Scariest part of Halloween? Finding costumes that don’t emotionally scar your kids

image For some of you, Halloween is an exciting time that allows you to bond with your child by making their Halloween-costume dream come true.

For the rest of us, it was a time when we crossed our fingers and prayed that our child’s “Halloween costume dream” was hanging on a rack somewhere at Walmart. Because if it wasn’t, we’d have to make something, and therefore put our child’s emotional health at risk by creating a costume that could potentially scar them for life.

After more than 30 years, I still remember my mother carefully wrapping me in layer after layer of tissue in order to turn me into a frightening replica of The Mummy — and how it took less than five minutes for a light drizzle to turn me into the considerably LESS frightening Soggy Toilet Paper Man. Things weren’t much better the following year, when I dressed-up as a pirate and missed-out on all of the good candy after spending 45 minutes with my plastic hook stuck in the car door. By the time I hit the streets all that was left were Sweet Tarts and half-opened rolls of breath mints.

However, as Count Dracula, I knew it was going to be MY year. Aside from maybe swallowing my own fangs, there wasn’t much that could go wrong. I remember leaping from the porch and sprinting into the night with my long cape flapping behind me. I remember the sound of my polished shoes clattering across the pavement, and the eerie, greenish tinge of my glow-in-the-dark teeth — particularly as they flew out of my mouth after my cape caught on the neighbors’ fence.

Granted, these situations weren’t entirely about design flaw. In fact, I’m willing to accept the small role my own flawed coordination skills might’ve played in all this. However, that only adds to the pressure of coming up with a costume that can be safe, functional and, if necessary, used as a stretcher.

Back when my son was still young enough that he had no plans for what he wanted to be for Halloween, we were both fortunate. Not only because it made my job easier as a parent, but also because there’s still a good chance he’ll never remember freaking out after the cardboard robot costume I made him cut off the circulation to his arms, rendering them unresponsive for a full two minutes. This was discovered on our third stop of the night, when he tried to lift up his plastic jack-o-lantern for candy and, instead, fell headfirst through the screen door.

That same year, my daughter, who liked to put her own spin on things, remained undecided until the last minute. In previous years, she had been a ghost dog, a cowgirl-fairy type of thing and the Grim Reaper. Being that her big fascinations at the time were dinosaurs and mushrooms, I was envisioning a fossilized portobello mushroom.

Not exactly something you’ll find on the rack at Walmart.

Trust me, I checked.

In the end, she settled for being a football player zombie. Which was fine.

Until she tackled someone through the screen door.

Fortunatley, I no longer have to worry about these things. That’s because my teenagers now have a reputation to maintain! Which means it’s their turn to worry. Not about what costume they’re going to wear — but how much I’m going to embarrass them with mine.

Lord knows I’ve had plenty of practice…



image(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation and a member of the writing team at Long Awkward Pause. This has been an excerpt from his book, Humor at the Speed of Life, available from Port Hole Publications, or Barnes & Noble.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

43 thoughts on “Scariest part of Halloween? Finding costumes that don’t emotionally scar your kids”

  1. Thank the Lord I had a wife who came with the kids so those decisions were made above my paygrade. That said, I was responsible for transportation and any of the costume adjustments that were necessary as the night progressed. Often I cheated and just removed any offending pieces so as the evening progressed, the costumes slowly disappeared. Ha!

  2. Costumes are very difficult…and really you don’t get away easy finding something hanging at Walmart because you’re lucky if those costumes hold up for the handful of times your child will wear them…and they’re even that cheap! I’m not handy when it comes to sewing (or really anything else for that matter) but we’ve since taken to making due with creating something from whatever’s available in our wardrobe plus maybe a few thrift store items.

      1. Oh yeah, my son’s almost 13. I’m kind of hoping it will end soon…for him at least, but he still seems to enjoy it. My daughter is only 8 so we’ve got a while with her.

  3. I was many things as a kid, but my favorite was the year I went as a witch. I had a really cool all black flowy dress and a really tall pointy hat! It rocked! My mom was always good at making sure I had a great costume. I don’t remember any “incidents” but I do remember it being very cold and having to wear long underwear under my duds more than one year! LOL! My daughter has never really been into Halloween, still isn’t. But she loved giving out candy, so we would dress up to hand it out! That was fun! and a lot warmer! ha ha!! 😀

    1. In stopped trick-or-treating at an early age (for obvious reasons) and started making haunted yards at our house instead. I figured if I made it too scary for kids to come in, I’d get to keep the candy 😉

  4. I don’t know how to answer this except to say that my older daughter… who is a ‘twenty-something’… for this Halloween, invented the ‘sexy Ruth Bader Ginsberg’ costume… and a dance to go with it… so… uh…

  5. Loved this! And dovetailing off pouringmyartout – – Why does EVERY nursery rhyme and fairy tale character need to be SOOOOO seductive? Even the Wicked Witch of the West has garter belts nowadays. Why? To hold up the black spider web (fishnet!) stockings that are provocatively revealed from six inch stiletto heeled boots! We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore….

        1. Seeing the horror on their faces in the theater when I showed upon the big screen in a red thong before the real Terminator: Genesis premier…?! One of the best moments of my life! Hahaha!

  6. I hope you do dress up as something completely embarrassing to your teenagers – otherwise what fun is being a parent? I don’t even have kids yet, but I already look forward to those days. 🙂

  7. I never went to the neighbors for the candy and I never dressed up in the costumes. This holiday eluded me. Wearing gunk on the face to imitate blood and crap was something I did not wish to do. Why would a rational person wish to portray a dead person while there was so much death out there. I will wait until I die and then I will go trick or treat and the costume will be a worn suit and my flesh hanging from my deceased body. Cheap and effective, the only question is why would I wish candy?

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