This post originally appeared on my tinyletter, Where is my Mind?

My son has never dressed up for Halloween. In his nine years on this earth, Halloween has been fraught holiday, to say the least. We’ve bought costumes only to have him refuse to wear them when it came time to trick-or-treat, we stopped buying costumes all together, we’ve worked ourselves up so much we’ve made ourselves sick, and we’ve found one house with friends and lots of crazy decorations and stayed there while the sister hit every single house she could.

I can understand how Halloween can be a sensory overload for my son. The costumes, the people, talking to strangers, the dark, the decorations and lights, the noise…It’s a lot. The past few years he’s dressed as a ninja hiding in plain sight. Last year he brought a light saber, and that was enough. He also ended up, for the first time, running off with friends he ran into to hit up houses for candy.

This year, he wanted a banana costume. I am not crafty or thrifty or any of those things, so I always buy costumes for my kids. The daughter had already received a witch costume, so I found a banana costume like he wanted, ordered it, and he was so excited when it arrived. He’s been talking about it ever since. I thought, here it is, this is the year we get over Halloween.

My son’s elementary school doesn’t allow costumes on Halloween, instead asking the kids to “dress up” as what they want to be when they grow up. I understand this rule; this allows all kids to participate with nothing more than what they are wearing to say, I am going to be X (we all wear normal clothes at one point). My son wanted me to get him a lab coat this year and a name tag that said Dr. Bessette, Entomologist. Unfortunately, he only told me this yesterday, so I wasn’t able to. So, like the previous years, he wore one of his shirts with bugs and beetles on it. I did make him the name tag, though.

As we were waiting for the bus, he got really quiet and really cuddly. Mom, he said, my stomach hurts. This, this is how Halloween usually starts – with an upset stomach. On our ninth Halloween together, I was ready this time. I was able to talk to him, try to understand why he gets so worked up about this day. Turns out, he’s scared something bad is going to happen to us, that we’ll get lost or separated. The getting lost part is completely rational; we go trick-or-treating in the planned community adjacent to where we live because they have sidewalks and streetlight, but it also means that there are endless cul-de-sacs and winding roads and houses that all look exactly the same. Our first Halloween here, I did, in fact, get turned around and was unsure how to get out. My son is well-versed in me getting turned around and lost, and I think part of what makes him anxious is that getting lost makes me anxious. But, as I told him, we have google maps, and we know enough people in the neighborhood that even if google maps wasn’t working because I couldn’t get a signal, we’d know someone who could help us find our way out.

This is our last Halloween here. The kids are feeling every single “last time” as we move closer and closer to leaving towards the end of December. My daughter, under pressure from her new friends, might think she’s too old to go Trick-or-Treating next year. My son might balk at the thought of learning another new neighborhood, speaking to all new strangers in masks and costumes. This might be our last Halloween, period. But if my son decides he is going to be a ninja hiding in plain sight, or a Jedi with just a light saber, then I will make sure he is warm, and I will take him out, and he will collect candy, adding to his Laffy Taffy collection, trading with his sister, and enjoy that, however he wants to experience Halloween, it’s ok.

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