costume conundrum: saying no to the morph suit

I hadn’t forgotten this blog. In fact I thought of it often, but found that just like everybody else around here, most moments during the notoriously crazy start of fall were wrapped up in work – kid work, house work, work work, and the annual duties surrounding prepping the DVR for a new season of TV.

And during the most frenzied moments, oh, how I longed for the calm, predictability, and parameters that routines seem to give the serene and well-rested families I read about in parenting articles. Those parents have it together. They have systems. They know what’s for dinner next Thursday. They are never stumped. Most striking, they are not afraid to say no when they need to, and their kids thrive within their well-appointed boundaries. The routinized life I’ve haphazardly aspired to through the years, has always been just beyond my half-hearted reach.

So if I’m not that, I must be spontaneous and carefree! I must welcome every new opportunity to come our way in the interest of raising curious and whimsical little adventurers!  I know plenty of people in that category too.  They say, “YES! Of course!” They run headlong into life with great gusto and imaginative barefoot kids in tow.

“There’s a street fair! Let’s go!”

“It’s hot! Let’s have ice cream for dinner!”

“You found a puppy!?! What luck! Of course you can keep him!”

But….no. I tap-dance between the two– feeling equally ill at ease in both approaches to parenting. It’s exhausting for me and certainly confusing for the kids; especially when they’re already stuck in their own kid-sized limbo, figuring out where the little boy stops and the big kid begins.

Which brings me to the issue at hand: the morph suit.

Oh you haven’t seen it?  You would remember if you had – once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

The morph suit is a Halloween costume – conveniently available in children’s and disturbing adult sizes. It appears to be a one-piece stretchy leotard, designed to cover every inch of a person — hands, body, feet, and the whole head, including the wearer’s face. It’s reminiscent of the horribly scary rubber suit that kept popping up in the promos for the first season of the hit TV show I never watched, American Horror Story; or the lesser-known, just-as-creepy “Human Being” mascot suit from a show I always watch, Community.

The costume catalog arrived in the mail from one of our local party stores. Most households likely tossed theirs out with the Pennysaver before it ever hit their kitchen counter top. Not us. For days, the boys pored over the catalog’s flimsy pages examining every wacky, gory, cartoony, super-heroic option. But they always came back to the morph suit.

I stumbled out to the kitchen early one morning to find the catalog on the counter where I couldn’t miss it. The red morph suit was circled and surrounded by a dozen subtly drawn arrows.  You know what they say though, better to wake up to a picture of the morph suit, than wake up to the morph suit.

As the boys ate their Cheerios, and I buzzed around the kitchen, I casually pointed to the catalog and blurted out, “There’s just no way you’re getting the morph suit. Aside from the fact that it’s disturbing in every way and would give us nightmares forever – you can’t wear it to school. You’re not allowed to have anything over your head and face.  Then you’d just be sitting in class in a skintight suit, regretting your choice and wishing for a pair of pants.”

The 7-year-old shrugged and moved on to the Avengers page. The 12-year-old mumbled in agreement, but stood in front of the morph suit display when we finally made it to the store (effective catalog mailing, Party City!). Zach was thrilled that (spoiler alert) Captain America was still in stock, as well as the a la carte shield and gloves. After carefully considering the pros and cons of the Captain America suit with the built-in muscles, he opted for the slimmer, standard non-muscled version citing flexibility, breathability, comfort, and ease of storage as its winning qualities.

“The morph suit is not happening,” I told Jake, as he stood looking at more morph suit options than even the catalog had boasted.

“I know. I don’t even care, I’m over Halloween anyway. I’ll just hand out candy,” he said.

Had my flippant dismissal of the (still-terrible) morph suit sullied his last gasp for his little boy-hood? I took him down the next aisle in a quick attempt to preserve his childhood. “How about you dress as a rocker? Mobster? 80’s guy? 70’s guy?” I was just pointing out a mullet wig, when an old friend and her 12-year-old daughter appeared in the aisle.

Zach, having found a new audience, immediately launched into the laundry list of why the muscle-free Captain America might just be the best costume in the history of Halloween.

My friend gestured to her daughter, “she’s not so sure about Halloween anymore; she might just want to hand out candy.”

Before saying our goodbyes, the tweens mumbled back and forth in some kind of primitive communication that conveniently allowed them to act as though the other person did not exist, as only 12-year-olds can do. We made our Captain America purchase and Jake left empty-handed. By the time we got to the car, he was chattering about his science project and asking about lunch.

Transitions are hard and helping your kids navigate the pitfalls of adolescence is no picnic. It can be fun to say yes with abandon, but sometimes the one thing I bring with me to the parenting table is that I too, was once in middle school. Sure, saying no to the morph suit may have been a big bummer, but it’s better than sitting in math class wishing you were wearing pants.

sexy abraham lincoln

The other night we went out, as adults, with other adults. It was very sophisticated. Of course we ran into even more adults including some who were dressed up for a night on the town. Costumed up, I should say for some apparent pre-Halloween festivities. We’ve all seen the selection of women’s Halloween costumes right now….sexy nurse, sexy prisoner, sexy race car driver, you get the idea. So imagine my surprise when there, in the middle of the crowd, was sexy Abraham Lincoln. Black blazer, black mini skirt, white blouse, fish nets, pumps, top hat and yes, Abraham Lincoln beard. Not just any Abraham Lincoln beard, a sassy supermodel-type Abraham Lincoln beard.

I’m not a natural Halloween person, though through the years, I’ve tried really hard. As a kid, I was the one who always got a fever the day of, or alas, threw up at school ten minutes before the costume parade (it was 2nd grade. Of course, my mother had spent a month working on a Revolutionary War period costume for the occasion that would not see the light of day.) I did rock the Mickey Mouse in ’77 and Princess Leia in ‘78 complete with homemade buns (thanks again mom). There were the unfortunate off years where “jogger” or “girl in wig” had to suffice.

My sad attempt at replicating my brother’s infamous “blind date” costume– the sight impaired glorified raisin that had skyrocketed my brother’s status to that of Halloween legend — fell appropriately flat when I kept having to explain it.

College, right? College Halloweens had to be epic. I had pretty high hopes going in. I won’t bore you with the sad details. They are not even funny sad, just sad sad. So I suppose epic is still appropriate if you are talking about the level to which they were ho-hum. As was my first crack at homemade Halloween treats. I tried to guess the recipe for sugar cookies. That, my friends, is why I cook, and do not bake. I can guess the recipe for a lot of things, but with baking I now know, there is stinkin’ science involved.

I did put my all into pumpkin carving when they came out with those handy kits. I loved picking the most complicated pattern, and it would take about 4 hours for me to finish one design. Those tiny little haunted house windows are tricky. I’d be sitting at the table, tongue out, brow furrowed and glistening with the perspiration of pure determination, moxie, and chutzpah! I’d eventually look up and I’d be sitting alone nursing my wrist and looking for the beginning signs of carpal tunnel syndrome, while everyone else had retired to the couch with a beer having finished their elementary designs of “funny ghost face” or “bat.”

Then I had a baby, and I could not get through trying to cut the hole in the top without having to stop 11 times to feed and change and bounce and soothe. That’s when I decided that pumpkins were even more attractive and longer lasting when you did not have to cut them open.

Jake did however breathe new life into my Halloween efforts. I cried when I saw him in his baby pea pod suit. He hopped all over my office as a frog, put on my heart and soul when he slipped into the airplane costume I made for him, and wore around half our monthly food budget in his sharp looking and fully legit NASA flight suit.

He also spent one year as “the kid with the fever” with Zach taking his turn with it two years later.  

We do have high hopes for this year. I may have failed on the cookie front again, but the costumes are shaping up nicely.

Zachary is the most detail-oriented dresser-upper you’d ever lay eyes on; last year in his Indiana Jones satchel, where nobody could see, you would have found jewels, a journal, a whip and a snake that helped him get into character. This year, he has taken it upon himself to meticulously grow out his hair to achieve the fluffiest, featheriest Mark Hamill ‘do this side of 1987. It will go perfectly with his x-wing fighter suit. Let me just say that again. It’s a 5-year-old growing out his hair to replicate Luke Skywalker, circa 1977. He is nothing if not dedicated.

After lamenting costume options for weeks with Jacob, including an ill fated Justin Bieber idea, yesterday we walked into a local Halloween store and asked for beards. The girl cocked an eyebrow at me – “Brian Wilson?” I nodded sheepishly, with the confirmation of what I expected. Prepare yourself Bay Area folks – Brian Wilson will be visiting you… a lot. I really would have felt like a Halloween rock star if I could have honestly answered, “No thanks, show me your sexy Abraham Lincolns.”