- My 8-year-old son has loved dressing in “scary” Halloween costumes since he was 4.
- This year, he wants to be Pennywise the Clown from the movie “It.”
- Here’s why I let him choose whatever costume he wants.
When my son, Max, was 4 years old, he decided to be a skeleton for Halloween. Most of his friends were dressing up as superheroes or Disney characters, but he wanted to be something “spooky.” Max had a blast trick-or-treating in his costume, jumping out from behind the bushes and trying to scare his friends. The following year, while cruising the costume aisle at Target, Max spotted a zombie mask and begged me to get it for him.
“Are you sure you want to be a zombie?” I asked, but Max nodded and held the mask to his chest, with a determined look on his face. I had no choice but to get it for him.
My son has always loved to scare and be scared
Max loves scary things. He is obsessed with horror movies, even though he’s never actually seen one — he’s only heard that they exist. Max also has ADHD. It’s common for neurodiverse kids like him to constantly be seeking the next dopamine hit. The rush of pulling off a prank or frightening someone is thrilling to him. He thrives on adrenaline.
I approved this request for a zombie costume, but drew a line when, the next year, Max wanted to be the murderer from “Scream.” He hadn’t seen the movie — after all, he was only in first grade — but he’d heard about it from his older friends. Eventually, we settled on a zombie-vampire hybrid, with “really scary face paint.”
That year we went trick-or-treating with his friends, who dressed as PJ Masks, a figure skater, and a lumberjack. I watched him run up and down the crowded streets trying to scare everyone. He was acting like a maniac, out on the loose.
Letting Max choose scary costumes for Halloween means letting him be himself
As Halloween approached this year, I mentally prepared myself for Max’s costume request. As he gets older, his love of all things startling has only grown stronger, and I was waiting to hear what he’d come up with next. I didn’t have to wait for long. A few days ago, Max announced he wants to be Pennywise, the clown from the movie “It” for Halloween this year.
“How do you even know who that is?” I said, regretting sending him to a school that had mixed-age classrooms. I saw “It” when I was a kid and I’m still afraid of clowns.
My husband and I Googled Pennywise and were startled when images of a terrifying clown filled the screen. There he was, with his yellow, razor-sharp teeth and mop of red hair. The costume Max selected online — and was pointing at gleefully — was nightmare-inducing. But he was ecstatic about how “creepy and weird” the mask was.
Max is currently in third grade, and I know I can’t control his Halloween costume selection forever. But after discussing it with my husband, we agreed to order Max the Pennywise costume. He’s not allowed to wear the mask to school for fear of scaring the younger — or older! — children, though of course, he’s allowed to wear it trick-or-treating.
Sure, I wish my son wanted to dress up as a hero or something funny for Halloween. But he doesn’t, and that’s OK, because he’s his own person. When Max was younger, I was afraid that his fixation on creepy things might be an indicator of a deeper mental-health issue, but he just likes pushing boundaries and being playful. He understands that Halloween is supposed to be frightful, and he wants to participate.
Plus, he likes getting a reaction out of people. Dressing up as something scary is a way for him to feel in control. Max often feels like things are out of control in his world — a feeling I can understand on a cellular level as a mother, a wife, and a cancer survivor.
So I’m going to let my child dress up as a weird, creepy clown this year, and I’m going to do my best to remain unaffected by the judgy neighborhood parents. I’m going to celebrate my son’s playful spirit and let him bask in the adrenaline and sugar-filled madness that is Halloween, the one day out of the year we’re allowed to be someone else. Max thinks I’m being a “cool mom” for Halloween this year — how scary is that?