Mom Fail #537: Halloween, 2017

There are days when I am great at being a mom. I’m great at letting my kids be who they are, for example. I’m great at sticking up for them when they need someone to have their back. I’m sort of okay with remembering to feed them dinner every night (I thank God for both my husband and boxed mac and cheese). And usually, I’m really good about the therapy-inducing kind of stuff — the stuff that might leave them emotionally scarred for decades because of something I did or didn’t do that caused them utter humiliation.


I really try to be on top of those things.

But this year was a little different. This year, I failed Halloween.

Don’t say it! I know. Everyone knows that when you’re a kid, the official start of the holidays is Halloween. It’s the big sugar kickoff, the start of months of overspending and overindulgence. And I messed it up.

For those of you who are thinking that October 31st comes around every year at exactly the same time, not like it surprised any of us, listen, Ms. Perfect McPerfectson, whatever. I have my reasons.

First of all, I’m in seminary. Have you ever been in seminary? Those people are fucking crazy. They want you to read books and write papers like you’re in school or something. All at the same time as living life. For the weeks leading up to The Big Scare, I was up to my elbows in exegesis. So there, Ms. My-Kids-Had-Costumes-And-They-Were-Creative-Too. I exegete scripture, you’re a superhero with a glue gun and felt. We’re even, even if my kids can’t wear exegesis for Halloween. And if I’d dressed them up as Luther, no one would have gotten the reference to the 500 year anniversary of the Reformation, anyway.

I do confess to having a vague memory that around October 5th, the kids asked when we were going to get their Halloween costumes. I looked at them like they were crazy. I think I muttered something about Halloween being months away. By the time I realized it was actually October, they were walking away, arm in arm, comforting each other.

As the big day got closer, I started hearing rumblings about a hockey player for the girl. She has her helmet and a jersey and a stick and gloves, so all good there. Perfect, I thought. And awesome. No need to spend $60 on a piece of chintzy un-hemmed fabric that’s been decorated by a maniac with a bedazzler. Not that my girl would ever wear anything bedazzled anyway, but you get the idea. 

The problem was the boy. He was walking around telling people that he was just going to wear a paper bag over his head and write on the front of it, "I didn't even try. Deal with it." He was a cynic at the age of nine. I tried to ignore him for as long as I could, but secretly, I worried. 

Mostly I worried because we all know how these things go. Everyone's going to blame the mom. The kid goes to school with a paper bag and some snark, and it's all MY fault. No one blames the kid for his lack of preparation or creativity. Oh no. That's all on me. 

It didn't help that the week before Halloween, I caught the kind of illness that is legendary. Usually, I can fight off a little cold with some lemon water and probiotics. But this thing kicked my ass. For days before Halloween, I was a blob on my couch streaming Grey's Anatomy for hours. I confessed this all to my friend Kate one day, in between blowing my nose and sneezing, including the paper bag fiasco. Kate's the mom of four kids, and the kind of mom I look up to. She said, "Paper bag? That's a total mom win. Just write "Evan's Snack" on it, stick a post-it note that says, "Have a great day! I love you!" and be done." 

GREAT IDEA I thought!  It took some convincing to get the boy to be a snack instead of a snark, but eventually he caved. When a friend invited him to a pre-holiday party the Friday before Halloween, we sent him off with his paper bag and he was happy. 

The morning of Halloween -- oh, excuse me, Character Day -- arrived. Our school celebrates Hallo-- Character Day -- with class parties and a march around the parking lot that parents are expected to attend. The kids are not supposed to wear their costumes to school. They're supposed to bring their costumes with them in a bag. 

As you can imagine, the Friday night party left the boy's costume in pretty bad state. But no worries. This was the cheapest costume ever, so I wasn't concerned. I was still exhausted and sick when I went to bed on Monday night, and I was comforted that the next morning would be relatively stress free compared to other Halloweens. 

Until 7:50 am Halloween morning, exactly 30 minutes before we were supposed to leave for school, when the boy comes to me to tell me that we're out of paper bags. 

I'm not sure you can #momfail much more than first, deciding it's okay to let your boy be a paper bag for Halloween, and then being out of actual paper bags when the big day arrives. 

I threw my unbrushed hair in a ponytail and what turned out to be water shoes over my unmatched fuzzy socks and flew to the local super market, where I bought a tomato and yelled "PAPER!" before she even asked, "Paper or plastic?" I rushed home, found the wrong color Sharpie and wrote the appropriate decorations on the bag. I even went the extra mile to cover up the KINGS SUPER MARKET with a snack bag that I ingeniously cut up to lay flat. I cut a hole in the bag for his little face. I handed him a juice box and a granola bar. Then I put his bag in a canvas bag, handed it to him, and said, "Here's your bag with your, well, bag in it." Then we fell into the car and managed to get to school on time. 

Later that afternoon, I dreaded the Halloween parade. I stood with all the other parents, hoping beyond hope he would look happy when he walked around, and that I would hear things from the crowd like, "Oh, look, how funny and creative and so smart! He's a snack! What an awesome mom." I was also hoping he'd make eye contact automatically, so I wouldn't have to yell his name and make it painfully clear to everyone that I was the mom who let her kid go to Halloween with a paper bag over his head.

Of course, no one said anything about how creative it was, he looked pretty meh about the whole thing, and he didn't see me so I had to yell like a crazy person (oh -- he's partially deaf. And, you know, he had a bag over his hearing aid.) When he (finally) turned to look at me, he yelled back, "I already have two paper cuts!"

By the time he got home, I had managed to drag my ass to CVS. I got ten pounds of Halloween candy for the 2 children who might actually knock on our door, mostly because I figured I'd need to soothe my soul with sugar. I also got some face make up. I told him in the car, "Hey buddy. I got some make up just in case you want to be something different for trick or treating. Totally up to you. But I can do some scary make up for you if you want." 

He wanted. 


I Googled "scary make up" and watched a few tutorials, just to make sure I remembered the tricks from my stage make up classes back when I was a theater nerd. Of course, somehow I managed to not have the Elmer's glue they wanted. I had some old craft glue that was also white and I figured that would work. I only worried a little bit after I slathered it on his face and pasted toilet paper to his cheek that maybe this was some sort of toxic, permanent glue that was going to make him look like a real live Zombie when I tried to remove it later, but thankfully, those fears proved to be unfounded. 

In the end, I spent an hour on his makeup for about the same amount of time of trick or treating. In the dark. But whatever. 

And for all the moms who were judging me for sending my kid to school with a paper bag on his head, well. I'm tired of trying. Gonna go ahead a be the kind of mom I am -- the one who wears two different fuzzy socks to Kings, maybe forgets about important things like Halloween, but I know what exegesis is and I can make a kick-ass gross Zombie face with some off-brand glue, some toilet paper, and a little eye shadow.