Saturday, 27 February 2010

World Book day and the playground Mafia

I have a problem... 
On Friday it's World Book Day and our children are expected to go to school dressed as a literary character. So that doesn't sound too bad in theory - and it wouldn't be if it was about the children and the books that they love but it isn't.

World Book Day 1
When Sonny was in the reception class I managed to wing it. ModelGirl was crazy about Charlie & Lola so I made him a T-shirt like Charlie's stuck him in a pair of jeans and packed him off.
No problemo...
World Book Day Charlie and Lola

But when I arrived for parents assembly I realised that I'd been way off the mark.
There were fictional characters from every realm with costumes so amazing that they had clearly been working on them for weeks. Prizes were handed out to the two best dressed in each year and parents glared through glued on smiles, trying to hide their envy, disappointment and sheer hate for the chosen few.
Welcome to the world of competitive parenting.

World Book Day 2
Now I have two children to dress and this year I was prepared. Regardless of the opinion of my daughter, she was going as Alice from the literary classic Alice in Wonderland. 
I had a replica dress made for her and with her beautiful long hair she looked perfect. I was convinced that she was in with a chance of scooping the prize. I wanted her to be proud of me for getting her such an amazing costume that everyone would love. I had been sucked in. I was one of them now and I hated myself.

There were butterfly's as we entered the playground.... and snow queens and wizard's and animals of all descriptions. I took stock. Did a playground sweep and to my horror of horrors I spotted another Alice... (scraggy dress.. no competition there) and another and another.

The disappointment in ModelGirl's big brown eyes as she looked up at me made me shudder and we walked solemnly to class.
Sonny who had no interest in dressing up was over the moon that I'd let him wear his Dr Who suit. They have Dr Who books right?

Assembly time.... The parents all checking each other out in the queue, jostling for a spot on the front row, confident that the prize was theirs. 
ModelGirls class was up first. 
A boy in a home made robot suit that rendered him unable sit and A Hungry Caterpillar nailed it. Their parents obviously well versed in what was at stake here.
Sonny's class up next.

Oliver Twist - he was good, a deserving win. I looked around at the other parents, their expectant faces feigning joy for the chosen few. The next name called was..... 
Are you kidding me?
World Book Day Dr Who costume

He was dressed as a sci fi character that had spurned books, he should have been disqualified not taken the prize. And now they were all staring at me.... the parents who had spent weeks planning and making sewing and painting. I was the enemy. Feeling the full wrath of the playground Mafia.

So where do I go from here? I've got three children to dress this year. No time to shop, a husband in Paris, homework, dance rehearsals, swimming club, gymnastics and work.
I hate the expectations placed on parents by school. Wouldn't it be better to spend the day reading and sharing stories than putting yet more pressure on frazzled parents?

This is going to be a hot topic amongst parents of school aged children this  week. I knew it wasn't just me feeling it. 

Read the second part to this post here.


  1. That's why I no longer make much effort. My daughter went as Funnybones for her book day (just wore our skeleton costume from halloween) Most of the girls in her class were in fairy costumes!? At our school it is very P.C so no prizes or awards, which I must say does take the pressure off.

    As you say, surely the most important thing is to encourage the kids to enjoy books, not stress ut the parents!

    As an aside, my son was like Sonny and insisted on wearing his Scooby-doo outfit! Not a litery classic exactly is it?

  2. Oh yes the world of competitive parenting. I know it well. It was difficult not to get sucked in. Only last week my boy, also called Sonny (what a cool name)had a greek day. I am afraid I got all riled up and after seeing Percy Jackson Sonny decided he wanted to go as Hermes. He had wings on his gladiator sandals, a brilliant hat, the works. I felt sure he was in with a chance of the prize. No! Went to a girl who was wearing a Sari thing - same thing she wears for every event - Roman, Victorian, World Book Day etc. Bitter? Me?

  3. Ugh - I have three to dress by next week. The theme was given out on Friday - 'Adventurers and Explorers'...

    Last year we went all out (not for competitive spirit, but as we've been so slack in recent years we felt we owed it to the boys). Our 10 yr old minotaur was AWESOME and didn't win (a shop-bought one did.. mutter mutter). Our 7yr old zebra crossing was simple, genius and definitely deserved its win ;) The youngest 6yr old penguin stripped his costume by morning break and really shouldn't have been allowed to even enter.
    But explorers? Adventurers? I've been asked for Indiana Jones best friend, Christopher Colombus and a GoGo...

  4. Hmm, I agree, it shouldn't be about the winning really should it?
    We had our Key Stage 1 and 2 party yesterday Heroes and Heroines theme; 5yo was cool going as a skelly-bob (yep, I know, Hero??) and 7yo told me in the morning, he wanted to be a vampire (yep, another traditional Hero!) - he was more than happy with some facepaint fangs and an old black skirt of mine safety-pinned around his neck for a cape - cool! Took 10mins, and he looked better than all the shop-bought padded costumes!
    On the subject of Book Day, our school - for some reason has ignored the classic 'come dressed as your favourite book character' and opted for, wait for it, come to school in your PJs - some spurious 'bedtime story' association, go figure . . . x

  5. I am the worlds worst mum at dress up events and because I refuse to enter into playground mafia politics of my outfits better than yours, my kids are always the worst dressed, but the kids are used to it. Last term my daughters class had to dress up for ramadan and the teacher told her the homemade sari we put together was not good enough and that she should put more effort into it! Being Gaby she turned round to the teacher and said "that if she had a problem about the outfit to take it up with her mum, because her mum says dressing up outfits for school are not what is important or what she will earn her grades from!" Needless to say the teacher did not bring the subject up with me!

  6. Funnily enough I posted about this topic on Thursday because I too know from first hand experience the competitiveness that breaks out in the playground in the run-up to World Book Day! I think you're right - the important thing is that the message of WHY we have World Book Day doesn't get lost in all the pressure of the fancy dress parade. I don't think there's anything wrong with celebrating favourite characters from books because it does at least highlight one of the reasons why children read, but I do think the competitiveness is nuts.

  7. Oh dear, I'm with Juicy Tots...I don't really make an effort any more. There are only so many years you can take the competitiveness..I've had enough, it's all too stressful plus a complete an utter pain. I literally feel my shoulders droop whenever I hear of these days. I'm such a bad parent!!!
    Good luck with this year...I look forward to hearing what your children were. ;0)) And yay for Sonny last time. x

  8. I too am jaded and put minimum effort in..I am on round 2 of primary school (my eldest now 15!!) and this week my reception child will be the bear from going on a bear hunt...bought mask (thank you ebay £3.99 !!!) and a brown faux fur tunic which was originally a caveman outfit for my 12 year old on one of the ridiculous lets p*ss the parents off theme days several years ago....
    I remember a greek day at school when my eldest was about 9 or girl walked into the playground with this beautiful beaded dress with head gear and adornments a gogo!! did everyone swoon - yes a little - but us slummy mummies just thought get a you not sleep?!?!? :D
    (oh and we have dr who books on the shelf so Sonny's win was well deserved x)

  9. Just checked out the school weekly letter and no mention of World Book Day - perhaps just perhaps this year they may forget...
    (PS Won as Hungry caterpillar two years ago....been going downhill ever since)

  10. I hate to be the one to break it to you but WBD is on Thursday and not Friday. I wouldn't want you turning up on Thursday with no costumes!!! Imagine the look on the faces of the Playground Mafia then :-o

    I've also blogged about WBD this week because it's the last year EVER for me (after 13 or 14 years... I've lost count!!) so I rejoice and sympathise all at the same time :)

  11. I'm sniggering because it's true, B despises the whole costume thing and have heard her many complaints over the years. I think that it seems to be difficult these days for everything not to turn into a competition. My mum said she'd help out but that if we wanted to 'compete' in stuff like this, we'd have to be the driver of it. That worked as we realised how much work goes into these things for going 'all out' and to do this day, I really don't like doing fancy dress. I feel for you - I say chill out and let them come to you and say what they want to do if anything. You have enough things to be stressing about! Enjoy the books x

  12. This is very very very funny. Mainly because I am still in the pre-world book days years. Maybe I should start sewing/bribing the headmistress NOW!

  13. I love the Dr Who outfit, what a dude!
    My mum used to spend hours making costumes for our primary school events - as soon as we arrived I used to strip to my birthday suit and run around the playground - hope the bear doesn't inherit the trait!

  14. Thankfully our kids' school usually only want money. The dressing up is a fairly half-hearted affair 'slippers on tuesday' 'silly hat day' 'shirt on backwards day'. I realise that we've had a merciful escape. I think WBD is a great idea - forcing parents to dress up children less so.

  15. Another great post - I'm sat laughing to myself (that in a minute lie is getting bigger!).

    I'm thankful to our very lazy head for ignoring world book day. My no.3 had to take his favourite book to nursery - completely forgot but thankfully he had a paddy in the morning and so I let him take charlie and lola as a bribe - serendipity!

    The next level of hell - decorating easter eggs/bonets!

  16. The pressure is awful isn't it! It's my son's first year at school so I am just getting used to all these things. I have managed to scrape together a pirate outfit out of some bits we already had, just hope it holds up to the scrutiny!


Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. Appreciated as always. xx


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