Halloween and the Adopted Child: A Costume is More than It Appears

Halloween and the Adopted Child: A Costume is More than It Appears

There is a curious pattern to almost all of the characters that my daughter Katie has chosen for her Halloween costumes.

At age three, she wanted to be Superman.  At age four, she dressed up as Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series.  At age five, she was Hermione again. At age six, she paraded around as Princess Leia.  As a seven-year-old, she held court as Queen Lucy from Narnia. At age eight, she was once again Princess Leia.

All of her characters have been heroic in nature.  They have magical powers or the ability to do things that regular mortals cannot.  And none of them have had strong biological parental figures.

Superman, her first hero, was adopted.  He saves people from disaster time and again.  Hermione is a brilliant young woman who has magical powers, unlike her parents.  Hermione helps Harry save the wizarding world from Lord Voldemort.  Princess Leia was adopted and is a leader in the rebellion against the evil galactic Empire. Lucy is a young girl who was sent away from her parents during World War II and discovers a magical land where she is destined to be a good queen.

Katie, who is well aware that she was adopted, has never wanted to dress up as a duck or a fairy or a pumpkin.  Nor does she want to be a puppy or a kitten.  And certainly not a ghoul, a vampire, a mean witch or a goblin.  She is not interested in bloody makeup or scary masks.

From the time she was old enough to express her wishes, she has wanted to dress up as superhuman characters that have a history of being separated from their birth parents.

Coincidence?  I think not.

It is not uncommon for adopted children to fantasize about their birth families.  Every child yearns to be special and different, but this need can be magnified with a child who was placed for adoption.  I think Katie’s choice of Halloween costumes reflects a subconscious fantasy about who she is and what she will become.

She does not want to dress up as someone scary or evil, because she already fears abandonment and rejection.  She is terrified of the possibility that she is “bad” and has no interest in putting a face to the fear.  Katie’s dream is to discover that she has secret powers, that she is not just good but superhuman.  She wants to save the day and earn the love and praise of everyone.

But this year, there has been a change to the pattern, and I was thrown for a loop in my theories about Halloween and my adopted child.  Katie told me, in no uncertain terms, that she wanted to be a Stormtrooper.

A bad guy!  Was this a fundamental change in her views?  Was this about her pre-adolescent rebellion?  I was fascinated.

And then Katie told me why she wants to be a Stormtrooper.  “I want to stick up for the Star Wars fans who were picked on for dressing in their costumes at the Star Wars convention.  They stood up for me, so I’ll stand up for them.”

Katie is referring to the Great Star Wars Cyberbullying Incident of 2012, when a news station in Miami made the mistake of running a slideshow of photos of Star Wars fans that contained cruel, mocking captions.  The news station ultimately took down the slideshow and apologized.

It all made sense to me.  And, in Katie’s mind, the Stormtroopers are the heroes of the 501st.  As an added bonus, Katie is thrilled with the idea that she is bucking gender norms yet again by wearing a costume traditionally associated with boys.

Five-year-old Annie Rose told me, “Katie cannot wait to go to school and then take off her bucket head to reveal that she is a girl!”  Two-year-old Cleo, who idolizes Katie, was planning to dress up as Yoda, but now she wants to be “Stomtwoopah.”

We have a perfect record for Katie dressing up as characters that she perceives to be heroes and heroines.  My theory (as it pertains to my child) is still intact for now.

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