I bought Connor the first part of his Halloween costume yesterday.
Connor is four years old, and this will be the first year he's ever been trick-or-treating. We've discussed taking him the past couple of years and have always ended up deciding not to do it. He never expressed any interest in the costumes, his sensory issues and social anxiety meant that he reacted to strangers with a general air of distrust, and also he can't chew the candy, which meant that Jer and I would be the ones eating all of it.
Well okay, that last part always sounded sort of appealing.
But anyway, we ultimately concluded that dressing Connor up and taking him door to door would not be something that he would particularly enjoy. It would basically be for Jeremy and my benefit instead of for Connor's; we would be taking him trick-or-treating to fulfill our expectations of what typical families do for the holiday with their children at that age. So instead we stayed home and passed out candy.
It's a fine line to walk-- figuring out which traditions to keep and which to modify to accommodate our son's differences. He's always had small, family-only birthday parties, for example, because having people-- especially children, who are as a general rule loud and boisterous-- over in the past would only have upset him. He doesn't care about the presents either; mostly he just likes the tissue paper, which makes him laugh. We make sure to wrap everything in way more layers than necessary. Easter egg hunts are conducted strictly indoors because he is terrified of grass, and we don't put any candy in the eggs because not only will he not eat the candy, but he's not going to touch the eggs anyway. He doesn't really find them either, but we kind of gloss over that.
But this year for the first time Connor has begun to take note of the costumes being sold in the stores. He looks up at the Halloween decorations in the stores with a questioning air. And he began actually paying attention when I pointed out costumes to him and talked about trick-or-treating.
So when we stopped at a little toy store set back on a street corner in downtown Olympia, I made a beeline for the costume rack. Connor wasn't interested in being a fireman, an astronaut or a knight, but when I set a fuzzy white monster hat on his head a tentative smile crossed his face as he carefully stroked the ears flopped down around his shoulders. This kid usually hates hats with a burning passion, so getting any kind of a smile out of him means that the hat is a rousing success. He nodded when I asked him if that was the costume he wanted to wear, so I bought it and we took it home.
It was not a particularly inexpensive hat as far as these things go, but the fact that my child was actually asking for a costume meant that it could have been diamond plated and I still would have bought it. Connor voluntarily offering any sort of information about his desires in public is a monumental occasion and all thoughts about my budget go completely out the window. If I knew it would make him happy, I'd do my very best to buy him the moon.
So it was decided-- Connor will be a Sasquatch for Halloween, which is a perfectly appropriate Pacific Northwest sort of costume. And for the first time ever, he'll be going trick-or-treating just like all of the other kids his age. He may still be a little intimidated by strangers, but he knows a good number of our neighbors now and we'll stick to places that he recognizes. I'm optimistic that this year he'll have a good time!
It makes me hopeful that as he gets older, more of the holiday traditions that gave me so much pleasure as a child will be things that he comes to enjoy too. And if he doesn't, well, we'll forge our own traditions that will have just as much meaning for him.
Whether or not he enjoys Halloween though, he's still not going to eat any of that Halloween candy, which means I'll be forced to eat it all. But I don't really mind that part so much.
You can find Jess daily over at her blog, Connor's Song.