My son wants to be a Spidey-Croc for Halloween. Do you know what this is? Yeah, I didn’t either. He made it up. Apparently, it’s a crocodile body (complete with claws and a tail) topped with a Spiderman face. What crazy person told him I can sew? I mean, this isn’t the 1970s.

Back then, everyone had homemade costumes. Moms stitched glorious creations, and dads had mountains of t-shirts just waiting to be cut up and dyed. A giant cardboard box and voilà, you were a robot. An old mop was fake hair, and our clothes were combustible. Our goody bags were the pillowcases off our beds, and we even wore black, believing no one would ever hit us with their station wagon.

What a different world it is today. My boys’ clothes are so entirely flame-retardant I use their PJs as oven mitts. When I take my boys out trick-or-treating, I wrap them up like mummies in reflective tape. Yes, they look like a walking construction site, but at least I’m sure they will be seen—possibly from outer space. And, as I alluded to earlier, I am no crafter. Operating a glue gun, let alone a needle and thread, would surely land me in the ER: “Soooo Mrs. Suter, you were trying to glue together a Spidey-Croc costume? Well, that explains the second-degree burns. Let’s get you bandaged up. I’ll toss in a bottle of Xanax—looks like you could use it.” So I stick to buying their Halloween costumes at Target.

For those of you uninitiated, shopping for costumes is insane. The floors are riddled with feather boas, and the aisles are teeming with Jason masks. Moms slowly turn into zombies as they navigate their brood through the maze, all the while begging their kids to make a decision. Parents wither as the choices are weighed. “I want to be a princess! No, Buzz Lightyear. Wait a minute, maybe a…” Welcome to the next three hours of your life. You will be negotiating with your 5-year-old over a $30, paper-thin garment she will wear for roughly two hours. It will be worth it though, because October 31st is kiddie Nirvana!

Like little Dickens waifs, our children take to the streets begging. It’s kind of crazy when you think about it. “Hey kids, let’s go threaten our neighbors. If they don’t give us sweets, we’ll do something awful to them. And, don’t forget to put on a disguise; we wouldn’t want to be picked out in a line-up.” Who knew extortion could be so fun? There is one problem with all of this panhandling: we never get anything we really need. Just once I’d like someone to drop a gallon of milk or some laundry detergent in my child’s bag. Now that would be a holiday I could embrace! It would also make sorting through the treats at the end of the night so much easier. But, I guess the fear of tainted candy is the price you pay. Thus, the ritual begins…

The moment we get home from our spooky evening, I turn into a CSI. I confiscate my kids’ loot and sift through the heap. I search for needles, toxins, and suspicious packaging tears. Of course, I have no idea what I’m looking for, but I do it anyway. My children hover over me, tortured by the mountain of Hershey bars I won’t let them touch. It’s usually at this point in the investigation that Dad strolls through the kitchen. He pops a piece of candy, right off the pile, into his mouth. “Awwww!” my boys groan. “What?” my husband replies, oblivious to his error. “Go see if Daddy’s been poisoned while I finish up,” I say. But, in fact, I use this distraction to shove a mini Snickers bar in my face. Yes, I admit it. I steal my kids’ candy. Is that terrible?

Well, I don’t have time to worry about that now, I better get back to my son’s Spidey-Croc project. As the countdown continues, I keep hoping he will change his mind and want to be a skeleton. Target has tons of those costumes.

Jane Suter is one funny mom. If you’d like to share some of your parenting experiences with Jane, write to her at

Illustration by Colleen Johnson.