We like Halloween around here. Part of Schuyler’s fondness for the holiday probably stems, as it does for many kids with disabilities both obvious and invisible, from the opportunity to pass, if only superficially and for a short time, as no different from other kids. On most days, Schuyler is hyperaware of her difference, but on Halloween, the world is full of monsters and oddities and weirdos. Whatever she may think of herself on most days, this is the week where she’s just one of the creepy crowd.
This year, Halloween is more complicated for us. Schuyler decided, probably correctly, that she was getting a little long in the tooth, or certainly tall in the body, to trick or treat this year. But she loves Halloween, and she wasn’t ready to let it go entirely. We got a reprieve in that her band is performing at a football game on Wednesday night in which the kids are asked to wear costumes. It’s optional, but if a band member doesn’t choose to wear a costume, they must wear their band uniform instead. I suspect most of them will opt for a costume. (Take that, Halloween-hating fuddy duddies.) And on Halloween itself, we’ll be out of town, visiting her godparents and doing non-Halloweeny things.
So Schuyler will get her Halloween, and she’ll get her big girl, “not trick or treating anymore” night as well. It’s all worked out well, because this is the beginning of a holiday season that encompasses not just Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, but also her birthday and those of both her parents as well. For kids like Schuyler, for whom the world can be hard to completely understand, traditions can be like touchstones. As they grow older and are expected to take on more adult responsibilities and independence, those traditions become more and more important.
For Schuyler, and perhaps for other kids like her, the complexities of the world are contrasted with the basic simplicities of holiday traditions. Halloween gives her a sense of adventure and mischief and the ability to lose herself in fantasy. Thanksgiving gives her a chance to celebrate her family and to recognize her own gratitude for the good things in her life. Christmas, even for a nonreligious family like ours, allows her to celebrate the idea of peace in the world, and the best parts of human nature. And our family’s birthdays give her a chance to celebrate the individuals she loves most.
For kids like Schuyler, the world can be frightening, or at the very least it can present a changing face that they struggle to adapt to. For parents like us, the holiday season gives us an opportunity to enforce a little order on the chaos, if only we get it right. It’s tricky; the holidays can be incredibly chaotic in their own way. But it gives us a chance to present the world in a way that makes a little more sense for a short period of time, if we get it right.
We carved a Jack o’lantern yesterday, and it was every bit as enjoyable as we’d hoped it would be. Schuyler’s not on the spectrum and doesn’t have any sensory issues that have made themselves known yet, but the overwhelming smell of pumpkin and the goopiness of the scooping out process tripped her up a little. She stayed with it, however, and had a great time making her one-eyed pumpkin face (“Clopsy”). Schuyler’s hold on her favorite holiday was strengthened a bit more, even as she takes a few more steps away from childhood.
I hope you all have a safe and happy Halloween.
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