Halloween terrifies me, but it has nothing to do with ghosts and goblins, the prices at Party City or even sending my kids to strange houses in the dark. It’s all about a little debacle I like to call Halloween 2011.
First, a little background: Holidays and special occasions can be difficult for adopted kids. Not only do they feel the pressure we put on them and ourselves, but they also tend to retreat into their own minds, wondering if birth mom or dad is thinking of them on this special day. And kids like mine who were adopted at an older age might even remember opening presents or trick or treating with birth or foster parents. Even if the memories are good, they can cause hurt, confusion and upset.
Daren and I were prepared for birthdays, Mother’s Days and Father’s Days to be tough, and we’d already agreed to keep Christmas low key that first year. But Halloween took us completely by surprise.
It was our first special occasion as a threesome and we’d been talking it up for days. We wanted H to be excited and know how excited we were for her. But by the time we’d shopped for a costume, decorated the house, bought the candy, hosted the kindergarten party, donned the Cinderella gown and prepped for trick-or-treating, she was in full meltdown mode.
Once we realized what was going on, we took a step back and adjusted our expectations for the rest of the night. It was no longer about the perfect night, but about soothing our daughter and giving her permission to feel and express her anxiety. We let go of our plans to take her house to house, showing off her cute little Cinderella dress and treacherously high plastic heels (another rookie parenting fail). Instead we focused solely on what SHE needed, and after an hour on her bedroom floor, we were able to carry on with our plans and had a terrific time trick or treating together.
It’s embarrassing to write about this three years later, to admit that we were so naïve and even a little bit selfish. And now that I’m a more experienced parent, I know that special occasion meltdowns are common among all kids. So if you’re crazy enough to take parenting advice from me, I’d recommend you do the following this Halloween:
Step 1. Take out your mental camera.
Step 2. Conjure up your vision of the perfect day, which probably includes costumes that don’t rip, make-up that doesn’t run, wigs that stay on and kids that don’t cry. That’s okay, you’ll learn.
Step 3. Run that picture through your mental shredder.
Step 4. Pour yourself a glass of wine
Step 5: Enjoy every minute of this special day with your kids.