This October, it’s Halloween everywhere but in my heart.
Dane, my six-year-old, is going to wear a costume that my wife bought. In a store.
It’s a ninja outfit, and it is not at all cool. It does not have this awesome mask that covers his face perfectly, nor does it have these amazing bands on the end of the sleeves that fit around his hands. It is not black and totally bad-ass looking. *sigh* Okay, maybe it is. But I still hate it.
Look. I have nothing against store-bought costumes. And I might be overreacting, since it is a ninja costume, and I had this bizarre obsession with ninjas that began at six but lasted until well into sixth grade, culminating in school projects that invariably recited the ninja code “Swift-Silent-Deadly,” which recitation pretty much ensured that my first conversations with girls did not occur until I was approximately thirteen, when I finally quit ninjas.
It’s just that Dane and I have had this ritual for the past four Octobers of making a costume for him. We have done it ever since he was old enough to stand up and trick-or-treat. For months we hoard stacks of cardboard and odd-shaped clear plastic packaging. We accumulate wires and fasteners. And there is a lengthy design process, usually in the final week of September, during which we literally have a drawing board and sketch out all the components and figure out how they will all fit together.
This year, though, my workshop is empty. The other day, I put all the cardboard and plastic in the recycling bins. The late-October afternoons, which I used to spend feverishly painting and finalizing the costume, are strangely quiet. And I do not want to talk about Halloween.
“This isn’t about you,” my wife scolded me, when I threw a fit about the despised ninja getup. Hm.
I admit that the costumes haven’t always been designed with walking in mind. In 2010, Dane wanted to be a Lego Star Wars X-Wing Pilot. I recall how awesome it was to use the actual Lego Star Wars figure Zev Senesca as our model, and to come up with a way to make the legs straight and boxy, just like the Lego guy. But in the photo from that year’s neighborhood Halloween parade, Dane looks, um, miserable. And now that I think about it, he spent most of that parade whining, “Can I please ride in the wagon? I don’t want to walk.” Riding in the wagon would have ruined the costume, of course. Did I make him walk during that whole parade?
I also admit that the costumes are somewhat elaborate. A bit heavy, even. We made a Space Shuttle Endeavour costume in 2009. I remember Dane being pretty psyched not just to wear a space-related outfit, but to actually be the Space Shuttle. But I look at a photo from that year. We are still in the driveway, about to go trick-or-treating. And Dane is not happy. He says: “This hurts, Dad. When can I take it off?” I am pretty sure I let him take it off at some point during the evening. Didn’t I?
And now I realize for the first time that I never let him do all the fun stuff from Halloween. Instead, I made him be a walking art project. He won’t be interested in trick-or-treating forever. So this year I’m going to step back and be cool with the ninja costume. On Halloween night, I plan to let him do whatever he wants. Engage in mock battles with his friends? By all means. Trick-or-treat until midnight? Yep, go for it. Go inside and eat 50 Kit-Kats? Sure buddy, knock yourself out.
But after Halloween, if this phase lasts much longer, I might stage a ninja intervention with the kid. A ninjervention? Yes. A ninjervention.