This was Halloween, circa 2003.
This is Halloween, circa 2014.
This year, she’s happy (and she’s the one behind the camera, albeit mostly taking selfies) and I’m the one in tears.
This year I won’t see a crying bunny or a grinning Blues Clues. I won’t see the cowgirl mad at her sheriff brother and I won’t see the cookie monster that bordered on being kind of weird in fifth grade. I won’t see the punk (and ill-advised) DJ who really wanted to match her friends.
I won’t see any more of it than is currently on her bedroom floor.
“Mom?” she asked tentatively, a few weeks ago. “I was invited to this Halloween party. And I didn’t go last year, but I really want to go this year. We’re going to trick or treat and watch Ghostbusters and have a sleepover. Can I go?”
This is what I wanted to say:
Are you crazy? No way. You may be 12 (and a half) and in middle school but you are still my baby. I don’t know that neighborhood. Will an adult be with you? Will they have extra batteries for the flashlights? Will you stay with a buddy? Will you not go to creepy houses? Will you stay away from strangers? Will you remember to eat something healthy so you don’t barf from all the candy? Who’s going to do your makeup? Not everyone can do perfect cat whiskers, you know.
Instead, I smiled.
Yeah, and what about the monster truck house? Won’t you miss that? And the haunted porch we go by every year? And laughing at Daddy acting silly, and coming home and dumping all your candy on the family room floor and engaging in a furious bartering session with Jack? And for the love of God, who’s going to make sure your candy doesn’t have razor blades sticking out of it? If we were in Colorado that could be MARIJUANA candy, you know. I can’t risk it. No.
I put my arms around her.
And definitely NO! We’re a family! We spend all holidays together, even kind of fake ones! What if Daddy dresses up? Will you stay with us then? What if I give out full-size candy bars and let you be my first trick-or-treater? Then will you skip the party? Please skip the party. Please stay with us. I’ll miss you so much.
And I said, “Of course you can go, sweetheart. I think you’ll have a blast.”
Later, my husband looked at me and said, “You know, she’s 12. It’s perfect.”
He said, “How about I dress up (a little), and give you a giant candy bar, and maybe a to-go cup of wine, and we take the puppy and take Jack and go with friends and enjoy every single second of still having a reason to trick or treat? Because it won’t last forever with him, either.”
He's right. So that’s our plan.
And the part of me that loves seeing my kids grow up and become independent is cheering wildly.
And the part of me that wants to hold on to my little babies forever is a bit teary.
And all of it feels just like being a parent, which means always being caught right between a belly laugh and a few bittersweet tears.
And you know what?
It's just perfect.