As I discussed in Banning Halloween: A Unnecessary Trick? and The Un-Halloween Parade!, our ultra-politically correct school has replaced a traditional Halloween celebration with a less controversial alternative. As I wrote last year:
[W]hile it’s not a violation of the First Amendment for American public schools to sponsor Halloween activities, I can’t blame our school for wanting to avoid controversy by renaming and repurposing the parade. The controversy relates to Halloween’s Pagan roots, which some claim conflict with their Christian beliefs even though these parades neither endorse a particular religion nor inhibit a person’s ability to practice her own religion. However, to the extent a new name (“character parade”) and a different purpose (promoting literacy) will defuse the controversy, I support the change. In the end, for my bibliophile children, it turned out to be more fun than a typical Halloween parade.
This year, though, my daughters were less enthusiastic about the character parade, despite their assiduous preparation for the big day, October 24th. They scoured their bookshelves for exactly the right book, which turned out to be The Day the Crayons Quit.
- M. assumed the persona of the blue crayon, Duncan’s favorite color;
- S. decided to be pink, her favorite color which Duncan hadn’t even used once in the past year; and
- Three-year-old Z. decided to be the OCD purple crayon, who will “completely lose it” if Duncan doesn’t “start coloring inside the lines soon,” even though her school doesn’t actually celebrate Halloween in any form.
Then, two days before the day, the bullies struck. Two little girls and a boy made fun of S. when she announced her costume plans to the class. In the classroom next door, three little girls laughed at M.
One of M.’s friends came to her aid and said that she would also be a crayon, a blunt red one, but S. wasn’t as lucky. She would be the lone crayon in her class.
S. wasn’t happy about it, as she told us at the bus stop the next morning, the day before the parade. S. is the type of child who usually keeps her feelings to herself until, seemingly out of the blue, she explodes into tears. So, we thanked her for volunteering the information and told her that we’d do our best to get her a new costume in time for the parade.*
She wanted to be a house cat, but the best I could do during my lunch hour was a cheetah/jaguar/leopard costume, which I pieced together from items from three stores. Then I had to find a book to match.
With only a few minutes left before I had to be on a conference call, I located a copy of Lois Ehlert’s Lots of Spots, which displays a cheetah on the cover.** The collage-style animals accompanied by silly rhymes are better for a younger audience, and thus are potentially fodder for bullies, but it was my only option.
That night, after my daughters finished their homework and a couple of First In Math games, we started our nightly reading. Unfortunately, thanks to my poor planning, we didn’t get to Lots of Spots until S. was starting to fall asleep. So, I skipped over a few of the poems, sped through the rest, and then tucked the book into her bag.
The next morning, after a successful parade, I watched with anticipation as S. stood in front of her classmates and their parents to explain the relationship between her costume and her book: She shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know! I’ve never read it!”
I was mortified as the whole class laughed–but at least S. was laughing too.
*I remember feeling terribly embarrassed by my Halloween costumes, such as the T-Rex costume in the picture at the bottom of The Brontosaurus Between Us.
**For some reason, Lots of Spots also features several “spotless” animals, like Zebras and Tigers.