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Stampy Cat Costumes and Other Unexpected Tasks of Parenthood

photo.jpgMy 9-year-old, Liam, decided that he would be Stampy Cat for Halloween this year. And he wanted me to make the costume.

I had no idea what or who Stampy Cat was (to be honest, I still don't). Something to do with Minecraft, the video game he loves.

"We need to get started on the costume, Mom," he told me in early September. "We could do it a little bit at a time." Liam gets how life works at our house. We are really busy. When something is going to take a long time (or cost a lot of money), it often gets vetoed. He did not want this vetoed.

I should have listened to him. But I didn't. I got busy with all that stuff that makes us busy, all the day-to-day tasks and chores. I figured we could throw something together. Or buy a Stampy Cat costume. Or buy a cat costume and just adapt it to be Stampy Cat. I also figured that I could talk him into being something else.

Of course, I was wrong on all counts. Liam didn't want to be anything else, they don't sell Stampy Cat costumes, and adapting a cat costume wasn't right because, well, it wouldn't look like Stampy Cat--who is a funky orange-yellow and looks like he is made out of Legos.

So the weekend before the costume was needed, Liam and I were staring at pictures on Google Images, and in the craft store and fabric store and rummaging around the house for cardboard and boxes. Liam had a very clear idea of what he wanted, but a far less clear idea of what was actually possible. ("Liam, sweetie, I agree that putting boxes on your legs will make you look like you are made of Legos, but they have to stay on somehow and you have to be able to walk.")

I spent literally all weekend on it. He picked out the color fabric he wanted, and I sewed a costume from a pajama pattern and we stuck cardboard inside--and then took the cardboard out because it was uncomfortable. That was what the whole process was like: making and un-making, looking at pictures again and again, discussing and trying different approaches, making messes with fabric and foam squares and glue. At one point I sent out a Tweet asking if anybody had any ideas for how to make a Stampy Cat head. No responses.

I was beyond frustrated with him--and with all the tasks and chores that weren't getting done because I was trying to make this silly costume--which, once I was in the middle of, I wasn't about to give up on, because I'm like that (something I'm not entirely proud of). So not only was I frustrated with the undone laundry, I was frustrated with myself. Bad combo. I was downright spitty with everyone in the family, and very clear with Liam that next year he was going to wear one of the many old Halloween costumes in our toy room. "Okay," said Liam, a little afraid of me at that point.

And then, it was done. Or done enough. "It looks just like Stampy Cat," said Liam and his kind sisters. (I wouldn't know, because I still don't understand Stampy Cat.) Liam put on the costume and walked proudly to his friend's costume party.

As I walked next to him, I felt a bit silly and sad. I'd made way too big a deal out of the costume and about the work it took to make it. This was important to him, he'd given me lots of warning--and had stayed at my side throughout, picking out everything in the stores, working with me to figure out how to make it, and helping when he could. He was willing to have it be less than perfect (when the sleeves were big after we pulled the cardboard out he just rolled them up, and didn't care if the face wasn't exactly the same as the Google Image picture). He had done his part, earnestly and happily.

Making the costume was my part, and I should have been less crabby. Sometimes being a parent means doing things that are unexpected and inconvenient. Not that we have to make unusual and intricate Halloween costumes by hand (I still want him to wear a hand-me-down next year), but it's simply part of the job description that there will be tasks that take time and aren't tons of fun. It's not about us. It's about them.

And just as importantly, when we let go of the annoyance, when we go with the flow of childhood instead of getting mad about how it's not working for us at that particular moment, it can actually be fun. I could have made it more fun for both of us.

Which I know. But I let myself forget. I let life and being really busy get in the way. Luckily, I was forgiven. "Love you," he said with a hug as he went off to the party.

I will do better next time. And if anybody thinks their child might like to be Stampy Cat next year, let me know. We've got a costume.

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