Grab the tissues! I always LOVE what Lowe has to share about parenting.
Here is a powerful story of meeting a child where he or she is at and taking one step forward.
Five years ago, I wanted to take my sons trick-or-treating for the first time, and I just knew it was going to be a mess from the get go. Our oldest son, Caleb, has Autism, and at the time, he was very sensitive to anything and everything in his environment. We felt if he was going to learn to handle his environment, we had to get him out there, living in it, processing it, and hopefully finding joy in Halloween. We knew his day was going to be completely out of order, and who could know what his response would be to the random lights and decorations. There would be costumed adults and children, spooky houses… and to be honest, I was already imagining and dreading the sensory tantrum that would come. But, we needed to try for moments like these. All children deserve holidays that involve candy, costumes, and oodles of silliness. His siblings needed to enjoy these childhood moments too. So that year, I was going to strap on my big girl boots and attempt it. As we discussed Halloween, the only thing Caleb knew for sure was he wanted to be a bat. Not a lion or a elephant, a fireman or a robot -he wanted to be a bat. I found the costume and after debriefing a trusted high school friend on what might occur, she and her daughters met up with us. As we stepped out of the car, ready to go, bags in hand… I realized I had forgot his shoes!
As I scrambled to figure how we could deal with this, my girlfriend mentioned she happened to have some pink-heeled sandals in the car. Shaking my head and laughing, I agreed and my stylish bat was now wearing some lovely princess sandals. As we started walking, I try to stay near him, but I can see him ramping up, continually jumping, his voice getting louder. The energy kept building. Unexpectedly, he grabs the littlest girl’s hand, and they take off! They run from door to each door giggling. They yell, “Trick or Treat!” and while she grabs the candy, he waits and runs for the next door. This son of mine, who had never played or touched another child, runs with her [with her], door to door, house to house, yelling, jumping up and down, even hand-flapping and no. one. notices. I spent the remainder of the evening trying to hide tears and reveling in his pure joy and my happiness. It was glorious, beautiful, normal, and filled me with an inexpressible hope of the unexpected.
The next year, we met up with a huge group of new families for Halloween. We went for a pre-Halloween party at a friend’s, and Caleb once again dressed as a bat. At the party, he avoided everyone except when they were jumping in a huge hole in the ground. He didn’t speak with anyone, eat anything, or play-he just wandered around. I started to worry that this year’s Halloween would be the bad one. I braced myself and prepared for the worst. As we started out, I tried to keep my bat close but before I knew it, he was off again! He was running from door to door, he was yelling trick or treat and not waiting for the candy. He was laughing and having the time of his life. He grabbed another little boy’s hand for a couple of streets, and they trick-or-treated together. The joy of watching him just BE. It filled me and my soul again, and I was so happy for him and for us. He had found one night of the year where he could comfortably be himself. Each year continues to be so fun, so lively, so special.
This year, he has created his own costume called “The Nightmare Knight,” which consists of all black, a sword and shield and defending the masses from nightmares. It’s actually super cool. We know it will not always be perfect. Like when we get to a door, and the person says, “Come on in!” Caleb thinks they are inviting him into their home and will march right through the door to their surprised shock. One household will encourage children to take tons of candy, and at the next “one piece please” house, he gets in trouble for grabbing a handful. The mixed messages can be confusing. But he and many other children and families are out there trying their best to enjoy a tradition created to celebrate children, to let them be out at night, to be wearing silly or fun or spooky things, to be carefree, to just be kids. So if you see a child, any child out there this year, that does something out of the ordinary- just have patience, have love, have joy that on this night that our children are out there, being happy, being involved, being young.