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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

SPD Halloween

Halloween is not such a fun holiday if you’re a small boy with Sensory Processing Disorder. Think about it- everyone you know, and many kids you don’t know, are dressed as all kinds of crazy things. Buzz Lightyear, princesses, aliens, hot dogs, the grim reaper. You get this group of bizarrely- dressed hooligans together and go from house to house ringing doorbells and asking strangers for candy. Everyone looks weird (and a little scary), and those weird people keep coming to your house to bug you. Weird.

Aidan is 6 this year, almost 7, and I think last year was the first year he agreed to wear a costume and go trick-or-treating. Those pictures Mama dreamt of, with all her sweet munchkins in their costumes on Halloween evening, giddy with the anticipation of all the candy they’d soon be getting…not gonna happen, Mama. I realized when Aidan was very little that this was not his cup of tea- dressing up in a weird, itchy, constricting costume to go outside in the cold with mobs of other weird, scary, strange children who were hopped up on sugar and whooping and hollering with their own excitement.

After his first Halloween when I dressed baby Aidan in the sweetest little bear costume, he’s been done with the Halloween Hoopla. When you have a child who has SPD, or any other diagnosis, you have to bend your expectations and learn to accept that all your little dreams might not come true. You might not have years of Halloween pictures with all your kids lined up, dressed in an array of costumes. But there are other dreams you can have that sometimes exceed all expectations.

For five years, Aidan would participate in trick-or-treating disguised as…himself…for a brief few minutes. Then he’d get tired and bored and cold and irritated with the whole crazy experience and we’d drag him home. Having to explain at every house that our 2-year old, then 3, 4, 5 year-old Aidan was dressed as himself got old quickly. People looked at us like we were a little nuts, not costuming our cute little boy. Like we were depriving him of some vital childhood experience. Like how could we call ourselves “American” when our child wasn’t dressed in a costume on Halloween! I wanted to shout at those slight scowls we got “It’s not MY choice that he doesn’t want to wear a costume like all the other good American children today! He has SPD!!” But I smiled supportively as Aidan hesitated before each door, waiting for his big brothers to get him a piece of candy instead of facing strangers in person. Even if the strangers did have loads of candy they were giving away free.

Last year, all four of my kids wore costumes on Halloween. I was pretty excited- I was finally going to get some adorable Halloween pics.
But Daddy didn’t make it home from work for trick-or-treating. So I was on my own with four kids who have SPD. Great. I was exhausted even before things got started, from trying to wrestle four kids into costumes by myself, with our doorbell already ringing with excited friends who wanted to see our costumes. The kids were tired and grumpy at the beginning of the excursion, so you can imagine how they were by the end. Jonah and Ben had just gotten braces a couple weeks before Halloween, and half-way through the trick-or-treating extravaganza they realized they wouldn’t be able to eat anything they had gotten in their loot of candy.

It was all downhill from there. Mommy was tired. No Daddy to trick-or-treat with. No one manning our candy bowl at our house. (As we walked by our own house, I saw a herd of teenagers taking the entire bowl of candy that had a sign on it that specifically said ‘Take 2 Please!’ so I yelled that they BETTER put that candy back for the LITTLE trick-or-treaters!!! And the herd ran off, leaving some of our candy for the smaller costume-clad beings. Don’t mess with the Mamas of little Halloweeners!) Not being able to eat the candy they got in their bags because of braces. It was just a disaster. So I turned our little crowd of grumpasaurases around and we cut the festivities short.
Sometimes your dreams have to be re-dreamt. Yes, I got cute pictures of costumed kids last year. But the experience itself of Halloween was not so fantastic. The one amazing thing that came out of that long, irritating experience last year was that Aidan put on a costume! He rang doorbells with his brothers and sister! He said “trick-or-treat” so that people could hear him and held up his own little bag for a goody! I was very proud. No more scowls from people. My boy was in a costume! We made it.

This year, we’ll see how things go. Aidan is very excited about his costume- Captain America. I think he’s getting caught up in the fun of it all, and is able to hold his anxiety at bay. I have learned to be flexible. It’s not the end of the world if my kids don’t all have a costume on for Halloween. My pictures will just have some costumed-kids, and some non-costume-wearers. Such is life. My hope now is just that all my kids have fun and make good memories of childhood Halloweens. Costumes or no costumes. 

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