Ed. Note: This is the latest in a series of articles about motherhood in the legal profession, made in collaboration with our friends at MothersEsquire. Welcome Claire E. Parsons back to our website. Click here if you would like to donate to MothersEsquire.
I had to bring the bad news to my kids this year: We're not going to do trick or treat. No, I am not a germophobic. I am not against sweets. I've already resigned myself to the idea that I'll buy some. I'm not overly strict and I don't hate fun. I'm more of a lawyer. It's my job to assess the risk and weigh the consequences, and as a mom, it's my job to use whatever I have to make sure my children are safe. I don't think the odds of trick or treating – that one particular activity this year – justify taking the risk amid a global pandemic. If you disagree, I hope you and your family have all the fun in the world. My family and I just need to have fun in other ways.
Maybe this is the right way to end 2020. Some have called it a dumpster fire. Some have wished that it would just end. Some have lamented everything that children (and adults) have lost. I am not arguing with any of this and will not try to name any person (including myself) who has had no problems in the past few months as we try to cope with this "new normal" that neither of us really likes.
But I will say that for me as a lawyer-mother, finding joy in the midst of chaos, ubiquitous imperfection, and an amazing lack of control is kind of a traffic jam. I've been doing this since my first daughter eight years ago. I've gotten used to things working. I am able to come up with random solutions – this is how I made a BB8 killer costume for my youngest with a white sleeping set and duct tape for a year. I learned early on that I would never be a perfect mom, so I decided to use my energy on being a happy one that makes happy children, even though the world makes it difficult at times.
I think I got this from my mother, who is also a lawyer. She ran her own company and volunteered in the community. She wasn't someone who put pressure on herself to make every vacation magical. I can't remember a single Halloween costume she made for myself. And usually she gave me the role of brownies for the PTA meetings (which was fine because I had to lick the bowl). Mom didn't do everything herself and what she often did happened when we were rushing through town in her minivan listening to Mary Chapin Carpenter how sometimes in life you're a windshield and sometimes the beetle.
These are the moments that I remember most clearly and that are more important to me than anything. My favorite Halloween memory of my mom was when she drove my sister and me to a store to buy costumes between piano lessons and soccer practice. She'd bought herself a flamingo's beak as a frankly uninspired costume to wear to a Halloween party with friends. Like a kid getting new shoes, she insisted on trying them on as soon as we were in the car. After driving into traffic, she sat on her head because (not surprisingly) plastic flamingo's beaks are not conducive to driving. And for no apparent reason she exclaimed, "I'm a unicorn! I'm a unicorn!" When our consummate mother announced her new found status as a mythical creature while wearing a plastic flamingo beak on her forehead, my sister and I died laughing. We still laugh today.
I can't remember anything else about Halloween this year including trick or treating, although I'm sure I did. Activities that are done year after year melt in your head, even if you enjoy them. But I clearly remember my mom's sense of humor when she stormed us, and I definitely relied on it when I stormed around as a lawyer-mom myself. I'm not telling you about Halloween or this year's holidays will be easy. I'm not suggesting they'll be just as good. But I am saying that COVID-19 has stolen a lot of things from us, but not your creativity, your humor, your heart or your silliness. Even though we don't trick or treat my kids already know they can count on me for silliness and fun. Maybe I can't be a Halloween unicorn this year and make this holiday spectacular, but I can be a fake flamingo unicorn and make it fun. And I will do that.
Claire E. Parsons is a member of Adams, Stepner, Woltermann & Dusing, PLLC in Covington, Kentucky, where she focuses on local government, school law, and civil procedural law. She is the mother of two girls and Chair of Content and Communications at MothersEsquire. You can find more of her content or connect with her on LinkedIn.