Thursday, November 01, 2007

And then it was November

Last night I roamed the streets after dark with Cleopatra, a woodland fairy and a giant flamingo*.

I love Halloween.

G also loves Halloween in theory, but she stops loving it as soon as she realizes that she actually has to walk from house to house. We made it to three houses before she insisted on going back to her auntie's place because "my legs hurt." After a few minutes, I took her out again, we went to the end of the street and back, and then she saw someone in a scary mask and nearly pulled my arm out of the socket dragging us both to safety. As I race-walked alongside her, trying to keep up, I said, "G, you know that these are just costumes and none of it is real," and she said, "I can't help it! I'm sensitive!" Fair enough.

For the next hour, I took turns manning the front door while G hid in her cousin C's bedroom and watched Go Diego Go on TV. Meanwhile, C, who is barely three years old, stood right next to me handing out candy to everyone from princesses to Spidermen to Grim Reapers to Leatherface**. Actually, C had it so under control that she didn't even need me. She was a candy-dispensing machine: one Payday or Snickers bar in each bag, and off you go. We all could have gone out for pizza and left her to handle the job by herself.

On the way home, G informed me that next year she's staying home on Halloween and having a party, "and only girls will be allowed, and the invitation will say NO SCARY COSTUMES." I said she could do that if she wanted to, but she might change her mind by then, and she said she would never change her mind. I guess we'll talk about it next September.

G has made so much progress over the years that I sometimes forget she's basically fearful by nature. She's been that way since she was a toddler. It wasn't anything we did or didn't do, or anything that happened to her, it was just the way she was. When she was three and four, she and P were effectively trapped at home while I was at work because she'd scream hysterically if she had to get into a car without me -- any car, even his. We spent part of a Thanksgiving evening shivering in the cold twilight outside P's aunt's house because G screamed hysterically every time we tried to cross the threshold. She screamed hysterically at the doctor's office, at Grandma's house, on those little coin-operated rides outside K-Mart, and if we even walked past a movie theater. We didn't even bother trying to send her to preschool, despite the dire warnings that she would be "behind" when she started kindergarten and the assurances that a dose of preschool was just what she needed to cure her fearfulness, because we knew it would be nothing but pure torture for us all.***

Now that she's older, she's no longer afraid of most of the things that used to scare her. She can go to carefully selected movies and ride tame rides and visit Grandma and have a checkup without breaking down in fits. But occasionally she still bursts out with a new fear (trick-or-treating didn't bother her until recently), and because she is older, I have to determine where to draw the line between sympathizing with it and helping her get past it. I try to base my decisions on how much the activity affects everyday life -- I won't make her stay in a movie that scares her or keep trick-or-treating if she doesn't want to, but when she tries to balk at getting on the escalator at the mall, I'm more likely to say "You'll be fine, I'll help you" and hustle her onto it. I don't want to traumatize her, but I don't want her to grow up to live a life stunted and circumscribed by fear, either. She may not be afraid of escalators anymore when she's 30, but there's bound to be something else by then, and I want her to know she can do things that make her uncomfortable if she needs to.

Anyway, it was still a good Halloween, even if it was cut a bit short. G was perfectly happy with the small amount of candy she collected, and it was nice to come home early and relax. She had the day off from school today -- the staff wisely schedules a training day for Nov. 1 every year, knowing the kids will be too tired and squirrelly to learn anything -- so I took a vacation day to stay home with her. So far we've visited the puppies at the pet store, bought the red T-shirt she needs to wear under her Girl Scout vest (and a whole lot of other stuff, too -- darn you, Target), done a puzzle, and watched Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Right now she's playing and I'm about to go clean up the dinner mess in the kitchen. Good times.

* I was dressed in black from head to foot and wearing black lipstick and dark grey eyeshadow ("so, not much different than you look every day," as a friend commented).

** Despite this Washington Post article about skanky costumes for preteen girls, I saw very few that I thought were inappropriate, and my standards are pretty high. The vast majority of girls up to age 12 were some variation on princess or witch, and the teenagers either didn't wear costumes or were something scary. I don't know who's buying the skanktastic outfits for their kids, but it isn't anyone around here.

***I started teaching her to read at home when she was about 4 1/2, and she was the only kid in her kindergarten class who knew how. Plus, by then she'd gotten over the worst of the "irrationally fearful" stage and never shed a tear about being away from home. Her teachers could not believe she'd never set foot in a preschool. So much for being behind.


Jenny said...

LOL! The homeschooler in me is biting my tongue at your *** comment. But seriously, WTG You for putting her fears before tradition. That is truly admirable.

And what is it about Target?? I cannot leave that store without spending $100 at the very least.

Annie said...

My 5 year old daughter has odd fears too. Mostly related to her father's illness and I have had to be firm in some cases because ordinary life would be hard to live otherwise. She went to d/c from 7 wks on, so she has never clung to me or even seemed to care I was leaving as long as she was properly hugged and kissed first.

Target. (big sigh). They don't have Target in Canada. A good and a bad thing. Shopping at all is, um, disappointing up here, but it is easier on the budget.

Humincat said...

Yeah, Cateyes was doing fine until a decoration of dracula jumped off the side of the house and chased her and her cousin down the sidewalk. She ran screaming for all her might and it pretty much took her steam out of the rest of the festivities, even after she stopped crying. Later on when I tried to get her to go through a haunted house with me, she rolled her eyes and said "If a man with a mask can make me run for my life and cry for an hour, do you think I'm really going to go into a haunted house???" Good point.

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