Usually around here on Halloween I start weaving some innocuous story that turns out to be slightly creepy and suddenly takes a weird turn at which you realize that it’s a Halloween stunt. Not this year. It is 7:45 in the evening on Halloween. Owen refused to go trick-or-treating. He is upstairs, in his bedroom wearing his Captain America Winter Soldier costume with a glow-stick around his neck enjoying a Bugs Bunny movie on the iPad.
Owen is the most empathetic, sensitive person I know. Things impact him on a deeper level than most of us. And those things stay with him for a vast amount of time, partially because he has never forgotten a thing. A few years ago, we went trick-or-treating with some friends and a high school kid in a costume fundamentally freaked him out. And despite the fact that the guy immediately saw what was going on, pulled off his mask and talked Owen out of his initial fright, that experience stuck with him.
At Owen’s elementary school, it was costume day today. Last year, one of the costumes freaked him out to no end. He was terrified to his very core. This year I stayed home from work and let Owen stay home with me to avoid the first grade costume day. I realize that there will be differing opinions of this move but Owen quite literally worried about this since the first day of school. We did lots of cool stuff today instead. We worked on writing, reading and math. We found an app on the iPad that allowed us to take pictures of ourselves and transform ourselves into ninjas. We went to the grocery store and found glowsticks and candy corn and had a nice lunch. But the day was laced with questions about zombies, vampires, mummies and fake blood. It was clear he was concerned.
Halloween scares the bejesus out of Owen. Some will say that shielding him isn’t the right answer but exposing him to something that, no matter how benign, will be fundamentally terrifying isn’t the answer either. As a parent, you pick your battles. In my world, empathy and sensitivity are rare commodities. I’m going to do my damnedest to keep my sweet little boy just as empathetic and sensitive as he was born to be.