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Thank you, Spiderman

We’ve been talking about potential costumes for Halloween for several weeks around here.

Being the thrifty, creative mama that I like to think I am, I really love making homemade costumes. Or more accurately, I love coming up with ideas for homemade costumes and then sending the kids and my creative ideas to my mom’s house where she works her magic at the sewing machine.

Two years ago they were Emily and Clifford. Last year it was Max and Ruby. What magic could we create this year? I was giddy just thinking about all the possibilities. Until my sweet three-year-old hit me with something I wasn’t expecting.

“I want to pick my costume out of a catalog.”

Huh? A catalog?

“I want to look through all the pictures and circle the one I want, Mama.”

I mustered a smile, letting go of my cute cardboard-box-tractor idea.

“Okay, Sweetie. I’ll be on the lookout for a costume catalog.”

Sure enough, later that day I checked the mail and what was on the top of the pile — a catalog of kids’ Halloween costumes. I passed it into the back seat and within a couple of minutes my son zeroed in on the costume he wanted — Spiderman.

I promised him I’d see what I could do and spent the next several days secretly sulking and then eventually coming to terms with my homemade Halloween issues.

I like when my kids have costumes that are unique and personal and homemade. I like the oooos and ahhhs we get when we visit houses. I like sharing the photos with friends and family via e-mail.

But what I really like is how I feel when I walk alongside them in their cute, creative costumes. It makes me feel like a good mother. You know the kind of mother who bakes cookies and does projects and who makes homemade Halloween costumes. (Ahem…or commissions her mother to do so.)

But my boy was insistent. He wanted to be Spiderman.

And so I put the word out to my husband and my mother to be on the lookout for a Spiderman costume. I popped into consignment shops and thrift stores with no luck. Late last week, however, I got the call. My mom was in Walgreens and she had found a Spiderman costume in my son’s size. It had built in muscles and a mask.

“Perfect,” I said. “Buy it.”

I turned my attention to my five-year-old. Surely she would let me get creative with her costume. We perused our dress-up clothes. We made a list of ideas. We were well on track until two days later when she laid eyes on her brother’s costume.

“I want to be Spiderman too, Mama,” she declared.

Walgreens coupon in hand, my mom, the kids and I headed back out. It took three stops before a decision was finally made. Spiderman was nice but this year she would be a Snow Princess.


Later both kids tried on their first-ever store-bought costumes and proudly paraded around the house. My son even slept in his Spiderman costume that night.

Sometimes it’s really hard for me to let go of my picture-perfect Martha Stewart-inspired mothering ideas. Luckily I have two patient but persistent teachers who continue to show me what being a “good mother” is really all about.

Erin Barrette Goodman is a writer and yoga teacher in Charlestown. She is the founder of the Rhode Island Birth Network, which promotes empowered decision-making during the childbearing years and the host of monthly circles and retreats for mothers.  She blogs at exhale. return to center.

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  • It’s amazing how personally attached WE get to our expectations/ideals for our children. The first year my kids went store bought I was overcome with guilt/shame. As if by them making those choices (that I disagree with) I had somehow failed at teaching them the important things. Sometimes we just have to let go … give them the examples and the choices that we believe in … and then respect the fact that they are not us. Parenting is tough that way.

  • What a great thing to share — I imagine I too will be there one day — and it’s going to hurt but I’m hoping to be ok with it! That’s part of why it’s so crazy important to me right now to create these costumes & playthings & clothes for my children (who are 3) because I KNOW that at some point what they might really really really want is something not mama-made. I want to know that at least those years where they DID want mama-made (or didn’t care either way) I created for them….

  • I can’t even tell you…my 4.5 year old keeps telling me he wants to be spiderman…I have already made half of their cardboard-train costumes (Gordon and his tender are cut out and painted; james is next)…I all but yelled at him in playschool today for telling me he wanted to be Spidey…I caught myself by saying/hissing, “the thing that really bugs me about this is that you’re not thinking for yourself…you’re just following what your friends are doing.” I was only slightly aware of how ridiculous I was being (and only now am I aware that I’m asking him to follow me…when really perhaps being Spidey is exactly thinking for himself).

    Wow, wow, and wow.

  • well hannah…since you asked…

    i am actually hosting a retreat this sunday where we will be exploring many of these kinds of things (while sipping tea and eating chocolate ;-). there’s info about it on my website and blog.

    thanks so much for all the great feedback. i really enjoyed reading all your stories.

    happy halloween…


  • I love how you zeroed in on walking beside them in their homemade costumes makes you feel like a good mom. Ironic how the listening to your children and respecting their desires for a store-bought costumes really made you a *great* mom.

  • I loved creating clever DIY costumes for my kids and it has worked…most of the time. When they chose to be Harry and Ron from the Harry Potter book series I was prepared to make capes myself until one of my sons saw the prepacked Harry Potter costume set with the “official” Gryffindor robe, glasses and wand. Short on time and not sure exactly how I would replicate the house logo, I ended up buying the set. My son LOVED it. In the end, the cape along with all the other DIY costumes are heaped in the costume box. And depending on my sons’ moods they have all been wore over and over again.

  • He He. I almost was in your shoes. My older son wanted to be a ghost. A ghost? I am famous for their quirky and interesting homemade costumes. I was crushed. Finally I came up with a costume to tempt him away from the ghost, I admit I am a little too crazy about Halloween. I don’t think I will be so lucky next year. But for this year, they are the cutest Max and Moishe from Where the Wild Things Are.

  • He was going to be Underpantshead Man and wear underpants on his head. Not charming, but I was thrilled! But now both of my boys are being Target package costumes–a clone trooper and some all-black guy from GI Joe. I grew up wearing a white flannel nightie and tinsel on my head (=”angel”) so I never bother fighting the packaged-costume frenzy. Thanks for saying this. Erin Goodman is a genius.

  • So Funny! I had a similar experience with my own boys (we were spiderman last year…). My mom always made my costumes and I was determined (with my limited sewing skills) that I would always do the same. My husband and my then 3yr old petitioned for a store costume last year. At first I was pissy too and let them shop by themselves (I wanted no part). Now it has become a “boys” tradition with them looking forward to the shopping trip almost as much as halloween itself. New traditions can be as good as old ones (even if they’re a little plasticy…)