Hallowe'en has always been one of my favorite holidays. It's been an opportunity for me to be creative - and allowed me to become something I generally am not - an extrovert.
Over the years, I've been lucky to have younger "friends" to enjoy Hallowe'en with. I've can happily say that until my children, I never had to stay home and give out candy. Ever. When I was too "old" to go out, I started taking the children I babysat who lived next door. When they got too old, my mother was kind enough to birth me another sister. Just so I could dress her up and take her out for Hallowe'en (I'm sure that was the only reason she was born). And when she turned nine and was starting to "age out", I started having my own children.
As my children arrived, Hallowe'en has been an important bonding holiday. We'd spend months searching for costumes. Okay...I'd spend months. The year my son was born, he was a pumpkin - and I was a pumpkin patch. The next year, he was Spiderman and I was a Spider. When my daughter came, we went out as Pippy Longstocking. The following year, we did a Cat in the Hat theme. Last year, after my youngest was born, we had enough people to be The Mystery Inc gang - complete with Velma (me), Fred (Hubs), Shaggy (my eldest), Daphne (my girl) and the cutest little Scooby Doo. My eldest son was not thrilled about being Shaggy...but he did the Star Wars Storm Trooper thing at school - and damn it, we were cute.
And I've been lucky to have that time to spend with the kids - especially after the divorce.
The first couple of years after our separation, my ex and I split Hallowe'en. I'd take the kids until six. Ex would pick them up and take them for a spin around his parent's neighborhood and then bring them back hopped up on candy.
For the past four years, he's been scheduled to work Hallowe'en. The first two years, it was great for me. It was like a free pass. I'd buy the kids costumes and ready for the holiday with my usual eagerness - up to two months in advance.
It was OK for a couple of years.
And then it wasn't.
Two years ago, in September, the ex advised that he wanted to take Hallowe'en off and wanted the kids. It was my custody day. Now that I was living further away, it wasn't possible to "split" the holiday.
We weren't especially amicable at the time. We brought it to the parenting coordinator to hammer out a specific agreement. We decided (with her assistance) to "split" the holiday and have the kids on alternate years. If the holiday fell on the other parent's custody day, at least one month's notice was required. And if notice wasn't provided, the other parent could go ahead.
It should have been easy. The parenting coordinator set a date by which he needed to provide proof that he had taken the day off (he'd had issues with truth telling in the past and I requested proof). The deadline passed - with no confirmation from the parenting coordinator. I sought confirmation - and with her confirmation, I went ahead with my planning and went out and got costumes for the kids.
Two weeks before Hallowe'en, the ex e-mailed suggesting he'd taken the day off. He still hadn't provided proof to the parenting coordinator. The parenting coordinator intervened - advised that he hadn't followed protocol as he agreed - and as a result, ruled I would have the children that year. I would have thought that experience would teach him a lesson about following our agreements.
That was two years ago. Last year was to be my year (as the year before was supposed to be his). Even so, I waited until the one month deadline had passed and then went ahead with planning the holiday. He was to be working, we'd agreed with the parenting coordinator that I would get the "odd" years", and it was within my rights.
No - I didn't remind him that he was supposed to provide me notice or ask him if he was taking the day off. It's not my job to micromanage him.
Ten days before the holiday, he e-mailed and suggested that he'd taken the day off and would be taking the children. Because he'd missed it the previous year, he believed that by default, it made it his turn.
Without turning to the parenting coordinator (who we had still engaged at that point), I told him that it was my year, and even if it wasn't, he hadn't provided notice as agreed and I'd already made my preparations.
In case you think I'm hard hearted - to be clear - if he'd expressed his intentions before I'd purchased all the costumes and made plans with family to go out, I would have let him have the children. Even though it was technically my year.
This resulted in a barrage of e-mails from him to the parenting coordinator. He went to her, she came to me - I explained the same thing I had to him, and she agreed. And then he sent four more e-mails trying to change her mind. The exchange cost us both $175. I hope he learned something from it. It was certainly a costly lesson for me (and part of the reason we don't have the parenting coordinator any more).
This year is his year. For the first time in four years, the custody schedule has inverted - and he has the children on Hallowe'en. We don't have the parenting coordinator - but even if we did, it's an even year - he is within his rights. I haven't planned Hallowe'en with my older two kids this year or asked for a change in schedule (as much as I'd like to).
I'll miss them terribly. This will be the first Hallowe'en where my youngest is walking - and his older siblings will miss it. We'll still do all the holiday things - heading out to the pumpkin patch. Carving pumpkins and putting them out. Roasting pumpkin seeds and making pumpkin pie and scones. And I have them the morning of. So I'll get to dress them and send them for their school party.
It's not quite the Hallowe'en I'd like. But I know he enjoys the holiday too - and I hope the children will enjoy their time with them. And the good news is, now that I have another child, I can still celebrate - and I don't have to stay home and give out candy (yeah, I know, first world problems...)
I've checked the schedule. Next year he has custody of the children. I guess I'll have my opportunity to test my theory that he won't stick to our agreement then. I'll likely notifying him in early August (because I'm a planner) - and we'll see. Check back with me then... ;)
In the meantime - wishing you all a Spooky Hallowe'en!!