I tried. I really did. I tried to be that awesome, fun mom who dresses up on Halloween with her kids. So, a few years ago, I did it. And I will never do it again.
When my twins were 3 years old, I decided to dress up with them to go trick-or-treating. It was the first year that they understood what Halloween meant and that what it meant was candy. They were excited, and I wanted to add to that excitement by dressing up as a penguin.
It made sense at the time.
On Halloween you’ll see photos of families dressed up together: They’re all superheroes, or characters from a fairy tale, or the kids are hot dogs and their parents are ketchup and mustard. When parents are willing to wear spandex in public for their kids, you have to respect that. I am not that brave, however, so I looked for something silly and baggy that my kids would think was funny. And that’s how I found a penguin in a bow tie:
I loved this costume — it’s not a sexy penguin, or a penguin wearing something distasteful like a denim pantsuit, it’s a distinguished penguin with a penchant for conservative neckwear. That’s the kind of penguin I can get down with.
On Halloween night I Velcroed on my costume, straightened my bow tie, and went out to greet my family. My children were ecstatic. My husband was ashamed. I was ready to paint the town penguin.
Off we went to the local country club, which is widely known as the place where they give out the good candy. Sure, sometimes you get a sugar-free lollipop and a toothbrush, but most of the time you get full-sized Hershey bars, so it’s worth the risk.
I knew almost immediately after stepping out of the car that I had made an error: I was the only trick-or-treating adult dressed in costume. I don’t mean I was one of two or three. I mean I was one of one among hundreds of people. I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to be that far off the mark, but I was. I came as a penguin, and all the other parents came as drunk.
Now, I’m not someone who embarrasses easily. I have little to no shame. And that night, when I was flopping around with my penguin feet and sweating through my penguin hood, what I felt wasn’t embarrassment, it was jealousy. The other parents looked so comfortable strolling around with their regular pants, comfortable shoes, and drinks in hand. Guess who couldn’t hold a drink? Me. Because I had flippers.
About 30 minutes into the evening, I was over it. The novelty had worn off. Most of the people I saw that night — from babies to the elderly — were confused by my costume. They looked to see if there was some kind of a common theme between my costume and my children’s, but given that my children were dressed as a fairy and a ninja, it would have taken a lot of creativity to fit a penguin into that story. Some laughed and enjoyed it, and then there were teenagers, who just laughed because they are the worst.
After I put the kids to bed that night, I threw out my costume, stole all the Kit Kats from the kids’ stashes, and decided that I would not be dressing up on Halloween again. Seeing me in costume was a lot of fun for my kids, but only for about 10 minutes; that’s because they were 3 years old, and what they cared about was M&M’s.
The most important parts of Halloween are that my kids have fun, that they get a lot of Kit Kats for Mom, and that I’m able to take them through the night with a good attitude. What I’ve learned is that they are going to have fun regardless of whether or not I am a penguin, and I am going to have fun in comfortable clothes.
And a gin and tonic in a travel mug doesn’t hurt, either.