Halloween has never been my thing. I didn’t grow up celebrating and I’ve never gone trick or treating. I don’t like scary movies or anything that symbolically represents the holiday. When Caleb was born I got him a little puppy costume as part of the typical “baby’s first” milestones and even that was a fail. I purchased the costume too far in advance and by Halloween the little hat was too small, which was fine because he had already developed his hatred for hats, and the back wouldn’t zipper because he had gotten so chunky. LOL. I should’ve know then we should probably continue to skip over this holiday.
In 2016, we were living in Georgia close to family and Caleb’s godbrother’s birthday is Halloween so we celebrated him. Caleb wasn’t in school or daycare so I felt no pressure to get a costume.
Last year was a little different, Caleb WAS in daycare and instead of actually calling it Halloween they asked that kids came dressed as their favorite story book character but basically they were forcing parents to participate. I say force because who wants to be the parent who’s responsible for their kid not participating when all the other kids are?? NOT ME! So off he went in his little doctors outfit which was recycled from another made up event they had the month before. Don’t judge me!
At the time Caleb could care less anyway, he hadn’t been exposed to candy so he didn’t really care about that. He wasn’t even talking much so the whole concept kind of passed him by. This was all pre-diagnosis. What I didn’t know then, was that I was on borrowed time.
Skip to present day October 2018 and suddenly things would no longer be so easy. My little chatter box was not only talking and understanding but he was also in school and apparently learning a lot about ghosts, witches, “spooooky”, trick or treat, pumpkins and Halloween. LUCKY ME!!!
For weeks he practiced his trick or treat around the house. We couldn’t go into target or Wal-Mart without him yelling “look halloween!” The excitement was building. (the excitement for him anyway) I, on the other hand, was growing more anxious and conflicted. It was a joy to watch his excitement, I was starting to understand why parents do this every year. His eyes would light up, it was a new concept and he was so tickled by it all.
I knew he didn’t really understand what it would mean to dress up and go out trick or treating. I was thinking about his sensory processing disorder and how overwhelming it could be for him. Wearing a costume, interacting with strangers and seeing others in costumes could be a recipe for disaster. I grew anxious just thinking about it all. But how do I not let him experience something he seems to be so excited about?!
As the days grew closer, I decided we would go to the trunk or treat festival at school which was happening a few days before Halloween (familiar place), I would only let him wear his Superman cape which he already had (also familiar and not restricting), I would wear one too and maybe a mask so that he wouldn’t be scared with others who wore masks, and we continued to master saying trick or treat. The plan was in place!
When I brought home his little bucket, he saw it and immediately yelled “trick or treat”, he knew exactly what it was for. I was prepared and was preparing him. It would be a good day. If things went well we would determine what to do on the evening of Halloween.
The day arrived and since he had ABA that morning I made sure he had a nap. Taking a nap still made all the difference between good times and miserable times with Caleb. When I got off work I put on my excited face, maybe went a little overboard, and we got pumped up and ready to go.
Me: “Caleb are you ready to put on your cape?”
Me: “Are you ready to go see your friends at school trick or treat?”
Me: “Caleb look mama has on her cape, let’s go!”
I should’ve given up but I didn’t. I wanted him to try just see one way or another if he liked it. We have a rule, that we try new things and experiences and if he doesn’t like it we stop or leave but he has to try. Caleb needs to be exposed to different things and people. That’s the world we live in and he doesn’t get to sit home on the iPad because it’s his safe place. So despite not liking Halloween, or my anxiety, it was important that he had the experience. I’m raising Caleb to have the confidence that he can do whatever he wants, that he can have the same experiences as everyone else if he wants and if he decides to not doing anything it will be on his terms not because he can’t.
So we got dressed and although he was a little fidgety with his cape and kept popping the handle off his bucket, we made it to the trunk or treat festival. The music was loud and most of the kids were bigger than him. We didn’t see any of his friends from class. Maybe their moms knew better than me. I watched as he looked around and observed. He didn’t want to get too close to anyone or their candy. It took all of 5 min before he was asking to “go back to car”. We walked a little longer and as he grew more uncomfortable he reached for my hand, we turned and headed towards the car.
I attempted a few more time to get him to go over to the tables and recite his well rehearsed “trick or treat” but I had no luck. By this time he was reciting his ABCs, his comfort song. It was familiar and made him stay calm when his own anxiety starts to build. This was something new that he started but was a big step in self soothing but I know then that it was definitely time to go.
He was quiet on the way home as he sucked on his lollipop that we had brought from home. He was uninterested in the 10 little pieces of candy I had managed to scrape up for him while we walked. As I watched him in my rear view mirror I knew he was over it and the thrill was gone. Once we got home and the cape was off and his bucket put a way, it was the last of any Halloween talk around the house. When Halloween came 2 days later he was none the wiser, it was just another day and lucky for me nobody rang our bell to bring his attention to it.
Like many of our experiences and adventures we did it, we got through it and maybe next year. As always I will follow his lead but as always I will follow his lead.