Tuesday, October 16, 2012

group costumes: how to train your kids

October means Halloween!  Yes, it is time to get crackin' putting together this year's costumes.  I have already gotten started, and am currently hopeful I won't be finishing it all at the last minute like usual (That is unlikely, but one can hope).  In case you don't know Halloween is a pretty important event in our house.  Due to this, I was asked to be guest blogger at Lasso the Moon.  It will be published sometime in the October over there, but I will keep you posted on that.  It is really a summary of many years past, but I thought I should share it here as well.  

How to Train Your Kids
For some kids Halloween is all about the candy, but for me it was definitely all about the costumes. As a kid I would dream about what I was going to be and always secretly hoped I could get a group of friends to coordinate some great group costumes. But alas, I could rarely get my siblings or friends to go along with this (not really sure how hard I tried, honestly). Let me tell you it is not that fun dressing up like Morticia from the Addams Family without the rest of the family (Not to mention when you are 11 you don't really have the bod for it and nobody really knows what you are supposed to be). However, eighth grade changed Halloween forever. I convinced my three best friends from school to dress up like the Ghostbusters. We made our own costumes out of brown sweat suits and colored tape. I still remember how proud I was when I came up with my ingenious design for our Proton packs that involved putting a backpack inside a cardboard box. Well, we won the “Best Costume” prize at our church Halloween party and the joy of that night must be what continues to drive me to crafty insanity every October.
In college I helped convince about 10 of my dorm mates to dress up as female Disney characters. Other years it was Scooby Doo, Josie and the Pussycats, Peanuts, or Gilligan's Island. I don't know exactly what it is about group costumes, but Halloween costumes just seem more fun with friends. Perhaps this shows some kind of deeper insecurity in me, but let's not get too psychological here-- I just love playing dress up.

My sister, Emily, and I obviously fell from the same tree because she started a group costume tradition with her friend, Allie, when their kids were very little. They are both pretty crafty and Allie's mom helps out a lot since she is a great seamstress. When I had a baby, I was gladly welcomed into the tradition. The first year I was involved we did The Chronicles of Narnia. Since my son, Jimmy, was only just turning one that first year, he had little say in the matter; I made him a very simple Reepicheep costume that took me weeks. It didn't help that is was super hot (we live in Phoenix after all) and we couldn't even put the bottom half of his costume on him. The best part was, of course, the sword because having a prop with your costume is so much more fun. The other kids would agree since they also got swords, bow and arrows, and cordials.  The best prop by far was the red umbrella I found for my nephew, Finn, to be Mr. Tumnus. My sister was looking everywhere for something and suddenly I remembered that stored away at my Dad's house was my American Girl doll, Molly, who just so happened to have a little red umbrella. Sometimes, being a pack rat pays off. Here are the kids from that year:
The next year was Peter Pan , which was already a favorite movie of Jimmy's so he was more than happy to play the part of “Baby Michael” as he liked to be called. I searched everywhere online for the perfect pink jammies and found them at the Gap. All I did was sew buttons on the bum, so I deserve little credit on that one. However, this did give me more time to come up with costumes for my husband, Zach, and myself. A lot of the adults got in on the costumes that year, which I always appreciate. 
The following year the older kids decided on Alice in Wonderland which Jimmy had never seen so I knew it would take some convincing of my almost three-year-old. I brought up a few of the character choices such as the Mad Hatter, March Hare, Cheshire Cat, or the Caterpillar. He immediately wanted to be the Caterpillar before I even showed him the pictures (this probably had something to do with a very loved children's book and also that little boys like bugs). At first I said, "Yeah, that would be great!" because I was excited that he wanted to do it. Then I looked at a picture of the caterpillar online and realized how complicated making a costume of it would be. As we stared at the computer together, I said, "Uhhhh, Buddy. That might be too hard for mom to make." He seemed sad and kept asking "Why?" I said maybe he should pick one of the easier ones. Then that night at dinner he told his dad in a sad little voice he was just going to be the cat because "The caterpillar was too hard for mom to make." Of course, it broke my heart and I said, "You can be the caterpillar! It's okay. I can do it!" That kid sure knows how to play me. To top it off, I gave birth to his little brother 6 days before Halloween that year, and was still adding pieces to the costume the day of. He better remember that thing forever!!! ... Okay, it was totally my own doing because I just couldn't resist. And he didn't just love the costume, he was obsessed and wanted to sleep in it. It was worth the grief just to see him run to get his grandma at the airport with all his little arms and legs waving in the air. I guess pregnancy makes me do crazy things. The nesting bug must have really kicked in that October because I also managed to have a costume prepared for a baby whose sex was yet to be determined and was possibly not even going to be born come Oct 31. I did a purple Cheshire Cat because I figured that would work well either way and it would look funny when we held the baby up in the bushes. I got some major kudos that year, but I wouldn't recommend it for your sanity. Sometimes I have a tendency to take on too much.

Last year, the inevitable happened. We couldn't get the kids to agree on something for months (and believe me when I tell you that this decision is in fact discussed and agonized over for months by all children involved). I had suggested to Jimmy that he and his brother Gus could be Jaq and Gus Gus from Cinderella. I should probably have known better because once he has a plan in his mind there is really no changing it. So then when his cousins decided to do “How to Train Your Dragon,” he was already very set on our idea. Now if we had all planned this a little better, then I am sure I would have had no problem convincing Jimmy to be Toothless the Dragon (although, I was daunted by that task without months to prep), but like I said, he is set in his ways. He takes after me so much, that I think God has some good laughs about it. Such is life. It turned out great just the same. We all still did Halloween together and we just had two different groups.
It is definitely more important to keep all the kids happy then force something on them, but you can at least try to get them all to agree. I would like to say I learned my lesson, but Jimmy decided months ago that he was going to be R2-D2 this next Halloween. We shall see if anyone else wants to tag along on that idea. I guess my years of brainwashing him into doing what I want are already gone. At least I have trained him well.

So if you are interested in getting your own kids in on this crazy tradition where do you begin? Brainwashing does help, but for the sake of being good parents we should call it “cooperation.” I suppose if you start doing it young enough they think coming to an agreement is just part of the deal. If they are older then perhaps you could show them pictures of other cool group costumes (e.g. ours). I hope we can be inspiring to you in some way and perhaps you can live out your own childhood dreams through your children just like me.