Okay, so I know its been three weeks since Halloween, but I need to talk about something. As photos from Halloween still filter in through social media posts of friends and family, I keep seeing these shared photos of children in amazing costumes depicting subculture/horror/geek characters with headings such as “parenting done right” and you KNOW that child has no clue who they are dressed up to look like and, I don’t know, call me old fashioned, but that just doesn’t seem like a nice thing to do.
If these small kids DO know who they are depicting and are super excited about it, I’m concerned for other reasons entirely, but that’s a whole separate topic I might talk about soon, but not today. Oh, and I’m not even going to get into the costumes that are just plain sick; a baby dressed up like a box of cigarettes or a box of condoms or a bottle of liquor or a terrorist… (yes, it’s all been done… google it.)
For today, I’m just about the costumes parents put on their kids when the kids have no idea who they are. Is that a terrific or a terrible idea? Is it really “parenting done right”? I’ll admit, I look at those photos and think… I could TOTALLY do that because it’s awesome! And then I remember my children are tiny humans, not dress up dolls here for my amusement. (What!?! Bummer, right??)
Here are a few examples of costumes I’ve seen;
Toddler or preschool Sweeny Todd and Mrs. Lovett
Toddler Master Chief
Toddler Call of Duty characters
Toddler vampires, zombies, werewolves, etc., with blood and gore all over
Beetlejuice and Lydia (maybe okay?)
The SAW puppet
Any of the horror staples; Jason, Freddy, Leatherface, Norman Bates, Ghostface, Michael Myers, etc.
SADAKO!!! (I wouldn’t sleep for a month if I did that to my kid)
A toddler “Chucky” and/or “Bride of Chucky”
Toddler Hannibal Lector, complete with straight jacket and dolly
Alex from Clockwork Orange
A six year old in a “cone boob” Madonna
Gage from Pet Cemetery… after he was brought back, tiny “play” knife in hand.
… and this is just off the top of my head. There are SO MANY MORE out there and it just seems to be a trend for parents, especially geek parents, to use their child as a canvas of their own amusement to show off at conventions or on Halloween.
So, is that okay? I mean, it’s not even really so much about “age appropriate” as it is about the fact that if our kids don’t even know the characters they are dressing up like, how can that be fun for them? Is that fair of us to deny them the opportunity to choose their costumes themselves?
I asked myself the same questions this year as I began the process of deciding if I wanted my kids to dress up for a day at ComicCon and then again as we considered what we would do for Halloween. I had and still have SO MANY ideas but I continually hold back because the vast majority of them are characters my kids don’t know yet because they are only three and five years old. I feel like there should be a line there… a line we don’t get to cross. It’s like wearing a concert tee for a show you never went to. It’s just wrong and it actually makes me feel bad to think about making that choice for them.
Let me just say here, remember – my kids are preschool age. They just watched Labyrinth for the first time a month ago and it scared them. They don’t have the attention span for Princess Bride or Goonies, and both Coraline and Jurassic Park gives my son nightmares. We are baby-stepping our way into things, here. Superheroes are cool, Batman is the forever favorite, Star Wars is God, Star Trek is… well, I’m working on it. We watch Dr. Who while I clean the house and anything that has been turned into a Lego game is totally acceptable. We mostly still watch Disney Jr and preschool shows on Netflix and, as they mature, we try new things and see what works and what doesn’t. (See my series on preschool programming from last year for more on that) It’s a learning process for us all, but there are just some things mine are not ready for. Other kids their age might be and that’s totally cool – I’m not judging here, I’m just genuinely wondering what the general opinion actually is.
Is it weird that I don’t want to dress up my kids in costumes of actual murderers or slasher movie characters or horror film aliens? (I forgot to add that I once saw a first grader dressed up like Carrie once… bloody dress and everything. It was seriously disturbing and the parents thought it was awesome. The kid… I don’t think she really cared either way actually, but I know the blood on her face was annoying her.) Or is it really not that big a deal? Should it be totally acceptable to dress them up like Atreu and the Empress even though they’ve never seen that movie? Because I really, really want to and the only reason I don’t is because I feel like it’s not okay since they haven’t seen that movie yet. What about a preschool SubZero or a toddler Lara Croft? One I really wanted to do is Doctor Frankenstein and Frau Blucher from Young Frankenstein or maybe King Arthur and the bunny with the very sharp teeth. It would be SOOOO CUTE and awesome!!! But… awesome for me, not them. These are all grown up ideas. How can that possibly be fun for these kids? Is that fair? Maybe I’m just allowing my own past to cloud my perspective here and it’s really no big deal. I think I only got to choose my own costumes for about three years growing up and I remember that being a sore spot… I don’t want my kids to grow up feeling like I didn’t respect their creativity.
The Padawan’s first Halloween costume was Sheriff Grimes from Walking Dead. Yes, not “child appropriate” in the slightest, but he was a year old. Whatever. The next year; a dinosaur. The Punkin’s first was a mermaid in a beautiful handmade mermaid tail made by an actual (professional) mermaid. The next Halloween after that saw them as Jack and Zero from Nightmare Before Christmas, the Padawan’s choice. Last year, they were Batgirl and Batman, also the Padawan’s choice, but the Punkin didn’t have a problem with it because there was a fluffy skirt and she liked Batman, too.
This year, his fifth Halloween, the Padawan chose Miles from Tomorrowland and the Punkin wanted to be Belle from Beauty and the Beast. If I’d had my way, it wouldn’t have been Miles. I tried so hard to nudge him toward another choice, my choice; Starlord. Starlord was his FIRST choice back in August, but then he changed his mind and decided on Miles instead. I tried for a month to change his mind back to Starlord but he wasn’t having any of it and I finally decided it wasn’t fair to push him toward a choice I wanted that he didn’t. So, Miles it was and I can’t complain considering that show is basically the child version of Star Trek. The Punkin’s first choice was brilliant and I was thrilled She asked if she could be Vanellope Von Schweetz from Wreck it Ralph and I enthusiastically said YES!! I immediately began searching ideas to build her the perfect Vanellope costume and was so excited, until one day she came to me and said “mom, I want to be Snow White for Halloween, not Vanellope.” My heart sank, but she would make a super cute Snow White and I hadn’t yet purchased any of her costume pieces outside the mint green hoodie, so I gave in. Thankfully, I did not buy that costume, because she changed her mind again, and again, and again… then, finally settled on Belle a week before Halloween.
Now, all that being said, while I feel it’s not my place and it’s SO WRONG to do it, I DESPERATELY want to dress them up in super cute and sometimes potentially age-inappropriate costumes for conventions and holidays, but I’m pretty sure they’d hate it.
Maybe we all just need to remember to utilize our resources better and be patient.
Geek/goth/horror/sub – culture parents need to remember that just as WE hated to be taught what to like and what we should wear, our children are no different. Shouldn’t we allow them to grow into who THEY are, even if that means they are princesses and football players? We do nothing for them by being just as oppressively demanding, coaxing them into our own culture even if they aren’t ready or don’t really like it… just as we remember own parents doing to us.
The thing is, when I think about it, there are plenty of amazing geek culture costumes just waiting to be considered that are actually age appropriate and can be taken from movies they’ve actually seen. So, here’s a list of options to consider for kids between the ages of 0-8/10 depending on maturity level, costumes they may actually truly enjoy dressing up like;
Emmet and WildStyle and anyone else from the Lego Movie universe
Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends
ANY super hero EVER who has been featured in a child-appropriate cartoon, comic or video game
LOTR (tiny hobbitses!! ZOMG!)
Star Trek (wait, everyone watches these shows with their one year olds, right?)
Big Hero 6
Mario & Luigi
Sonic the Hedgehog
Legend of Zelda
Neo? I don’t know, I wouldn’t be able to let my five year old watch it, but maybe yours could handle it and might want to look like him?
Alice in Wonderland
Nightmare before Christmas
Any character who shows up in the Disney Infinity games or the Lego Dimensions games
James and the Giant Peach
The Last Airbender
… to name a few. I know there’s more.
What do you think? Does it matter? Should it matter?