18 October 2009

What I've Learnt from My Halloween Dilemma

I hate hate hate upsetting people. I hate when I realise I've hurt someone's feelings. It makes me feel literally sick to my stomach. Am I a people pleaser?? I am ashamed to admit it, but Yes. That is one of my vices.

So when had we this little dilemma recently about a fifth birthday party (with a Halloween Theme), I was torn between my knee-jerk aversion to that particular festival, the feelings of my good friend, and my daughter's potential disappointment.

And what did I do? Did I do the confident gutsy thing and approach my good friend and have an upfront conversation with her?? Did I remind myself how cool she is and that as an up-front person (like my hubby) she would prefer to just be told??


I poured out my confusion in a blog post, my online thought-processor. I asked for the thoughts of my blog-friends to help clarify my thoughts.
And I forgot that my blog posts pop up on my Facebook page.

Duh! A mutual friend read the post, put two-and-two together and rang my other friend, before I had a chance to go to her myself. Before I had even figured out a decision.

My friend rang me and said, "Why didn't you just talk to me??"
Even my hubby said, "Simone, I have to say that the way you handled this made me cringe..." Oh man!!! :(

Blogging about it helped me in other ways though (even though I really regret that I didn't just talk to my friend first).
A number of your comments really helped me clarify what to do.
  1. Find agreement with my hubby, whatever the final decision.
  2. Discuss it with my daughter and see what she comes up with; let her help make the decision  
Now that was a Radical Thought for me. Discuss it with her??? Let her help decide?? Radical!

Why? Because when I grew up my well-meaning (lovely) parents were of the old-school, common to their generation. They became Christians when I was five, and were full of youthful zeal: If in doubt, Ban it. Burn it. Avoid it.

My Enid Blyton Folk of the Faraway Tree book was taken away (burnt) because it had magic in it. Santa Claus was not welcome at Christmas. Easter Eggs?? Nope (pagan fertility symbols!) - here's a new kitten instead.

Of course I am not taking this extreme approach with our kids. Actually Mr G is more black&white than me, and he wasn't raised as a churchgoer, but became a Christian when he moved to NZ.

I think childhood needs a touch of fairy dust magic, the lovely stuff that fuels good imagination and dreaming, like the Tooth Fairy and Santa's Elves. I've held a Fairy Party, my hubby dresses up as Santa every Christmas Eve and who cares what shape your chocolate comes in??

But my approach to other things (like scary cartoons) was automatically of the ban-it/avoid-it type. And I hold to that. My kids have vivid imaginations (like me) and have even been known to have nightmares after accidentally watching a graphic of planets colliding on the evening news.

This is really the first time that a decision about what to expose my kids to hasn't been as clear-cut for me.

Talking with my friend really got me thinking (as well as feeling really really stink that I had caused her to feel paranoid about her chosen party theme, taking some of the edge off it for her. Man I am so sorry for that.)

She put the question to me (very nicely): "How would you have felt if I said to you, but Simone, my daughter can't attend your Royal Ball party because don't you know the origins of Balls were Orgies??" Fair point.

Take it a step further, don't put up a Christmas Tree (because they were originally used to ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune) and in fact avoid celebrating Christmas altogether because it falls on a Pagan festival (Solstice)??? Perish the thought! I love Christmas.

 Mr G and I sat down and talked about it all. We came to a new point of agreement on a couple of things.

1) The kids don't need to know all the ooky spooky stuff that comes with the origins of Halloween at this tender age. At this stage our real objection is (a) the safety aspect of Trick or Treating and (b) the Ugliness/scary/gory factor in many of the costumes and decorations. In the end that's what separates Halloween for me from other festivals.

 2) From now on we will always involve our kids in decisions that affect them. We can't shield them from the outside world forever so our best chance of them growing up to make good choices in life later on is if they learn to make good choices from an early age.

So Thank You my friend (and so sorry my clumsiness caused you distress). You have really got me thinking and I promise next time, I will not be a scaredy cat chicken girl. I will come and talk to you first. Before I blog about it!

Our Decision: To Go or Not to Go?
After my talk with my friend I was reassured that the decorations, games and activities were all going to be cutie cute and not scary. But, as she said, there was no way for her to control how other guests may dress up. Can't guarantee no scary/gory costumes.

Mr G and I sat down with Miss Fab and laid out her options. We said we preferred if she didn't go, but if she did go to the party it would be with Mummy and dressed up as something nice. Maybe we could do something special with her friend at a later date, instead?
Her big blue eyes welled up with tears and she said, "Well, I think I have to go to her birthday party because it's not fair if I don't go. She's my best friend in the whole world!"

I explained to Miss Fab that we couldn't control how other kids might come dressed up, so she wanted to see what she could expect at the party. "Can you look it up on the computer, mummy?" she asked.

I googled "kids halloween parties" and up popped lots of pictures. Some kids were dressed cute, but then - oops - a scary one or two. Miss Fab backed away from the computer and said firmly,
"Mummy I think I do not want to go to the party after all. I do not want to see anybody dressed up scary."
"Are you sure??"
"Yes! Can we ring up and tell them I won't come, but can we do something special with her instead? Like can she come over for a tea party and we could get dressed up? Could you make us some cupcakes?"

I could not believe it. Sorted. Simple. All that anxiety for nothing. Just talk to the kid! Talk to my friend!

I got myself all twisted in knots over nothing. But I learnt a whole lot in the process.

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EcoMum said...

Oh dear. How nice it would be to be perfect aye but we're all a work in progress :). By sharing your story we can all learn the valuable lessons about communication and friendship.

Amy said...

Oh what a pickle! I am so with you about hurting other people - when it happens (and it does) I gets appalled that I have come across that way. It is so the least of my intentions. When I read about forgetting the link on facebook, my toes curled up in sympathy. Never the less, these situations can be turned to such good, can't they? Loving standing with you and growing through these issues. Funny about the childhood, I had my books burned if they contained a hint of magic, and we were smacked for watching the Inspector Gadget cartoon unwittingly one day. The time we were exposed to the evils of Indiana and the Temple of Doom, well, lets just say it wasn't pretty. :) Fortunately both my imagination and my common sense have survived a missionary upbringing!!!

Gail said...

Don't beat yourself up chick! Knowing the party-mama, I'm sure she understands as much as you now know what to do should this ever arise again!

I would have been devasted if my Enid Blyton's had gone up in smoke.

Be kind to you :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing all this Simone...lots of lessons there....for all of us!
god always has a way of taking our mess ups and Turning them around to learning lessons....if we allow it.

Sophie said...

Well done for sorting it all out in the end Simoney! Isn't it amazing what happens when we talk to the kids and see them making their own decisions?

PaisleyJade said...

Thanks for this whole thing - I have taken away heaps from your saga... and I am sure you will chuckle about it all soon enough.

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