I have five children. My oldest is 18, and my youngest is 8. Over the years, I have bought quite a few Halloween costumes. It always starts in late summer—the kids start getting excited about dressing up and want to start looking online for costumes because they want to make sure they’re delivered on time. As the kids have gotten older, a couple of them have even planned out costumes a few years in advance. It’s always fun watching their excitement, and it’s always fun “sharing” the candy with them.
One of the things I’ve always done is allow them to wear their costumes pretty much anywhere they want after Halloween. Grocery store? Absolutely. Grandma’s house? Go for it, she’ll probably throw it in the wash and save me a load of laundry while you’re there. Within reason, my kids could wear it wherever they wanted, until they got tired of it or outgrew it, whichever came first. Then it would be passed down to the next kid to enjoy.
The biggest struggle with their picking costumes so early was the fact that they tried their costumes on every day, and as relaxed as I was about them wearing them after Halloween, I refused to let them wear them before. It was almost like I thought the costumes had to stay pristine for trick-or-treating! One year, my son was wearing one of those blow-up T-Rex costumes. He tried it on and blew it up every day, so on Halloween, the batteries ran out about halfway through trick-or-treating. He looked like such a sad little dinosaur going down the last street. I felt terrible and said that the next year I wouldn’t let them mess with their costumes until it was time to trick-or-treat. They could try it on to make sure it fit, and that was it.
Then it occurred to me: why? Why was it so important their costumes be practically brand new the day of Halloween? Why did I feel they had to be pristine? I was completely fine with them wearing their costumes as much as they wanted after October 31st (yes, even that T-Rex made quite a few Walmart runs with me) so WHY in the world would I want to deprive my kids of the joy of wearing them before Halloween as well? For pictures? For the initial oohing and ahhing over the costumes when the kids walked outside to trick-or-treat? I immediately changed my policy, and for the last 10 years, Halloween costumes became our uniform from mid-September to almost Thanksgiving.
Last year, my now 8-year-old was Addison from the Disney “Zombie” movies. She wore a little cheerleader outfit and there are NO WORDS to describe how much she loved that costume, and she wore it every day from the day Amazon delivered it until the day she outgrew it. I estimate it was washed about a dozen times before Halloween, and it didn’t diminish her joy and excitement over wearing it on the actual day at all. (Putting on your current favorite outfit AND getting bags of free candy? That’s a great day!) And not one person could tell it wasn’t a fresh-out-of-the-box costume—and even if they could, who cares? My heart still lifts when I think of the happiness she got out of those extra days of wearing that costume.
Letting them wear the costume as soon as they got it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Not only did it lift my sprits and bring more joy to the kids, but based on the comments and smiles my kids got whenever we went somewhere, it brought joy to people around us as well.
Time passes so fast as it is. I look at the differences between my 8-year-old and my 18-year-old, and I know I will blink and my youngest will be grown. I know this, because just a second ago my oldest daughter was just a toddler dressed up in her princess costume . . . and then I blinked. Now she’s a beautiful young woman, who loves walking her sister around to trick-or-treat, but doesn’t do it herself anymore. So I look back at my youngest daughter and say to her, “Wear the costume, baby. Wear it as much as you want. Wear it as many times as it brings you joy. Stretch that imagination, play the games, twirl around, and live it up.” And I say to myself, “Soak it in. Enjoy her excitement. Watch her wring every last bit of joy out of this season of life, knowing it makes you just as happy as it makes her.”