I know Halloween was a week ago, and I should now be thinking of turkey and mashed potatoes. Instead I’m still scratching my head, wondering what on Earth parents are thinking when they allow their child to dress in certain costumes for Halloween.
My son is four years old so it’s been easy to select Halloween costumes for him. On his first Halloween, Ryan was a pumpkin, the next year Mickey Mouse, next Pablo the Backyardigan (Pablo and Mickey were hand-me-downs), and this year Ryan was a firefighter. I know that as Ryan gets older he’ll want to have more of an active part in the decision making process when it comes to selecting his costumes. And I’ll deal with it when that time comes.
But I’m thinking of the students at my elementary school and what their parents allowed them to wear for our school-wide costume parade. This year, “blood” was on shirts, hands, and faces.
Students were dressed as “nerds;” a term I’ve never been fond of nor have I fully understood. When I have asked students to explain what a nerd is they will first tell me that a nerd is a smart person. I think that is someone who should be celebrated not teased. One of my students, in her “nerd” costume, wore large black plastic eyeglass frames, a plaid blazer, lipstick, and carried a clipboard. One student was dressed as an older woman, complete with extra padding on her backside.
The day after Halloween one of my students told me that while he didn’t dress up for our school parade, he did go out trick-or-treating with his family. His costume? He was a homeless person - dirty face, torn clothes, bare feet. I was aghast.
I understand that Halloween is supposed to be a day of fun, a day when you can do things you can’t or wouldn’t normally do. But why are parents allowing children to participate in this way, to perpetuate some of these stereotypes?