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Life with a Smile: Costumes, the scariest part of Halloween

By Kate Snyder

Contributing writer

I had a brilliant idea for themed family Halloween costumes this year: the personified emotions from the Pixar movie Inside Out. It would have been perfect. My son has been rocking a mohawk for several months. We could dye it red and spike it up. Hello, Anger. I was willing to don the dumpy blue duds of Sadness — allowing my oldest to shine as Joy —while the baby is a natural for Disgust. She’s typically in-character for all meals so we’d just need to add green hair.

My kids shot me down immediately (the beasts), but perhaps it’s for the best. Halloween tends to stress me out because I suffer from self-induced angst related to costumes. My mother rocked Halloween costumes when I was a kid. She was handy with a sewing machine and put together some great looks, including an Indian princess, a cave woman (complete with club), and a truly exceptional fuzzy bat ensemble.

Unfortunately, those genes skipped a generation so I’d be hard-pressed to whip up a single homemade triumph, much less four of them. The best costume any of my kids has worn was a delightful cow outfit we got as a hand-me-down when my oldest was two. Winning major points for simplicity, it was basically a hooded sweat suit in Holstein print. Cozy and cute, all three of my kids have worn it over the years. I tried to convince my youngest to wear it again this year, but ultimately accepted that it was two sizes too small and stopped attempting to stuff her into it, much to her relief.

Relying on store-bought costumes brings its own emotional turmoil, though. The outfits for girls conform annoyingly to gender stereotypes and can be alarmingly sexy, even in size 4T. Boys can choose from a wide range of purveyors of death, but my son really doesn’t need any help channeling his inner barbarian. He wanted to be a vampire this year, but lost interest when I told him his costume could feature pointy teeth but absolutely no blood. I acquiesced to a request for a Jedi costume, but honestly it might have been better to let him be a vampire because at least they aren’t typically armed. Giving my son a weapon with his costume is an exercise in living dangerously. I’ve already had to confiscate his light saber at least half a dozen times when he’s been overcome by the desire to whack his sisters with it.

I got off easy with the girls this year as both picked costumes that were already lurking in their dress-up bin, no special orders required. Mermaid? Check. Sparkle princess? Check. Done and done. Sure they were extremely girly, but they were also extremely free. That’s a major victory in my world. My eldest has already expressed interest in dressing up as Hermione Granger next year so perhaps I can convince them all to go the Harry Pottery route. My son would probably enjoy being a Death Eater and the baby would make a truly excellent house elf. As for me? Maybe I can don a pair of sparkly wings and go as the Golden Snitch.