It’s October and that can only mean one thing, Halloween is almost here again. Ok, let me take that back, October actually means two things: Oktoberfest and Halloween. To me, Oktoberfest = Good (alcohol shelves stocked with different brews paying tribute to Oktoberfest and Fall) and Halloween = Bad. It’s the month of contradictions. On one hand, I’m enjoying the peculiarly flavored Pumpkin Ale; and on the other, I’m fretting about Halloween. Even the weather agrees on the contrast, it’s hot one day and chilly the next – it can’t decide if it should embrace Fall or still hang on to that last bit of Summer.
I have a lot of friends who love Halloween and proclaim it as their favorite holiday. They decorate their houses with haunting ghosts, talking witches, and flying bats – festive, yet scary at the same time. They’re so good that even Martha Stewart would be proud. I’ve never shared this love or enthusiasm with them. In the past, I did the absolute minimum with my house. The only reason I decorated at all was to give my husband some childhood nostalgia because my mother-in-law is terrific with holiday decorations. Although, I must admit that there is a small part of this holiday which I enjoy doing – pumpkin carving. I like arts and carving a pumpkin is just another way of doing art. Other than that, every year, Halloween brings me nothing but anxiety and cavities. I dread it. It’s not fears of ghosts, ghouls, or goblins. I have fears of not knowing how to decorate my house and not having a “cool” costume to wear, which usually means I show up at parties with no costume. Yes, I’m THAT lame girl at your party.
I blame my decoration incompetence and costume fear on not being born and raised here the first 14 years of my life. This didn’t become so apparent until I had my son. The lack of a typical American childhood experience occasionally creeps up on my mothering and makes me feel temporarily inadequate as a mom – like during baby activity classes when I had to sing children’s songs that I never knew. How was I supposed to know about Humpty Dumpty, the Muffin Man, or how the kittens lost their mittens? I mean, what kittens wear mittens anyway? Thank goodness no one ever asked me to sing them solo. My son is lucky that I at least know Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and the Itsy Bitsy Spider (in Thai). Though song troubles were easy enough to fix, I bought them on iTunes and practiced. Yes, I practiced them in my car until I mastered them. I wasn’t gonna let Baa, Baa, Black Sheep get the better of me!
Sorry, I strayed from my main topic a little. Let’s get back to Halloween. There’s really no quick fix for my Halloween fears.
Growing up in Thailand, I didn’t know much about Halloween. We don’t celebrate it. There are no children in costumes going Trick Or Treating at dusk. The idea of having your children walking around asking strangers for candies is unfathomable in Thailand. I remember my mom once asked me if I was scared someone would give my kid drug-laced candies, because surely, according to her, they would do that in Thailand. Of course, there’s no evidence to back up her claim.
I have so many friends who always have spectacular Halloween costume ideas. One of my dear friends, Hanna, always has the best ones. She thinks and plans her costumes weeks in advance, and every year, she always ends up with something amazing that has me saying “now, why didn’t I think of that?” On a few occassions, she and her husband synced their outfits and made a duo that rivaled Heidi and Seal’s Halloween numbers.
My first Halloween costume and Trick Or Treating experience in the U.S. were quite memorable. Not having ever experienced Halloween before, I remember being confused when someone asked me what I was going to be. After learning from some of my girlfriends that wearing a sexy outfit was practically a pre-requisite, and they all were wearing one, I decided I would be a street walker. I really thought it would be “cool.” While I didn’t own any Vegas-appropriate attire at 14, I had friends who did. So with their help, I was able to accomplish the look. It didn’t take long into my first Trick Or Treating adventure for me to realize that my outfit was not “cool.” In fact, I noticed the horror on the faces of the greeters, who expected to open their doors to some little kids with cute animal costumes, and instead, they found me, a teenage street walker, at their door steps. Eventually, I stopped knocking on doors. I didn’t do much better the following year, showing up dressed as one of my swim coaches. He was not thrilled. Two failed attempts, I just never wanted to dress up for Halloween again.
My son was 2 when he began to understand what Halloween entailed – spiders, witches, lots of scary stuff, and of course, candy. This year, his awareness of the holiday is even more evident. He decided back in May that he wanted to be a pirate for Halloween. He remembers everything from the last Halloween and often tells me now it’s not a good idea to go to one of my friends’ houses because her witch terrified him last year. Last week, he asked me if we will have “Halloween stuff” at our house too. His question struck me hard and I didn’t have an answer for him.
I thought about it for a while. What kind of environment do I want to create for him to grow up in and what kind of fond childhood memories do I want him to remember. If there’s one parenting mantra I want to live by as a mother, it’s that “you’re only a kid once.” It’s one of the most important lessons I learned from my own parents. Raising children in Thailand (as in most Asian countries), it was difficult for my parents not to get caught up in the world of “Tiger Moms” and “Wolf Dads,” but they did a great job giving me and my siblings our childhood. We didn’t have to spend countless hours practicing music or being tutored (this is not to say we didn’t do these things, we did, just not on the same scale or intensity as other Thai families). I never mastered playing the piano or the violin and didn’t grow up to be a doctor or an engineer and they’re ok with that, and so am I. I want the same thing for my son. Even if I never grew up with Halloween and don’t particularly care for it, it doesn’t mean that my son can’t have his. It doesn’t mean I’ll give him a free pass to Halloween either. My house is not going to look like a haunted house and he’s not going to have candy for dinner. There has to be balance. So, I want to make an effort, starting with some decorations around the house, and later, finding, hopefully, an appropriate costume to go Trick Or Treating. And who knows, maybe he’ll end up with some Halloween nostalgia after all.