Money Was Lean, But My Dad Pulled Off the Best Halloween Costume

little boy wearing homemade airplane wings made of cardboard as a halloween costume

When I was 6, the country was going through a recession that put my dad out of work.  My mom, an oncology nurse, went back to work—and on night shift—for the shift differential that kept my brother and I happily going about our little lives. My dad found odd jobs that included selling vacuum cleaners at the local Price Club (think vintage Costco) and truck driving while he looked for “real” work.

For my mom, this meant meeting up with her in the evenings in the nurse’s lounge for a quick dinner and recap of my day while she ran in and out between patients.  I remember going into her room during the day to find her sleeping, with dark towels my dad had hung over the windows to block out the light and help her sleep.

A Parent’s Love Goes a Long Way

My dad became Mr. Mom, brushing my hair (only ever mastering the ponytail), making dinner from whatever recipe my mom laid out (or fish sticks and fries when it went awry), driving me to and from school, handling parent-teacher conferences, and keeping the house clean-ish.

While my parent’s roles reversed, I still had everything I needed. I never felt that I was lacking in love or anything else. To my 7-year-old self, my parents were just my parents. I never realized how hard they were fighting just staying afloat. I definitely knew that I wasn’t getting American Girl dolls (which was fine; I was not a doll girl) but even when I couldn’t get the “extras” my friends may have had, I knew my parents were taking care of me. While times were lean in my house, I knew free candy was just around the corner with Halloween a couple of weeks away.

50+ Activities for Kids That Are Free or Really CheapThe Best Halloween Costume

I don’t remember if I wanted to be anything specific for Halloween that year, but I know we didn’t have money for a fancy costume. It wasn’t something I had really thought too much about. I was just excited for trick-or-treating! Next thing I know, after school just a few days before Halloween, my dad took it upon himself to craft a free Halloween costume.

He had decided that he could fashion up a robot costume out of a box, where he cut holes for my legs, arms, and head. Then, he covered the whole thing in tin foil. My mom may have been upset over the waste of tin foil… after all, everything cost money. But in the end, off we went down the street to go get all that free candy.

 My memory from that night? Well, it was a big box, and as I walked down the street the corner of my box kept hitting the curb and took me down with a vengeance. This happened several times, and each time I just laid there in someone’s yard, waiting for my laughing dad to pick me up so I could keep going. I felt very much like a bug on my back unable to move.

A Memory for a Lifetime

Maybe times are lean for you right now too. We all know inflation is up and it costs much more to live than it should. But in the 12 Halloween nights that I had as a kid, this memory always sticks out to me. And now, as I reflect as an adult, I replay my parents laughing at me in the curb and know that even without the fancy costume, this will always be favorite memory of Halloween. I didn’t need an expensive Pinterest-worthy costume or pictures on social media. All I needed was my parents’ time and love.  This night will always stick with me because I had just that.

You don’t have to create the world’s best Halloween costume to be a great parent. Here are some other simple ways to show your kids how much you care: 5 Ways to Build a Strong Relationship with Your Kids – 158

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