Originally published on October 3, 2019
So last Thursday was Halloween. Costumes were not even a real conversation with my thirteen-year old, Nolan. He had no intention of dressing up. I told him he needed to have a mask because he wasn’t going to be that kid who trampled through the neighborhood with a mass of teenagers begging for candy without making even a modest effort to dress up. Nevertheless, after he came home he confessed he didn’t bother to put on the mask. Ugh.
Costumes were not even a real conversation with my nine-year old, Oliver. October is his month since that’s when his birthday is and, not surprisingly, he loves Halloween. On his own, he went on his tablet and searched for costumes, landing on a demogorgon from the series Stranger Things. He showed me what he wanted and, since it was cheap and easy to get, that’s what he got.
My eleven-year old daughter, Lilia, well that was a different story. Lil is in the 6th grade this year and though she was very excited to start middle school because she wanted the increased freedom of being able to go to her classes without lining up, and she was excited about the challenge of academics, neither she nor I gave any thought to the social challenges that happen for many kids in middle school. Needless to say, she’s been having some issues with friendships that have changed since last school year and Halloween actually shined a spotlight on this. Why? Because the people who were her friends got together and decided to all be M&Ms. Though they told her about this, they did it afterwards…after the conversation was had, after people selected the colors, and after she had a chance to feel like she was really being included. So, on Halloween, rather than dressing up as an M&M or trick or treating with the M&Ms, she decided to do her own thing. On her own she reached out to my mom and asked her to get her a cow onesie. It fit perfectly and Lil felt good.
We live in a newer development with a dead end, so no one trick or treats on our street. The street we go to is U-shaped so we go up the right side, to the end, and turn around and come back. When we started on Halloween night (which was warm but windy and wet), she said, “My goal is to get enough candy to fill my bucket.” I had no idea she meant that literally. Halfway through, the rain was really coming down and my husband and Oliver gave up and walked back to the car. Not Lilia. Her goal of filling the bucket was not yet complete, so she didn’t want to quit. With her bucket in hand, and my umbrella in mine, we did the return up the street, now with Lilia saying, “Trick or treat. Thank you. May I also please get a piece of candy for my brother, Oliver, who got too wet to continue?” Not only was it a nice thing to do for Oliver, it also helped her meet her goal. It was a win-win!
I guess I’m sharing this because I’m awed by how time has changed. I remember pushing around Oliver in a stroller while Nolan and Lilia bopped from door to door saying, “Twick or Tweat!” I remember fights over candy because they were concerned that one of them would take something out of the other’s bucket. More than that, time has changed because my kids are showing me their age-appropriate independence. Nolan, on his own, arranged to go out with his friends. Oliver, on his own, found a costume on-line. Lilia, on her own, decided that she didn’t want to be with the in-crowd if they were not going to treat her well, reached out to her grandma to get a costume, and set a goal for her candy collection. While I never imagined that this was going to be how this Halloween went, the best treat for me is that I get to see how their lives are changing and they are growing—which is pretty sweet!
I wonder what you see your students (or your own children) doing that is age-appropriate independence without you having to initiate it. What did it take from you behind-the-scenes to help your students (or your own children) get there?