One afternoon near the end of the summer, my tween daughter asked, “What should we be for Halloween this year?”
My 7-year-old son promptly chirped, “How about characters from Star Wars?”
My non-verbal 9-year-old son giggled.
It was early to start thinking about Halloween. I wasn’t quite ready. But I loved that my kids were excited. It bonded them in a way I never expected.
Finding activities my family can enjoy together hasn’t been easy. My middle son has multiple disabilities. He needs a wheelchair to get around, and attends a lot of doctor and therapy appointments. Early on, I often brought the kids to their siblings’ extracurricular activities, but I had difficulty planning outings that would include all three of them — something I desperately wanted to figure out.
One summer afternoon, when the kids were 7, 5 and 3 years old, we were walking around our local craft store. As we roamed the aisles, we looked at the Halloween decorations already on display.
“Remember last year, when we were Wizard of Oz characters?” my daughter asked. “That was so much fun!”
The previous year, I had purchased Dorothy, Tin Man and Lion costumes. The photos I have of the kids laughing before we went trick-or-treating are priceless. They had a blast dressing up in a group costume and being part of a team.
As we walked through the craft store, the kids got more enthusiastic about the upcoming holiday. They threw out ideas and imagined different themes that might work well. As they brainstormed, I remembered how store-bought costume sets can be expensive. I didn’t want to purchase them again if there was a way we could recreate them at home. Plus, we were already in a craft store. I suggested we make DIY Halloween costumes together. The kids were on board, and it became a family tradition.
Planning for Halloween quickly became something exciting we did when we had some down time after their activities. On afternoons when the kids spent their day in different directions, we saved ideas to a Pinterest folder.
We made a list of the essential items they wanted as part of their attire. We decided to recreate what we could, and agreed to purchase anything else we needed piecemeal, instead of adding pressure to make everything from scratch. The kids sought out props anytime we went out. They made sure their outfits worked well individually, since they attend different schools. But they more often thought of each other because their characters were related, and they wanted to look good together.
That year, they were Harry Potter characters. My youngest son chose to be Hedwig, the owl. I have limited sewing experience, so we used a variety of supplies from the craft store. I bought a plain white t-shirt and the kids helped me cut out felt feathers. I hot glued them to the shirt and, to add texture, added store bought feathers.
My daughter wanted to be Hermione. One day I purchased a cape and another day a scarf — both items I knew she would play with even after Halloween was over. My middle guy was Harry Potter. He wore a matching cape that we draped over the side of his wheelchair. We bought over-the-counter glasses and popped out the lenses. Then we drew a lightning bolt on his forehead with make-up. He loved being the center of attention.
Each year since then, the kids spend weeks scheming and planning their outfits. My husband and I often join in on the fun. Two years ago, we were rock stars who formed a band. We found leather jackets at a consignment shop. I bought Queen t-shirts at our local department store. We made a drum set out of cardboard, paper plates and poster paper that we attached to my son’s wheelchair. He had a ball hitting the fake symbols with straws in place of drumsticks. We even participated in the local trunk or treat. We spent an afternoon making a flashy backdrop to display and the kids learned about some of my husband’s favorite rock bands that we played on a loop in the background.
Last year, the kids initiated the Halloween preparation all by themselves. They decided they wanted to be pirates. We had extra time since we were home most of the year due to the pandemic, so we bought cloth that my daughter used to cut out vests for each of them as well as a skirt for herself. The boys used clothes they already owned like a white button-down shirt and khakis. They asked me to purchase an eye patch, suspenders and foam swords. Our new puppy got a costume too (although she didn’t wear it for long).
Over time, I’ve learned how to adapt many of our activities so the whole family can join in. My son has fewer appointments than when he was younger. The kids are older and it’s easier to find things to do as a group. Yet still, on each Halloween, they get excited to collaborate on their costumes.
I know that someday my children will branch out further into their own lives. They may tire of Halloween or want more independence. I hope that the bonds they have developed when they were younger will keep them close and that they will always find ways to enjoy each other and have fun.
For now, we need to research R2-D2 costumes and gather our lightsabers!
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