Halloween and the Sting of Pre-Teen Independence

Last night was Halloween. And normally, on Halloween, I would be prepping for scary fun with my little guy—consisting either of a couple of hours of trick-or-treating, or a night on the couch with an enormous bowl of candy and all the scary movies we could possibly stand. Earlier in the day, I’d have been busy snapping away with my camera, capturing him in his latest head-to-toe costume; and preserving memories.

Last night, I found myself on the couch—and that’s about the only thing reminiscent of Halloweens past. This year, my 12-year-old decided that full Halloween garb was too much for him, and instead wanted only a pair of plastic vampire fangs to wear with his own clothes. He called his look “teenage vampire” and as such, didn’t need a silly cape or face paint or all black because, “You’ve seen Vampire Diaries. They just wear regular clothes.”

And in another of many recent efforts to assert his pre-teen independence, he turned down my offer of accompanying him on his treat-seeking efforts, in favor of heading out with his friends. Even when all his guy friends backed out, he sought out female classmates in lieu of hanging with Mom. The joke was on us both when the girls’ parents accompanied them, shattering his thoughts of evening autonomy (joke on him); and subsequently, making me look (feel?) like a total slacker parent for allowing him to head out without me (joke on me).

Of course, I’m not a slacker parent, and there is a level of independence often afforded to boys as they get older that is not given to girls—and perhaps girls don’t demand it as early—and though I can’t say for sure whether or not I would have let my little girl walk around the neighborhood alone in the evening, I did agree to let my son do this. I agreed because he is growing more mature by the day (and growing taller, having surpassed me in height sometime in late spring) and suddenly it has become part of my job as a mother to let him go, and to allow him to experience some things on his own; without my direct guidance. I’m unsure of the exact moment this transition occurred, and though it was probably quite gradual, it seems to me to have happened overnight: my son is now a pre-teen and no longer actually my “little guy” but a young man.

So now I am being encouraged to “give him space” and “let him come to (me)” with issues or daily anecdotes--as opposed to being the stage 5 clinger that I have apparently become associated with . Thus, in the spirit of trust, with the knowledge that my young man has a good head on his shoulders and in the hope that he will make solid decisions—I am officially backing off. I am no longer requiring approval on music choices or video game selections; I am becoming okay with chauffeuring him to dances and allowing him to trick-or-treat without me…and I am accepting that I may need to find a new Halloween tradition for next year.

It's funny how, when we have children of our own, we begin to understand exactly what our parents went through; though we thought they were completely nuts when we were the seekers of freedom. It's inevitable that our kids will grow up, but that doesn't make it any easier to accept, does it?