After school, as I paraded Monkey and Munchkin (Spider-Man and Batgirl) around downtown, I greeted other kids in costume, "Hello Pirate!" "Hi bumblebee!" "Hello Princess Belle!" As I maneuvered my kids around strollers and dodged candy-giving pile-ups, I asked myself why on earth I was addressing all these children that I didn't even know. Was I some crazy old lady? Well, maybe, but the reality is that most kids' faces lit up when I called them by their character name. Why? Because kids like to be acknowledged for who they are. Not just when they're in costume with zombie blood on their faces or ladybug wings pinned on their backs. Every day children wish to be acknowledged for the people they are.
Judging by the common frustrations parents have about their kids, most children know that they are messy, loud and picky. Do they know they are also generous, thoughtful and sweet? I sometimes wish my son were a little less sensitive, but I should tell him more often that it's okay that he's reluctant in big crowds. I wish my daughter was more willing to hold my hand, but I should tell her I admire her bravery on the playground. This isn't just about the dreams I'm projecting onto my children's futures, it's about right now. Who are they right now? They are funny, active, smart little creatures who happen to be dangerously fearless and emotionally sensitive and it's not just okay, it's great. The 6-year-old spider I saw last night is very intense and sweet and the pirate in his stroller is a slightly aggressive playmate. There are a bunch of mini-superheroes who drive me crazy with their rambunctiousness, but I don't know if I have seen them for who they are. I mean, I haven't kneeled to their level, looked them in they eye and seen them for the hopes, needs and personality they have hidden underneath their costume of loud voices and emotional meltdowns.
Despite the trick-or-treating madness, Halloween ended up being a lot of fun for the kids and me. Sure they ate way too much candy, but I learned a universal truth that I need to remember, for adults and children alike, all year round: See people for who they are and their faces will light up.