child in princess Halloween costume

I love Halloween. It is quite literally my favorite holiday of all time. My entire family goes trick-or-treating together (including my teenage sons), we attend ALL the local events, and we watch not-so-scary movies all month. And when it comes to Halloween costumes, I love to go all out. Each Halloween season, my mind is full of visions of the best costumes — specifically, coordinated family costumes.

In my first few years as a mom, I put a lot of thought and work into those costumes. One year we were a royal family, complete with knight and dragon. Another year we were all dressed up as children’s book characters. I took pride in making at least some part of each person’s costume and coordinating us all together.

Then my children gained opinions.

The year my middle son fell in love with Spiderman was the first year one of my children requested a particular costume. No problem! I compromised on a store-bought costume but continued with a family theme, making my other two boys Venom and Peter Parker. My husband and I dressed as other comic book characters, and it worked.

The next year, the spider passion continued, and that child would only agree to dress up as his favorite web slinger. And that was the year it hit me: Store-bought Halloween costumes can bring just as much holiday spirit and joy and the ones I coordinated myself! And that’s the year I decided to try to let it go.

Boy, was it hard! My picture-perfect, family-coordinated Halloween costume visions were fading. As my boys got older, all they wanted was to live one night as their favorite superheroes (or, sometimes, villains). They wanted a night to live in the world they usually only read about.  And as much as my previous version of dressing up for Halloween was fun, it wasn’t the kind of fun my kids were needing.

One of the last themed family Halloweens!

The more I thought about it, the more I started to embrace the “one size fits most” costumes.

For me, Halloween is all about fun. It is silly and spooky and a day to be different. It’s a day to explore your interests and new fashion ideas. So why can’t it also be a day where you get to live in a world usually only seen in books or television or movies?

Sure, I could make a Spidey costume, but isn’t it just as easy to use the one that fit last year? And sure, I could knock myself out persuading my five children to conform to my group costume vision. But what fun is Halloween night if you’re forced to wear a costume you had no say in choosing!

Fast forward about 10 years, and we are all deep in our individual passions and character interests. And my teenage boys still dress up! Their costumes might be more ironic and less colorful than they once were, but they are still living in the spooky fantasy world we all love. My younger girls are happily resembling their favorite characters, and thankfully (for me) our time with an Elsa costume only lasted a year. (Our Spiderman era, on the other hand, continued for six Halloweens!)

If you’re envisioning a picture-perfect Halloween costume but your child has feelings on an original idea or a favorite character, let it go! Let them pick! (Just don’t buy that costume too far in advance, because if there’s anything I know about kids, it is that their opinions are strong but ever changing!)

Michelle Mady
Michelle is a lifelong New Englander who lives in Stoneham and works in Charlestown. She is a preschool teacher and Assistant Director at a small private preschool and holds a master’s degree in early childhood education, which has come in useful at both work and home. She has a supportive stay-at-home-dad for a husband and is a mom of five children. She has three boys born in 2005, 2007 and 2008, plus two girls born in 2012 and 2015. Michelle teaches infant and toddler classes for early education teachers and is an adjunct professor for The School Of Mom. She also runs her own business, The Parenting Survival Expert, offering parenting tips and support. In her spare time, she can be found reading a murder mystery novel, sipping far too much coffee, and dreaming of a home in the mountains.