My youngest son Jorge had just turned 15 when he boldly announced last year that he wasn't celebrating Halloween.
"It's for little kids," he said.
I tried to encourage him to have fun and dress up anyway, but nothing I said would pierce the iron armor of resolution he'd formed. Putting on a costume and trick-or-treating was for babies and he wanted nothing to do with it.
As strange as it may sound, I was sadder about the loss of his Halloween innocence than I was when he stopped believing in Santa. Halloween was the last holdout of childhood – the safe place he (and therefore, we) could indulge in fantasy and wonder, if even for a night.
My oldest, Alvaro, had given up on candy-hoarding cosplay a few years before. Like his little brother, he'd reached an age where dressing up felt like something kinder-care kids did, and he didn't want to smear his reputation with childish pursuits.
Nothing I said could convince them otherwise, either.
After an evening spent lamenting over email to my then-deployed husband that life as we knew it was over (sometimes I'm a wee bit dramatic), a well-known, often overused saying popped into my head.
"Just do it."
That's when I realized that Halloween (or any holiday for that matter) wouldn't die if I didn't let it. I was going to "just do it" all the way.
In a fit of last-minute inspiration, I decided to dress up like a pregnant Real Housewife of the '80s for Halloween to show my kids that we can indulge in holiday celebrations at any age.
I slipped on a floral-print bathrobe, stuffed my Spanx with a pillow, placed a three-inch dangling cross on my left ear and a hot pink plastic oval earring on my right, stepped into a pair of fluffy slippers, pulled my hair up into a side ponytail — and for an added touch of everything cliché about the 80s — I held a boombox on my shoulder and blasted the soundtrack to "Dirty Dancing."
Photograph by Bryanne Salazar
I also learned something important: how our kids transition out of childhood and into young adulthood has a lot to do our choices as parents.
It was impromptu and imperfect, but it got me, and my sons, laughing. I decided to stand outside in my driveway and dance to the music while passing out candy to entranced trick-or-treaters.
For a while, my sons watched from the front door, but after 30 minutes or so of seeing how much fun I was having, they both came outside wearing masks saved from Halloweens of yesteryear.
They stayed with me, acting silly and passing out candy to younger kids, for about an hour before they left to link up with friends. One son went to a bonfire on the beach, and the other watched scary movies at a neighbor's house.
When they left, I didn't feel sad or lonely. Rather, I felt thrilled that I had finagled one more moment of childhood joy with them.
I also learned something important: how our kids transition out of childhood and into young adulthood has a lot to do our choices as parents. Had I sat on the sofa and pouted that my kids didn't want to dress up anymore, we wouldn't have made another fun memory the way we did.
I've shown my sons that even grown-ups can be silly and "childish" and that's OK. This Halloween, my husband and I plan on being just as creative and goofy as ever, and will invite our sons to join in the fun. Maybe they will, and maybe they won't. Who knows?
What I do know is that the only thing dead about Halloween are the ghosts and zombies that will come to our door.