We need to talk.
You do a marvellous job with my children. You inspire and educate and socialise them
and take them off my hands for up to six hours each day, five days a week, 39 weeks of the year. They are happy, interested and only rarely come home with nits. I owe you more than I can ever repay.
This dressing up lark has to stop.
So far this term I’ve had to rustle up a Spooky Day costume for the four year old. I’m working on the Christmas requirements (a star, a pirate and a sodding Islander, which sounds worryingly like a character from The Wicker Man). In the spring, there’ll be World Book Day, (when I have to persuade my two younger children that their Disney-inspired polyester horrors don’t really count), something Comic Relief related (I’m still finding bits of deely boppers from six months ago) and the psychological trauma of trying to create a witty, yet touching, scene out of hard-boiled eggs and empty loo rolls.
It didn’t look like that on Pinterest.
This week is Children in Need, and I’m regretting the years I muttered about having to find something with spots on. This year (and I know that the idea behind this wasn’t yours) the theme is heroes.
The four year old’s a doddle. He’s borrowed one of those alarmingly padded Spiderman costumes which makes him look like I give him steroids and protein shakes for breakfast. He’s even almost reconciled to the fact that it doesn’t confer the ability to throw webs or climb walls. It’s all good.
The other two are in a pleasing state of vagueness. “I’ll go as Catwoman”, says the seven year old airily, batting away such practicalities as the fact that she doesn’t own a single black item of clothing and has never, to my knowledge, seen Catwoman in her life. The eight year old’s contribution has been to helpfully confirm that he’ll go “as a hero”. Right.
Dear school, it’s not you, it’s me. I really do get it, you’re not alone, and you’re in a no-win situation. There are parents who relish the opportunity to create, whose children look unfailingly amazing, and who would howl to the moon if you cut back on the dressing-up. The rest of us, though, look longingly at the easy-wear, easy-wash, uniform sitting forlornly in the drawer. Then we turn sadly away to rattle around in the back of the wardrobe trying to put together something we know will fail miserably, or slope off resentfully to the shops for an overpriced branded onesie.
Outfits for plays are one thing, but the fundraising days are something else altogether. I know, I know, it’s all about Good Causes. You’re helping the children to think about others, and to raise money while doing so. If I’m being honest, the real cause of my complaint is that it’s a chore I could do without. I am rich in children and poor in imagination. Thinking of and creating costumes manages simultaneously to bore and to stress me, and I’m not altogether sure it does so to any purpose.
There’s more to my disquiet than laziness, though. Today, faced with the choice of making a costume which I know in advance will qualify for one of those #nailedIt memes or of spending money on some random tat destined for the bin and probably made by a child in the first place, I can’t help but wonder if this all sends out mixed messages. Giving to charity shouldn’t depend on having fun while doing so. I’m pretty sure the widow didn’t dress as a ninja before toddling off to deposit her mite. Moreover, I can (just about) afford the time and the money, but I know that a lot of parents really, really can’t. Sometimes, charity begins at home.
They’re children, I know. They (mostly!) like dressing up. I’m not asking you to stop it altogether, just maybe…keep it for special occasions? Once a decade would be great. Thanks
ps – what the ^%&* does an Islander wear?