Last week, I made a new discovery: as a parent, there are few things that can strike fear into your inner being so much as the phrase “World Book Day”. All across the land, dads and mums were busy trying to enact minor miracles with old bed sheets, charity shop discoveries and PVA glue, as the dreaded day loomed.
For a five-year-old, going to school dressed as your favourite character is a lovely idea. In theory, that is. With us parents, though, it’s an entirely different story: when you’ve been at work all day and you’re still up at midnight piecing together a Gruffalo costume, the appeal of World Book Day is far from obvious.
Our son was very clear about what he wanted to be: a “really cool prince”, complete with a red sash. Relatively simple – or so we thought. However, we hadn’t bargained on the fact that this outfit apparently needed to be a carbon copy of the one worn by “the prince at school” – who, after considerable interrogation, turned out to be a character in a cartoon his class had watched recently. Our little boy was very exacting in his demands, and we were left in no doubt that if we created something sub-standard, it would be an unmitigated disaster.
My wife set about making the costume in question: the sewing machine was duly brought down from the loft (we have a sewing machine? Who knew?), various items of clothing were cut into pieces, and in the early hours of the morning the task was finished. Or so we thought.
As we wandered up to bed, it was time for that lovely nightly ritual of tucking the kids in and giving them a kiss goodnight. It’s always my favourite time of the day: even if bathtime and bedtime have been a disastrous combination of misbehaviour, tears and tantrums, when my children are asleep they cannot fail to look anything other than absolutely angelic. As I rearranged our eldest daughter’s duvet and snuggled her up with her teddies, so my wife tucked our son in and whispered “love you; night night”. All was calm, all was still – until he sat bolt upright in his bed, looked her straight in the eyes and exclaimed: “is my costume done? You know, REALLY done, with a sword and everything?”
A sword? We hadn’t realised he needed a sword. So, the following morning, having set the alarm extra-early, I found myself at our kitchen table surrounded by various cereal boxes, a roll of tin foil and some Sellotape which would only come off in tiny strands. The pressure I felt was nothing short of immense: never mind the meeting with four senior colleagues at work later that morning; this was the moment that really mattered. I kept calm, though, and before long had managed to create this:
My son went out the door very happily, and loved every minute of this special day. His school was relatively relaxed about it, too: I’m personally relieved that our son’s teacher refuses to give out a Best Dressed Child award for World Book Day. It’s stressful enough as it is, without the added pressure of having to create something prizewinning.
As for next year, I’m already gearing myself up for a challenge. Upon seeing her brother in all his finery, our three-year-old – who starts school in September – declared: “when I’m in Year R, I’m going to dress up as James and the Giant Peach.” Looks like we might be keeping that sewing machine out for the long-term…