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Mummy Musings is a fortnightly column where Elisabeth Lee navigates the ups and downs of bringing up her daughter.
As fall gives way to winter, our thoughts turn to Halloween. It has been by far my least favourite of all the new Canadian traditions we are adapting to – I don’t like the copious amounts of candy, the confused stereotypes (this year I saw a man in a Vietnamese rice farmer hat pretending to be a samurai) and the crowds of children high on sugar in the streets.
But, this year, A was completely obsessed with it. Last year, she was just a little too young to make sense of the traditions. She found the witches and skeletons too scary, and was too shy to trick or treat. This year, in the run up to the festivities, she enthusiastically embraced every last bit of it.
Each morning, she dreamed up new costume ideas. First, she wanted to be a ghost, then a jack-o’-lantern, then a princess, then “a ghost with a jack-o’-lantern on his head because that will be super spooky”. Then she decided to be a rainbow, then a rainbow unicorn, then a bunny – “no, mummy, a RAINBOW bunny!”, then an astronaut.
I decided I had to put a stop to the rampant costume planning. While Halloween is a fantastic time to pretend to be anything you want, I explained, mummy couldn’t possibly make endless amounts of costumes. To do something well, we had to focus. Eventually, we settled on the rainbow bunny and astronaut ideas. Whew.
Halloween crept up on us, slowly but surely. A borrowed a dragon costume and wore that to daycare on dress-up day. I painted her face and she went as a rainbow bunny to a friend’s Halloween party.
On Halloween itself, she went as an astronaut, in a spacesuit that was both cool to look at, and warm enough for the frosty evening. My partner took her to the village main street to trick or treat with her friends, and then later that night, we went out for a second round of trick or treating with our neighbours.
Some of our neighbours spared no effort in their Halloween decorations. There were creepy ghosts lurking in trees, scary skeletons in the driveway, and giant spiders in the bushes. Little A was unfazed. “Those are pretend ghosts, aren’t they, mummy?” she asked. “So, they only pretend scare me. Not for real.” Then, she stepped over a zombie lying in the neighbour’s front yard, cool as a cucumber, and collected another candy treat.
For me, the real treat that night was watching A learn to discern what’s real and what’s not, what’s worth being scared of and what’s not. To suspend – even just for one night – the very real horrors of the world, in exchange for plastic ghouls and sugary sweets. To reflect on how lucky we were, that to delight in our pretend scares was a choice we were so privileged to have.
Elisabeth Lee is proof that it is never too late to consider a second, third or even fourth career, having come to both motherhood and writing late in life. She occasionally freelances and can be reached at bethgoeswriting.com.