The View From Here

A Pre-Teen Halloween Is Scary Stuff

By Amy Sue Nathan

About a week ago my daughter put her head on my shoulder, and said, “I’m sad.”

Now this could always go either way. It could be a serious plea that needs tending to or it could be her rip-roaring sense of humor that’s trying to get ice-cream -- in bed. I always go with the former until I’m sure, because I never want to underestimate her capacity for sadness, even though she is the closest thing to a pixie sprite/perpetually happy camper that I’ve ever known.

Good call.

Seems that her BFF has made “other” plans for Halloween, and after being costume twins and/or trick-or-treat pals since age four, and this shook my daughter to her core. Her eyes welled with tears. She just didn’t understand. But I did. It's sixth grade and junior high, when girls make new friends and move on. Even the history of seven Halloweens together did not outweigh the lure of the “new girls” for her BFF.

That night, my daughter slept with me.

The undercurrent and lack of enthusiasm about Halloween hung over my house like some big creepy cobweb. I couldn’t get out of my head how this little girl just blew off my daughter, and how her mother did nothing about it. Not that we can or want to force kids to be friends with ours, but to alert me that things were changing. I felt duped. But, I decided not to get involved and to just help my own daughter from the sidelines. She was reluctant to choose a costume or make plans. She said it just wouldn’t be the same. I was heartbroken but knew it was a lesson in cliques and girls that was coming sooner or later. Sooner being the operative word.



I gave her suggestions of other friends to make plans with; and illustrated how lucky she was to have friends in different groups of girls, but also how that could definitely make things more complicated. I even told her to invite friends to our house for Halloween - that I’d order pizza after their finished their sugar indulgence - but nothing seemed right to her.

Then a few days ago she came home from Hebrew School and said, “Me and BFF admitted to each other that we are both really sad we’re not matching for Halloween, so we are going to.”

And that was that. I didn’t do a thing except stay out of it, and they resolved it themselves.

Later that day I spoke to BFF’s mom, who relayed to me the same story that was going on in my house. Her daughter came home and said that MINE had made other plans and what was she to do; that she sulked and pined for days over the lost tradition.

Both the other mom and I had decided to stay out of it and allow the girls to follow what we thought was a new Halloween path, when the truth is, there was a huge misunderstanding looming. It took two honest eleven year olds to work it out. On their own. With no help from the well-read, highly educated, involved, sensitive, caring mothers.

So we're taking the girls for costumes. No more fairy princesses or plastic pumpkin trick-or-treat bags…this year it’s hippies. Tie dyes shirts, headbands and some funky $3.99 peace sign plastic jewelry. And since neither of us has any of it, we're primed to spend plenty.

Just when I figured out it was time for me to keep my nose out of her burgeoning social business, a little intervention would have saved two families some sad, cranky preteens and some troubled, annoyed moms.

Next time I’ll be right there ready to stick my nose in. Then I plan to remember Halloween, sit back in the shadows, and see what my daughter comes up with on her own.


Amy Sue Nathanís debut novel, The Glass Wives, will be published by St. Martinís Press in Spring 2013. In addition to The Imperfect Parent, Amyís stories and essays have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times online, The Washington Post online, The Huffington Post, Chicago Parent, Grey Sparrow Journal, Rose and Thorn Journal, Scribblers On The Roof, The Verb, Hospital Drive Journal and The Stone Hobo. She is also a freelance fiction editor, a reader for literary agents, and Secretary of the RWA-WF Chapter. In 2011 Amy launched Womenís Fiction Writers, a blog focusing on the authors, business and craft of traditionally published womenís fiction.

Amy lives near Chicago and is the mom of a son in college, a daughter in high school, and two rambunctious rescued dogs. You can follow her on Twitter @AmySueNathan where she tweets about writing, books, parenting, and chocolate.

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"We all suffer from the preoccupation that there exists... in the loved one, perfection." -- Sidney Poitier