Today the 5yo had the Halloween parade at school. It is a simple affair, they dress up and walk around the playground once then go back to classes. The parents were invited too. I had a problem with two things today. Which is quite good because I usually have more issues than just two.
First was that the parents were asked not to cross the white lines that marked the area where the kids would be walking. They were also very clearly asked not to stop the parade to take pictures. And what did many parents do? They did the exact thing they were asked not to do. This bothers me for so many reasons (see, I told you I always have more issues) first is that it is unfair to the parents who did the right thing and stayed in the designated area. They too have kids whom they want to take pictures of to immortalize the moment, but they chose not to stop the parade. Second it sends out the wrong message to the kids, that rules are not real and that people who break the rules get what they want and that the people who do not break the rules get nothing. That just deeply irritates me. If you are a parent and you really NEED to take pictures then do it before school or after school, not during an event that everyone else is involved in.
The other thing was the gender gap in costume choices. Girls were dressed as fairies, princesses (Disney princesses mainly), a few witches and fewer black cats. There was a total of maybe 4 girls in super hero costumes. The boys were slightly more diverse superheros, pirates, explorers, monsters, animals, two Pharaohs, a Riddler, a Charlie Chaplin (which was my favorite costume because it was so detailed and different) and a Harry Potter. Almost all the costumes were store bought. I want to see a world where there are more girl superheros. And more kids who are willing to think out of the box. Who want to be more than what they are taught they can or should be. I hate the Disney princesses. Just think about it, why would I want my daughter to be Ariel, who gave up her voice (the voice is quite symbolic here)? or Snow White, or Rapunzel both of which had to wait to be rescued? Perhaps Merida is an exception, it is about her own personal bravery and the mother/daughter relationship. Why would I want my daughter to be a fairy? I might want my daughter to be a powerful good witch. Empowered, smart and can help herself.
There wasn’t a single girl wearing a lab coat. Not one single girls thinks that being a doctor would be a good idea. Think about that. I think there might have been about 70 girls. Give or take some. There was a Wonder Woman whom I thought was awesome. Even the girls who were wearing witch costumes were almost all identical.
My daughter wanted to be a bat, which evolved into bat girl. She wanted bat wings and tried to figure out a way to sleep upside down but couldn’t. She was totally fascinated by the fact that bats are blind and can still fly around and get around. The process of making the costume fascinated her. I asked her a couple of times if she wanted to go pick a costume or if she would like to look at ideas on pinterest and we could make it together, and she wanted me to make it. It took me a couple of weeks to get it all done. She helped with the process and spent a few days wearing parts of it.
Yes I understand that not a lot of parents have the time that I do, or the skills to sew a costume or craft one. But it isn’t rocket science and it doesn’t need to take more than a an hour or two. We can’t teach our kids that everything can be bought like that and devalue creativity and hands on work. It is taking away from their childhoods as well as their creativity. Children need to build forts out of blankets and cardboard boxes. They need to make their own masks using paper and crayons. Every.day. They need to paint and draw and make up silly languages. They need to experience this kind of creativity and curiosity. They need to embrace it. And parents need it too. Parents need to be silly and play pretend with their kids. If we don’t then we are telling them that they can not be who they are or what they want to be. We are packaging them in little generic labeled boxes for life.
That is just it. It might be dress up and it happens for most kids on a single day in the year but that is just wrong. Every child needs to own a crown and a superhero cape. The crown is for them to pretend to be kings and queens. Which is a great opportunity to talk about community and how decisions are made and why? It is about teaching compassion even when we are in power. It is a fantastic opportunity to open their minds and widen their horizons. The superhero cape is to make them believe they can be heroes. Most of the superheros in comics pop culture are just ordinary men and women who became extra ordinary.
And then there are the real heroes in life, the ones that are extra ordinary because of the hard work they put in. Every day. There was one little boy who was a soldier and another who was a fireman. These are great examples, of people who keep us safe who put themselves at risk to get their job done.
The costumes don’t need to be fancy, a cape can be made of an old towel and a crown can be made of newspaper. It is not about them being real, it is about them being tools for change, dialogue, imagination and tons of fun.
Finally, it also makes you question, who do our kids see as role models? Who do they want to be? What do they want to become? Are they being taught the right values? Are they seeing these values enough in real life so that they grow up believing in them?
Sometimes, I wish I could just go to a Halloween parade, push the other parents, take pictures of my daughter while standing where I shouldn’t be standing and then go home and forget all about it. It would be so much easier than all of this thinking.