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The scariest thing about Halloween? Competitive parenting


by Sophie White
14th Oct 2020
The scariest thing about Halloween? Competitive parenting

Halloween has become increasingly difficult on lazy parents, but Sophie White reckons the endless Instagramming of our parenting endeavour might just be the incentive she needs to up her Mothering Game.


If you’re a borderline terrible parent, there’s nothing worse than an occasion that demands crafting, baking and decorating to expose your shortcomings in the field of spawn-raising.

One moan du jour is the level of sharing that parents do online. Nothing provokes an eye-roll like yet another snap, in a Facebook feed, of young Jack triumphantly defecating on a potty.

“First we have to actually see them take a sh*t, then we’re supposed to give a sh*t that they took a sh*t?” moaned a friend recently, I forget that pre-kids, one’s gag reflex is not as hardened as it is in those of us who have witnessed childbirth and beyond.

Sometimes the endless performance of parenthood (#blessed) kind of makes me want to punch my phone. It’s a bit exhausting on just your average weekend of #familywalks and #familyicecreams and #familycuddles, where’s the #familytantrums and #familydoorslamming, I often wonder? Throw a seasonal holiday, like Halloween, into the mix and the Parent Instagram goes into overdrive.

“Halloween has gone from being a one-night shindig of mild effort (make holes in bin liner, drape over child) to a week-long festival. The whole thing is on steroids, frankly.”

It doesn’t help that Halloween has really lost the run of itself in recent years. It crept in slowly at first. Emphasis on decorating began to escalate, then there were haunted houses and pumpkin patches to visit, pumpkin-carving competitions and gradually Halloween has gone from being a one-night shindig of mild effort (make holes in bin liner, drape over child) to a week-long festival of crafting and baking and making magical, spooky memories for our kids. The whole thing is on steroids, frankly.

I started to feel inadequate as soon as I saw the incredible, costumes sported by the kids at playschool (a full five days before Halloween, I might add). I had practically bullied my older one into his ghost costume (make holes in pillowcase, drape over child) and now the effort looked utterly feeble in light of the high production values of the other kids’.

And I wouldn’t mind but the kids don’t even seem to be that bothered by it. I tried to instigate some Halloween baking, for example, and we couldn’t even get through purchasing the bloody ingredients without a blood-curdling shrieking fit – at least it was fittingly frightening, I suppose, in keeping with the holiday.

The same thing happens every time I start looking to Instagram for guidance on what I should be doing with my children. At Christmas I drag them to Santa’s grotto, the older one shouting the entire time “But I hate reindeers,” while I try desperately to compose a #familychristmas snap. Like many family moments, from far away the moment possibly did look Christmassy and like a magical memory-in-the-making. This is often the case with parenthood, when observed from a distance, with slightly unfocused eyes, it looks beautiful –it’s basically like sticking a filter (I favour Valencia for most family outings) on all proceedings. However, in sharp focus, from close up, it’s a bit of a mess. I call it the Monet Rule (Clueless fans will know what I mean).

“Carving a pumpkin seems like a lovely wholesome activity to enjoy with your four-year-old, until somehow he’s gotten hold of the knife and is brandishing it.”

The Monet Rule can be applied to lots of activities attempted by parents. For example, one might expect a trip to the beach for a family ice-cream to be a pleasant experience, but in reality, there’s sunblock in kid’s eyes and the ice cream is too cold and too covered in sand for him to enjoy.

Likewise, carving a pumpkin seems like a lovely wholesome activity to enjoy with your four-year-old, until somehow he’s gotten hold of the knife and is now brandishing it and giggling in a vaguely menacing fashion. You try to do a nice thing as a parent, but inevitably, you will be thwarted by the very ones you are trying to please: The children.

The endless over-sharenting on social media has inspired a fair bit of eye rolling but I, for one, have grudgingly come around to it. Sure, there’s an whiff of performance about the seemingly perfect Instagram feeds awash with coordinated kids eating healthy snacks doled out by beautifully manicured mothers, but, as a fairly crappy mother myself, I find it all quite motivating. I have one friend whose Instagram posts actually make me want to be a better mother.

She cooks with the kids, sets up fun, home FroYo bars for them on a Sunday, and appears to never scream their names in that weird mum-voice that kicks in the day your kids turn two.

This Halloween, I’ll be (trick or) treating the online lives of others like a FroYo bar: Pick and choose the best toppings. Pumpkin picking? Cute but driving my kids anywhere feels like being trapped in a box with a couple of hyperactive hyenas. Baking with the toddler? Maybe; it would be a good snap for Instagram (clearly I’ve learned NOTHING from this rant) and at least there’ll be treats at the end.

The rather benign conclusion I’ve come to about ‘show parenting’ is that any time I’m pretending to be a good parent, I kind of am a good parent. Which can’t be a bad thing.

Incidentally, I tried cooking with the toddler, and it was nothing short of an apocalyptic shit-storm.

Happy Halloween Everybody!

This article was first published in October, 2018

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