When she was small, I made my daughter’s Halloween costumes. Black cat and princess were successes, but the most complicated was the 2-year old’s zebra. The real problem was, she hated it and rebelled. I didn’t blame her: it looked fabulous, but it did not allow for flexibility and she did not choose it. She consented to a couple of photographs with the headgear on, although her face is understandably sullen.

Eventually, I bought a couple of costumes because she wanted to look like a recognizable package. She finally figured out that to make her own costume celebrated her individuality and ideas more effectively. So for years we have been on more creative ground… with varying results. Of course like many people, we do this all at the last minute.

At the fabric store she was drawn to the filmy fabric with the spider webs. I fingered it abstractly, admiring its “cool” factor while determining how it could be used in a “moonbeam” costume. Since my head is full of symbols, I recognized my daughter’s attraction to the spider motif. A spider is woven into myths of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and architectural designs. Yet the moon is the realm of Diana, goddess of the hunt… oh, what the heck… it’s a costume.

We had to get silver fabric and a few more components, which led to increased miscommunication, lack of patience and frustration. Somehow we got out of the store with the supplies but then into a full-blown battle. There’s more to the story, but hey- I respect my daughter. Suffice to say, this was classic teenage-mom bewilderment. How does a fun project become a minefield of tension and emotion? After the tsunami and adjustment I reflected on my symbolic clues… ah, they were there- but I wasn’t paying attention.

The moon symbolizes your emotions and how you nurture- yourself as well as others. But it is also indicative of the stages of life from a feminine perspective (regardless of your sex). The child (virgin), the fully formed vessel of creativity (woman) and the wise sage (crone). A fledgling teen is starting to navigate the ocean of her emotions and is not yet sea-worthy. Actually, any supposed grown-up may grapple with an unexpected feeling, as a new situation slaps him/her in the face. For a teen, it’s all new. There’s no track record. She’s shown competence to go out on her own and yet….

The spider is linked in mythology to Athena (Pallas to the Romans). Among her many arts was weaving, and she had a student Arachne. Many myths are about the hazards of pride and Arachne became so proficient at the loom that she thought herself better than Athena. A contest to determine the master led to Arachne’s downfall, not because she won but because she chose subject-matter for her tapestry that insulted the gods. When Athena turned against her, Arachne felt bereft and despondent. She took her life and Athena responded by transforming her into a spider to weave beautiful patterns for the rest of time.

Needless to say, I’ve got the message. I want my daughter to be proud of her accomplishments and to make a costume that reflects (moon) where she is in her life today. I don’t want to set up a situation where she feels the way to best me is to insult me. So I must be the wise-sage and tamp my reaction when the spider stings. Of course, this is easier to say than to do in all situations, especially if I’m hungry or tired. But when I remember to do this, we will get to a place gracefully where the waves subside and Athena can light the way.