited as I was, and soon discovered his mood did not match mine.
Everything was a struggle. He did not want to get out of bed. He refused his breakfast. He cried when I picked him up, cried when I put him down. And he flat-out refused to wear the clothes I had so painstakingly prepared for the day. I finally got him semi-dressed, dropped him off at daycare, and arrived at work a frazzled mess. I attended his daycare Halloween party later that day, hoping his mood had improved. His teachers informed me he had refused his hat and boots, but did keep his belt on most of the day. That made me feel a bit better.
After the party, we went home a little earlier than usual. It was a gorgeous fall day, so we headed outside. We sat on the grass and played and laughed. I laid down and let him climb across me like a mountain. I turned his cowboy hat over and let him put his snack in the top of it (at least the costume was coming in handy for something!) and we sat there, counting Cheerios as the sun faded into the horizon.
As we played, I realized how happy he was, just spending time together.
He didn’t care about having a great costume, or getting the perfect Instagram photo to capture the day. I felt a little guilty about putting so much pressure on myself and on him. I realized that I was so caught up in the picture perfect Halloween because my family didn’t celebrate Halloween when I was a kid. We sometimes did church-related activities around that time of year, but we never dressed up in costumes or went trick-or-treating. And all those years I thought I’d missed out on something, and I wanted so desperately to make sure I gave my son that experience. Turns out, the experience that really matters is found in the simplest of moments, in spending quality time with loved ones. And it’s available to all of us — no matter what we believe, or how we choose to celebrate the holidays.