Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What do you let go?

Some people mark time by the passing of the seasons. I find it is much easier to follow the catalogs. Now that the Back to School catalogs have stopped, the mailbox is filled with Halloween Costume catalogs. I once loved Halloween, giving away (and eating) generous amounts of candy to the adorable kids who came to the door.

My son Moe was 5 months old for his first Halloween. I dressed him as a chili pepper and he was incredibly cute. I couldn't wait to show him off. We went to a big event put on by my mom's group. It was crowded and hot, and we were all pretty miserable so we left right after the group photo. I remember thinking that Moe would be growing up with this group of kids, and that we'd probably have a picture much like this every year.

For Moe's second Halloween, he was a monkey, complete with banana. He was 17 months old and not yet walking. Like most of the other kids, he didn't "get" the holiday, but he seemed to like his costume. We chose the monkey because Moe's first real word was "banana." We went to another mom's group event. I was jealous that Moe couldn't march by himself in the little parade around the room. I remember thinking that this would probably be the last Halloween that I would get to choose his costume.

Last October, Moe was 29 months old, and a few months past his autism diagnosis. We now had a 6 month old too. We had just gotten back from a long family trip to the East coast, and I didn't have much of the Halloween spirit in me. I was under the impression, perhaps inaccurately, that many of Moe's friends had helped pick out their costumes. They were at least aware that they were dressing up. Moe didn't understand any of it. I had a skeleton t-shirt for Moe, paired it with black sweatpants, and called it a costume. With my daughter wearing her "my first Halloween" onesie, I put both kids in the double stroller and we walked around the neighborhood. Moe was interested in the lights and activity but didn't notice that everyone was dressed up. I remember thinking that this was not how it was supposed to be.

This year, as I flip through the costume catalogs, I find myself trying to determine if I should get a costume or just let it go. I know some things are worth continuing to do with Moe, whether or not he understands or participates, because they are social situations he needs to learn to navigate: birthday parties, restaurants, play dates. Other things, a recent movie outing for example, I let pass because it wouldn't be fun for anyone. I'm not sure about Halloween. I think my daughter will really enjoy dressing up and I don't want to leave Moe out. I should probably just be excited that I get one more year of choosing the kids' costumes. I think they're going to look really cute as Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia!

What activities do you continue to do even though your child may not want or be able to participate? What do you let go?


  1. I struggle with this often. My son Alex was diagnosed just before his 2nd birthday. We did not dress him up that year. He is almost 6 years old now and in Kindergarten. One issue (or opportunity?) in our family is that Alex has a twin sister, who is not affected, and is very social. I feel contantly stuck between wanting to just shut it all down and not do halloween (or any occasion that overwhelms Alex) or just do it anyway for his sister's sake and endeavor to persevere. Most of the time we endeavor to persevere. But we modify where we can to give him exposure but a quick exit when he's done -- it involves splitting the kids up often, less pictures, and less time to enjoy the experience as a family, but at least they both get to do the stuff that other kids do. Sometimes Alex enjoys it even. I'm sorry to admit that I rarely look at my circumstances as a blessing, but I think it's been good for Alex and all of us to get involved whenever and wherever we can. All the best to you and your family. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi Jennifer, I have this same question almost daily!! I have a 7-year-old son with Aspergers. It is so hard---you walk a fine line between trying to give them "practice" with experiences that are challenging for them and yet also try to accept them for who they are. Hang in there!
    p.s. I love the name "Moe!" ..so cute

  3. I have three children with autism and it's difficult to know what to hold onto and what to let go. While they're young, it's going to be determined a great deal by what's important to you as a parent. Once they're a bit older, it's going to be determined in part by what's important to you and what is important to your children.
    As I child, I looked forward to Halloween, but as a parent I'm less impressed. But my children enjoy the holiday, even if they don't "get" the same things out of it I did as a child. My boys are 11, 10, and 7. Only one of them pays much attention to which costume he wears. But they all enjoy going out--it's one of the few times throughout the year that the boys get to investigate all these wonderful houses they usually have to let pass by on their walks!

  4. My daughter just picked the same costume three years in a row. It was good the costume was too big the first year so it "fit" all three years. I've already told her this year she has to pick something else. Halloween is a big deal in our town. If it weren't I would probably let it pass. We do forego the biggest trick-or-treat gathering in favor of visiting our own immediate neighborhood instead. It is more our speed. I think there are things we need to say "not yet" to. We gave up on playdates at other people's homes for a while because our daughter was too aggressive and the other parents didn' t get how much supervision she needed. Now we can do playdates with other kids that have similar issues (so glad we found them!) but with typical kids I ask them to come to our house. I am wondering if my almost 3 year olds will want to pick their costumes this year...and what the "something else" might turn out to be. Since I usually "make" our costumes I'm going to have to find out soon.