I admit, growing up I was never into Halloween. For two reasons.
First, I grew up in Bermuda and England. One is an English colony, the other is, well, English. If you’re British, you get it. If not, I’ll try to explain. Halloween is not a holiday in England. Or, at least, it wasn’t when I was young. Growing up, we had Guy Fawkes Day. Guy Fawkes Day (November 5th) celebrates the foiled attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London on November 5, 1605. Guy Fawkes was one of the chief conspirators.
Do you want to know how Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated? We’d all gather round a big bonfire at our local park or in a neighbour’s backyard, we’d have drinks and food, and then we’d burn in effigy a scarecrow likeness of Guy Fawkes. Fun times, I tell you. Fun times.
Growing up, I considered this a bizarre and eerie “celebration.” But then I moved across the pond and saw the way Canadians celebrate Halloween: skeletons, tombstones, witches, blood, evil etc. Comforting, in a way. We Brits aren’t the only crazies, I thought. But still, I never quite understood the celebration of either occasion. (Just an aside: if I’d grown up in North America and associated Halloween with a large stash of candies, I am sure this would have coloured my impressions much differently. But I digress.)
Second, the costume pressure. I was in my teens when I moved to Canada. I was always overwhelmed by the pressure to come up with a respectable costume. Generally, this meant being decked out in not just a good costume but a great costume. Sure, I would have flashes of costume brilliance in, say, February and March, but come October I had completely forgotten my earlier amazing, creative, and award-winning costume ideas. My high school friends and I would piece together some last-minute lame effort—not quite like the guy I saw today in a business suit wearing an inflatable Ghostbusters jetpack on his back, but you get the idea. We’d go to Halloween parties feeling second-rate as other people wowed us with their costume awesomeness.
But my attitude has changed. I have warmed up to the occasion. And I have my kids to thank for it. This will be the seventh Halloween for my daughter and the fourth for my son. Their enthusiasm for the celebration is contagious. They are so excited for the costume parades at school during the day, and then the chance to be out in our community with their friends and neighbours at night. They know every house within a two-mile radius of our home that is adorned with spooky decorations and they can pinpoint which ones will have the best treats on Halloween night.
My son has stated unequivocally since February that he will be a fireman for Halloween. He has proven his commitment by wearing his costume randomly at the breakfast table throughout the past six months, and for many an afternoon summer outing. And my daughter, after three years of going as some sort of butterfly or princess, is shying away from castles and magic and delving into the darker fairytales of the Grimm Brothers. She’s going as Little Red Riding Hood.
And me? Oh, how far I’ve come. For the third year in a row, I’ve been a parent volunteer at the Halloween party in my daughter’s class. This year I even volunteered to run the craft station (if you know me, you’ll know that crafts aren’t really my “thing”). I can’t wait to see all the neighbourhood kids racing between houses on Halloween night, and our friends and neighbours on the sidewalks braving whatever weather system comes our way. Finally, regardless of whether it’s “lame,” I’ll be putting on a costume. Take that, Guy Fawkes.
Happy Halloween, everyone!
I remember when I was pregnant with our first child, and people would talk about how unprepared I was for the love I would feel when the baby was born. That I would experience a surprise at the depth of love we can feel for another human being. And with my second pregnancy, people would remark how hard it is to imagine having more love within us than we already do but once that second baby is born our love simply expands even more.
But here’s the thing. I didn’t feel that sudden depth of love when my daughter was born. Because I was already so deeply in love with her. I just didn’t know I had a “her” in my belly. And preparing for the birth of our second—we chose to find out the gender this time, and knew we were having a boy—once again, I already knew how much more I could love another human being.
The love that is rooted in our family, that began with just my husband and me, in our union, has continued to multiply and shift and change and grow and be challenged. But there was never any surprise at those big moments. Love was and is always the foundation of our family.
What I was unprepared for, though, and continue to be, are the little things that make my heart burst. The small actions my children do that I feel at the root of my soul.
The day that my three-year-old son (after a particularly tantrum-y morning) came into my room, wrapped his arms around my legs and said, “Mummy, you’re perfect.”
Or coming home from teaching to find the note posted above from my six-year-old daughter on my bedside table.
These are the moments I was unprepared for. The ones that take my breath away. The ones that show me that our capacity to love and be loved has no boundaries. For me, there is no simpler joy (or greater love) than what we find in the little moments.
Last month, someone that I’m close to said something to me and my husband that I found extremely hurtful—it was a statement about my kids that drew into question my (and my husband’s) parenting style. The words, as I heard them, hurt me to the core.
I didn’t react at the time, I just listened. I knew that I had to process the conversation and think it through on my own time. And for days afterwards, I examined the statement, and questioned whether there was validity to it and whether it would indeed have an impact on my parenting choices.
Then I got angry. And had more questions. Why did she feel the need to say what she said? What purpose did she hope to achieve? Once the anger had subsided, in came more questions. Why did I care? Does it really matter?
Finally, once I had calmed down, I was able to see that if she had known the impact of her words and how hurt and upset I was afterwards, she would not have said what she said, or she would have approached it differently. And sure enough, when I did have the chance to talk to her about it, she was extremely upset at how her words had come across. I am fortunate that we have a solid enough relationship that we could sort through this.
All has been resolved now, but I’ve been left thinking about words—about the power they hold, about how we say things, and about how words can be interpreted or misinterpreted.
I firmly believe that difficult situations hold some sort of lesson. And this has been a great reminder to examine my own words and the impact of what I say.
I have always found that the four gates of speech are amazing guidelines to live by when it comes to our interactions with others. And so I revisit them once again.
Before speaking, ask yourself this:
Because words can hurt.