Because even the toddler looked outraged at the idea of a tampon costume, we are in the back corner of a dingy Party City. I am red in the neck and about to drag my son to the front, tell the teenage cashier that I found this screaming toddler in the back and I think his parents have abandoned him somewhere between the fake blood and
slutty cat/nun/Crayon Women’s Costume aisle. No, I didn’t see who left him, I would explain. I also bet his mother is really a great person, just couldn’t stand the Yeti hollering and scornful thrashing of small arms and legs. You know, but I’m just guessing.
My reign of humiliating Halloween terror has come to a close. The young man learned to speak and think all in the course of a year. Experts insist this is positive childhood development. To me it’s mostly inconvenient. We journeyed to this generic land of plastic costumes in plastic bags because the boy, quite simply just grasped the English language enough to coherently yell out “No. Moms. Stops it! No wearin’ dat [tampon/ Little Jesus/ Obama/ Annoying Orange] coss-zooms on meeee!”. So here we are, asking a young, nose-pierced man to grab us a Spiderman uni-tard complete with mask. I can’t tell if he hates this request or hates having to work, but he tosses the bag to me and looks relieved to be done helping people. “Okay, bud. Here you go. Spiderman. Spiderman is like the Ashley of all Halloween costumes, but whatever. I’m sure you’ll look super cool… just like the other 32 neighborhood kids wearing the same thing, but, you know, it’s cool. I’m sure you’ll look be the coolest Ashley,” I am maybe a small bit resentful that my out-of-the-box ideas for an original costume were squashed by the spandex onesie in a bag. The boy, who’s never watched or seen or shown any interest in the comic book character is rather quick to choose him.
And then the firestorm. I look down to see my son weeping, shoulder-shaking weeping and tossing his head in a slow, mournful no. “Ah. Ah. Oh God. I was kidding. Spiderman is awesome. I wish I thought of Spiderman. I am all about the Spiders and the mans! Ah,” I am an asshole. The boy throws the bag at the wall. He yells that this is no Spiderman. He points to the Spiderman outfit packaged in a Spiderman bag labeled with a price tag, a bar code that reads SPIDERMAN and calls it a liar. He is inconsolable now, sadness blistering into hot rage. He punches a costume and it falls from the shelf. I am about to get embarrassed, or pissed, or ask the teenage employees lurking around if they have any parenting wisdom they might like to share, when all turns calm.
He goes all smile, limp noodle, and begins giggling. I stare at his puffy, tear-slicked face in disbelief. You. You were just. You were just cry- Why are you happy now? But the real mystery was this: why was he crying before, suddenly and inexplicably? “Spiderman!,” he exclaims,”I’s Spiderman, Moms! I’s Spiderman, Hi-ya!”.
And this is the part where I remember he is three. He pushes a dinky fireman’s helmet on his head, beaming like he didn’t just threaten to burn this place down with hellfire shot from his angry eye. And this is when I remember that words are tricky when you’re new. So Spiderman The Fireman head home. He is content, and I am confused. And this is the part where I remember that it always works out that way.
We head to the park later, and Spiderman The Fireman insists on bringing his beloved helmet. He dresses up and hops out. I watch him storm to the edge of a pond, stare down the hungry ducks with much hostility. I am lost for a minute in sadness. Every day he is a little less willing to be dressed up with my ideas. Every day he has more ideas of his own. He’s becoming less of me. And then I laugh because I would turn the idea of a toddler dressed up like a tampon, yes, I would take that and make it a cheesy metaphor for motherhood. He is chopping karate arms at an innocent goose when I join him. “I’s Spiderman, Moms. I’s got dis hat on me ‘n I says ‘NO DUCKS’ juss like dat. I says ‘NO! HI-YA, DUCK.’ Ha!,” he is thrilled when the villain bird hisses and waddles away.
Tonight he’ll go trick-or-treating. To the world he’ll have a Katie of a costume, a kid dressed in adult occupational wear. The world will think that’s boring. Maybe they won’t understand how close he came to rocking an awesome Kotex with biodegradable applicator look. Maybe they know me and will understand just how close he came to dressing as a tampon shell. But I will shoot him a wink. He will slip me a subtle karate kick, a small quack, and I’ll feel good that he’s plenty weird and so plenty like me. He is Spiderman The Fireman Who Will Straight Up Cut A Duck.