It's still early September and my youngest daughter has already changed her mind three times about what she wants to be. I'm not talking about career or life ambition, of course, I'm talking about Halloween, which is only 47 days away.
Ladies, are your glue guns ready?
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I've always loved Halloween as a holiday – no turkey to baste, no presents to buy – but this year I'm approaching it with dread. In the past, I've been able to exert my mom power over costume choices. No ready-made, mass-produced store-bought costumes or princess get-ups for my girls. They've been everything from Junie B. Jones and Hermoine to an iPhone and a peacock, and we've always had a blast coming up with the ideas and executing them ourselves. This year, however, as my daughters enter Tweendom, they are exerting their independence and insisting on coming up with their own costumes.
Nothing wrong with that, right? My goal was always to raise girls with their own minds. The only problem is that instead of gravitating toward creative and out-of-the-box this fall, my girls are drawn to pre-made, vampy costumes that look like they were made by Victoria's Secret, not Victoria's mom. More strip club than storybook. Instead of going trick-or-treating, these costumes make them look like they're going to work in Vegas: fishnet stockings, thigh highs, bare midriffs, padded busts, plunging bodices, strappy high heels.
I used to think that coming up with creative, fun Halloween costumes for my little ones was a big mom challenge. Now I know that the true parenting test on Halloween is figuring out how to convince my daughters that dressing like a Halloween Hottie is not cool – and, ultimately, will not be allowed. I draw the parenting line in the sand at creepy eye candy costumes.
Va-voom get-ups have been the rage for grown-up girls for several years now, with Halloween turning into more of an adult exercise in fantasy than a children's holiday. That's fine – for the adults. But this whole Dress-Like-a-Whore Day is aging down into my kids' world, where hyper-sexualized costumes have become cool for girls as young as 5. These hottie totties with their come-hither stares scare me as they stand with hands on hips in the mail-order catalogs and websites, dressed up in Girls Gone Wild costumes with names like Lovely Lolita, Sexy Witch and Very Bat Girl. The new Tween Girl sections of these costume companies are even edgier, with pre-adolescent girls in dominatrix boots and French maid costumes. (I can't wait for someone to blame this on Obama.)
I really don't think my tweeners are gravitating to these get-ups because they want to attract boys. That will come in due time. No, at this age, it's all about fitting in, finding your place, being accepted. A few years ago for Halloween, my oldest daughter entertained being a sumo wrestler, using one of those hilarious, inflatable body balloons. This Halloween, as she toe tests The Secret Life of the Tween Girl, she wouldn't be caught dead even thinking about something so unattractive. Goofy is out. Cool is in. Being a tween is about survival. Tween girls dress alike – hoodies, skinny jeans, Converse sneakers – because they don't want attention. There is safety in numbers. If you wear what everybody else is wearing, you blend in. Nobody will single you out at a target. You will avoid pain.
No, Halloween this year won't be a test of my imagination. It will be a test of my ability to let my girls exert their independence while gently reminding them that, with independence, there's the added responsibility of sometimes not going along with the crowd.