Right about the time my son was three I began hosting Halloween. Recently, separated from my son’s Dad, I felt a strong desire to normalize Aidan’s life. Or, that’s what I thought at the time. The benefit of hindsight and some paid couch time revealed that I was over-compensating.
On the surface, who cares that I host an annual Halloween gathering? Really, it’s not that strange. However, what I didn’t realize at the time, nor for about 14 years if I’m completely honest, is that subconsciously I tried to ‘make right’ the new paradigm, two house instead of one, by initiating ‘never-changing’, yearly, traditions.
Guilt, while a powerful motivator, can be tricky and not always transparent. Or, at least that’s how mine shows up.
The Urban Loft:
“Don’t you just love when your younger self gets proven wrong?”
We lived in an urban loft space, above an organic co-op market and other assorted and sundry retail operations. It’s a planned development, something my 30-something self scoffed at and would never consider as a residence option. Don’t you just love when your younger self gets proven wrong? As it turned out, it was a fabulous choice for a post-married mom of a young kid. It was all of about 950 square feet but we loved it and often filled it to the brim and out the door with friends and family. Halloween became one of those days – yearly.
I am not exaggerating when I say there were years where we had upwards of 25 people – kids and adults – all dressed up – in our tiny home. The plan: meet at 700 Market Street, eat some pizza, carrot sticks, and grapes (it was the only real food those kids saw that night). Then, we would trick or treat. Some would stay together, some would go off in separate groups. A great deal depended on the age and desire of our little goblins. Afterwards, we would gather back at the loft where the kids could inventory their take for the night, binge eat enough sugar to cause a hypoglycemia coma, and we, the parents, enjoyed adult beverages and too much picture taking.
The Party Continues:
“Twelve years into the yearly event, I was still unaware of the underlying ‘WHY’ I was doing it.”
When my son turned 14, my boyfriend and I decided to move in together. We bought a home in the same planned community. The timing was perfect, my kid really needed a ceiling and door to his bedroom. Even though our situation was completely different, I insisted on hosting the annual Halloween gathering.
Twelve years into the yearly event, I was still unaware of the underlying ‘WHY’ I was doing it. Now, I look back and realize that any little mishap, such as bad weather, or a cancellation, would worry and stress me intensely. I put a great deal of effort to make sure the food was right and plenty. I double-checked with guests to make sure they were coming. Poor Aidan had to endure my checking, double-checking, and more.
It’s Just A Halloween Party!
On November 1, 2019, I set my sights on the 2020 Halloween festivities. Given that Aidan would be a senior in highschool, I knew it would be the finale. It was going to be spooktacular. At that time, it appeared to be a perfect set-up for our farewell to our 15 year tradition. This year, Halloween lands on a Saturday night. And, the clocks turn back, affording us a whole extra hour of shenanigans.
How was I to know that I was planning a super-spreader event?
“After 14 years of guilt tricks, I can see the treat.”
Suffice it to say, MY Halloween bash looks very different this year. Instead of the posse of teens (most parents stopped attending years ago), I will set up a table at the end of the driveway with individually wrapped candy laid out so as to not touch one another. Yes, we will have a few guests. Luckily my son’s godparents and godbrother are part of our Covid pod, allowing us to host a tiny, tiny Halloween ‘party’.
After 14 years of guilt tricks, I can see the treat. I am not anxious, angry, or sad. I am OK with the loss. It helps that, while disappointed, my now-18-year-old son takes things in stride. The best treat of this year’s holiday? And, one that doesn’t make me gain weight nor rot my teeth? I’ve forgiven myself for ‘destroying’ the three-year-old’s life. When I see the man he’s becoming, I know deep inside that the new life, that both his Dad and I created to replace the one he was born into, was and is pretty darn sweet.