Halloween Dilemma: My Daughter Wants to Stand Out…And Fit In
My daughter was dressed up in her Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz costume, which I had searched for in several local stores so she'd have it in time for "Fictional Character Day" at school. She looked so adorable in her braided pigtails and ruby slippers with socks.
It took us a long time to finally decide on Dorothy. The teachers said, "Literary characters preferred". My daughter had rejected Belle as not being literary enough, even though I pointed out that "Beauty and the Beast" was a fairy tale long before Disney made it one. I mentioned that Alice does not have a hair color mentioned in "Alice in Wonderland" but my daughter was concerned that everyone would associate Alice with a blonde.
She had a Classical Greek-style dress from her aunt's themed wedding..maybe she could go as Iris or Athena or another Greek goddess? "No, mommy," she responded, "no one will know who I am and they'll make fun of me." Since it wasn't her idea, I didn't push her to go for it.
What was going on with her sudden need to be like everyone else? Dr. Susan Bartell explained to me, "As kids get older, they separate from their parents and connect more to their peer group."
Finally, we settled on Dorothy: an adventurous character from a book we had read - who conveniently enough also happens to be a brunette.
Then, as we were getting ready for the bus on "Fictional Character Day," she suddenly looked panicked. "Mommy, what if there are a lot of other girls dressed as Dorothy?"
My daughter had two contradictory needs: she wanted to fit in with the other kids and she also wanted to stand out as unique and special.
I want my daughter to feel comfortable and confident being herself...should I have pushed her to go with a more unique idea earlier?
It is okay to let kids make choices to "fit in" at this young age, according to Dr. Bartell. "Kids don't yet have an inner core of emotional strength or self-esteem to go against the grain," she said. In the meantime, parents can help them build that reserve so they can make their own decisions in the pre-teen and teen years. "It is important," Dr. Bartell advised, "to encourage individuality in the more important ways--like standing up for another child, not using alcohol or drugs, etc."
Since we weren't talking about bullying or drugs, and the bus was on its way, I reassured her that she would be perfect as Dorothy, no matter how many others there were. I reminded her she wanted a costume that everyone would recognize and that this might mean others would choose it as well. I asked her how she would feel if she saw another Dorothy and we practiced what she might do or say if she saw another Dorothy. She decided that it would be okay if there were a lot of other little girls dressed as Dorothy and that she would just say, "Nice costume!"
I always looked forward to having my own kids and piecing together creative Halloween costumes with them. Right now, though, my kids are more interested in the store-bought costume that will be peer-approved. That's okay. Hopefully, one day, they'll want to experiment with something a little more out of the ordinary. When that day comes, my glue gun is ready.