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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Halloween Tale: The Mommy and the Sneaky, Creepy, Evil Ego Monster

 Once upon a time, a Mommy had a little Baby Boy. For his very first Halloween, the Baby was too little to choose a costume for himself, because he had not cultivated any personal interests beyond eating, sleeping, and producing organic "gifts" for his parents. So the Mommy dressed the Baby Boy in a generic frog costume, said he was "Frogger", and made him crawl across a five-lane highway and a log-strewn river to get his candy that year. 


"Hurry up, Sunshine... Mommy hasn't got all night."

The next year, the Baby grew and developed a few interests of his own (namely walking), but making costume choices and clearly vocalizing them to the adults in his life was not one of them. So the Mommy put the Baby Boy in a generic tiger costume, said he was Tony the Tiger, gave him a box of Frosted Flakes, and skipped the trick-or-treating thing altogether, because really, why bother?

The year after that, the Baby Boy was no longer a baby; he was now a Little Boy of two-and-a-half, and he had discovered the world of Cars and Lightning McQueen. And the Mommy was delighted, for now she knew what the Little Boy liked, and that gave her direction for a Halloween costume!

She asked the Little Boy, "What would you like to be for Halloween, Honey?"

The Little Boy looked up from his toys uncomprehendingly. For a boy who was about to go on his first real excursion of scamming the neighbors out of their sugar-laden goodies, he was disappointingly clueless about the whole concept of Halloween, let alone the importance of choosing a costume. 


So the Mommy prompted, "Would you like to be Lightning McQueen?"

"M'Queen! Light'ing M'Queen!" the boy responded like a litany. (And it was in fact a litany for him, for the Little Boy was a devoted member of the Church of the Holy Pixar, and attended services via DVD telecast almost daily. He knew the Sacred Hymns of Randy Newman by heart, he was part of the Dramatic Racing Re-enactment Team for every performance of Cars, and always responded with "...and Beyond!" when the leader did the "To Infinity" prayer. It bordered on cultish, but it made him happy and gave the Mommy about 90 minutes of quiet.)



The crucifix of St. Buzz of Beyond
(C'mon, it looks like a crucifix and you know it!)

So the Mommy immediately resumed the work she had begun on the Little Boy's Lightning McQueen car costume a week earlier. She had already assembled two cardboard boxes together into the rough shape of a racecar, and had begun to sketch the outlines of Lightning's various features. 

But as the car was coming together, something else was coming together... inside the Mommy.
Something sneeeeaky.
Something creeeeepy.

It was so quiet and so sneaky and so creepy that the Mommy didn't even know it was there:


The Ego Monster!

The Ego Monster started out very small. In fact, when it started out, it wasn't a monster at all. See, when a Feeling Of Satisfaction In Your Work and a Feeling Of Excitement love each other very much, they come together and a Little Feeling of Pride is born. And there's nothing wrong with a Little Feeling of Pride; that's not a monster.

But sometimes that Little Feeling of Pride starts to grow. And grow. And grow some more.


And thus what began as a small feeling of "Wow, this is starting to look pretty cool! I think the Little Boy will really like this!" grew bigger as the Mommy saw how good the car costume looked, until it became:

"LOOK AT THIS PERFECT AND PINTEREST-WORTHY CREATION I HAVE BIRTHED! MY OFFSPRING HAD DAMN WELL BETTER APPRECIATE THE HOURS OF PAINSTAKING DETAIL I PUT INTO THIS!!!"


"BEHOLD THE DETAILED PAINT JOB AND THE WHEELS THAT ACTUALLY SPIN!"
"MARVEL AT THE HOOD WHICH OPENS TO HOLD THE HALLOWEEN CANDY!"
"KNEEL IN AWE AT THE SECRET TRAP DOOR WHICH KEEPS THE CANDY FROM FALLING OUT!"
"AND LET US NOT FORGET THESE NEAT-LOOKING STRAPS WITH WHICH THIS MIND-BLOWING MASTERPIECE WILL HANG FROM MY LUCKY CHILD'S SHOULDERS!"

(The Evil Ego Monster speaks only in capital letters, you see.)

The Mommy had never in her life seen a child as excited as the Little Boy was when he saw the Lightning McQueen car. 

(And inside the Mommy, the Sneaky, Creepy, Ego Monster grew several sizes bigger.)

The Mommy asked the Little Boy if he wanted to try on his new costume. Through the incoherent vocal torrent that came forth from the child, the Mommy decided that he said, "Yes please, Mother. I am very eagerly awaiting the moment with which you will bestow upon me this awesome object of cardboard, craft paint, and masking tape, of which I am surely not worthy." 

 (And the Sneaky, Creepy Ego Monster grew some more.)

The Mommy lowered the car over the Little Boy's shoulders... and the Little Boy panicked and began to flail his arms wildly as he felt the box surround him.

(And the Sneaky, Creepy Ego Monster began to get angry.)

The Mommy tried to calm the Little Boy, telling him that it's just Lightning McQueen --you want to be Lightning McQueen, don't you?-- just hold still for a second and let me get this on you, will you stop pushing it, you're going to break it!
And the Little Boy began to cry as he became more scared of the box that he felt was closing him in, and he fought harder to push the car away, anything to get it off of him... 

(And the Sneaky, Creepy Ego Monster also began to panic at the thought that this Creation would be completely torn to pieces before everyone could see how wonderful She [um, I mean the car, of course] was, and as it panicked, the Monster became even more angry.)


The Mommy finally managed to get the car off the Little Boy. She held the him closely and rocked him and whispered to him soothingly, drying his tears and trying to calm him down.

Inside the Mommy, the Ego Monster screamed: "ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?! ALL THAT TIME I PUT INTO MAKING THIS CAR FOR YOU, AND YOU WON'T EVEN WEAR IT! C'MON IT'S JUST A CARDBOARD BOX, WHY ARE YOU SCARED OF IT? YOU'VE GOT TO WEAR THIS!"

So after a few minutes, the Mommy again tried to put the Lightning McQueen car on the Little Boy; again he panicked and flailed and yelled and cried; again the car was removed and set aside; again the Mommy held the Little Boy.
And then she knew that he would never wear the Lightning McQueen car she'd worked so hard to make, not for Halloween, and not ever. The Little Boy was genuinely terrified of feeling enclosed by that little cardboard car. The Mommy hadn't known that he was scared of such things. 


But she was still upset, and the Ego Monster screamed again: "YOU UNGRATEFUL LITTLE TWERP! DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD I WORKED TO MAKE THIS PERFECT FOR YOU? YOU'RE DAMN WELL GOING TO WEAR THIS ONE WAY OR ANOTHER!!!"

The Mommy heard the Ego Monster's yelling so loudly in her head, wanting to come out her  mouth. But she didn't say anything, because she knew the truth: she knew that the Little Boy wasn't being ungrateful. She knew that although the Ego Monster kept saying she'd made the car for the Little Boy, she'd mostly made it for herself.

And she knew that the real reason she was upset was because she wanted the Little Boy to show off something cool she made so she could feel good about herself. 

Pictured: your child.
Not your trophy.  Not your walking art display. Not your Ego Feeder.

As she sat quietly holding the Little Boy and thinking, the Ego Monster slowly began to shrink. The Mommy finally sighed, set the Little Boy down on the floor, and got a pair of scissors. Slowly, she cut the straps off the car. Then she turned to the Little Boy and quietly asked, "Would you like to play with Lightning McQueen?" 

The Little Boy's eyes lit up and he said, "Yeah!" He knelt beside the car and began pushing it across the floor. His face beamed a huge smile as he made enthusiastic engine noises and quoted numerous passages from the Gospel According to Mater. 

As the Mommy watched him play happily, she began to realize that deep down, even before the Ego Monster existed, what she ultimately wanted was for the Little Boy to be happy. Even though he would never wear the car, he was extremely happy playing with it. And really, that was all that mattered. 





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EPILOGUE


Although one's "Ego Monsters" never truly go away, my Halloween Ego Monster has been continually beaten down over the last 2 years, to the point where I don't think it can recover for at least several years.

That Halloween, since Lightning McQueen was a no-go, I ended up borrowing a costume from a friend, and V.2.1 dressed up as St. Buzz of Beyond (sans crucifix). However, he thought that the purpose of trick-or-treating was to actually go into people's houses and visit with them, instead of getting candy at the door. He cried each time I thwarted his attempts to enter every single house we went to. Needless to say, the evening ended very early.


St. Buzz is greatly aggrieved.
The following Halloween, he wanted to be a firefighter, so I made a firefighter outfit out of an old shirt, duct tape, and a 2-liter bottle. (Hey, it was cheaper than a store-bought costume and plus... duct tape! Hel-LO!) The boy put on the jacket, said he liked it, took it off, dropped it on the floor, and never wore it again. 

To top it off, he cried AGAIN when he was taken out trick-or-treating (instead of a firefighter, he went dressed up as a 3-year-old boy). He only settled down when he went back home to help give out candy to the other kids. 

This Halloween, I made him a costume, but I have NO expectation of him wearing it. If he does, fine; if not, it's something he can still play with. And if (like the firefighter jacket) he never plays with it, I'll pass it on to someone else. 

And who knows, maybe we'll skip the trick-or-treating altogether and just hide candy around the apartment and have both boys go on a free-for-all candy hunt.

As long as we all have fun, that's really all that matters.


P.S.  And true to form, last week made his Halloween Costume Strike record 3-for-3. He wanted to be a train engineer, so I made a cardboard train for him, and gave it to him a few weeks early so he could play with it and get used to it. But when it came time to wear it on Halloween, it was a no-go. Thankfully he already had on his striped shirt, bandanna, and engineer's cap, and he had a blast with that. And the train is being played with by both boys, so it's still a win in my book.



image credits: gamesdbase.com; amazon.com; freedesignfile.com;