dressing up

My eldest is just about to leave Primary school. This is his last term before he ventures out into the world of Seniors. In some ways it makes me a little sad. But in others I am pleased. And one of the reasons I am pleased is because he is getting too big for a lot of our dressing up clothes.

I am a veteran Primary school parent. I have 7 years continuous service, with the last four of those seven years seeing all three of my kids attending. And so I am in a fortunate position and can pass on some of my wisdom. And the best and biggest piece of advice I can give you is to maintain a fully stocked dressing up box. Keep everything. Do not throw any garment away that could go in the dressing up box. Scour jumble sales for useful items. Keep everything they make at cub camp. Buy high viz vests in bulk and cheaply, buy face paint and hair dye. Keep a stock of Sharpies in various hues. Have snake belts. Keep old broken broom handles and cheap synthetic blankets.

And here is why.

One day, probably within your first year of being a Primary school parent, you will be asked to send in your child in fancy dress. The school, of course, does not call it fancy dress. They call it Curriculum Enrichment. But it is actually fancy dress.

It starts off quite benignly. Usually with a super hero day. Or a ‘People Who Serve Us’ day. Most parents of four year olds have a Spiderman outfit or a nurses costume. Easy you think, I have this licked.

Ha ha ha.

Within months the school will be sending out requests for historic costumes. You will be asked to provide gear to attend a mock christening or wedding. Someone clever in the PTA will decide wearing spots is a good idea for Red Nose Day. Your child will be evacuated, transported back to Ancient Greece or Roman Britain, be flying in space. You will discover your child(ren) is (are) in the house coloured in the only colour they do not possess a T shirt in for Sports Day.

And here is a heads up. Generally the time notice period has been set by someone who has no kids. That is, too short. Certainly outside Amazon’s normal delivery time scales. And the letter will always says, ‘Please do not go to too much effort, it is about the taking part, but little Jimmy will get much more from the day if he comes dressed in a mop cap, doublet and full breeches, but please no swords’. Damn I have several hundred of those.

Again ha, ha, ha… One would love to ‘not make too much effort’. Again the non kid owning teacher has never experienced the mummy guilt which prevents one from sending in little Jimmy in rolled up trousers with a pillow case over his head. (Never throw anything away). Leaving aside the fussy and image conscious child.

Individually I can usually cope with these requests it is the likelihood of a co-incidence of costumier requirements amongst my three children that cause me headaches.

For instance that seemingly easy request for spots. I have two boys I can tell you how may articles of clothing they possess which have spots. None. At all. I had to cut down an old shirt of daddy’s and cover it in Sharpie pen. Times two. You see? Throw nothing away.

I have had some luck though. As my kids are close in age the Curriculum Enrichment opportunities often repeat themselves and I can re-use costumes. Its a shame then that my eldest is huge. And middlest is not. And youngest is a different gender. No matter. I am sure Tudors wore their breeches baggy. And she’s a tom boy anyway, so hey, suck it up.

And talking of Tudors. The instructions on HOW TO CHEAT to make the outfit required by this particular ‘full immersion’ day still required a sewing machine. That is not cheating. Anything involving haberdashery is not cheating. I went on e bay and looked up child’s Tudor costumes. Some enterprising soul was making outfits by hand to the exact specifications of the ‘Curriculum Enrichment’ venue my child was attending. Only a collar less shirt to provide. He went in with a collar. And was told off. And had to turn it inside. Making him hot and uncomfortable all day. In blazing June. Pardon me for not having ‘spare’ shirts I can merely hack the collar off.

Even such an easy request as a pyjama day can actually be fraught with issues. My children, especially middlest, who is a rake, struggle to keep up PJ bottoms. Which is fine in the privacy of my lounge not so good in double Maths. Snake belts, just saying, perhaps the single most useful items Santa ever brought. Also in this house PJs do not always fit. They are either too long or too short. Again not normally an issue. However it invariably rains, leaving dragging PJ bottom legs soggy and the child miserable. I have been up before now hemming pyjamas in the wee hours, after unearthing the letter from the depths of a book bag.

And then there is the annual jeopardy that is Christmas. Every year I dread the letters. I have had everything from line dancer to elf (green leggings for a boy, anyone?) to the traditional crib characters. Perhaps my most memorable year was when school decided in its infinite wisdom to ask both my boys to be angels. Whilst I applauded their gender neutrality providing white clothes for boys was less than easy. Luckily middlest was still in Reception and happy to go in one of daddy’s old T-shirts belted at the waist. Eldest, the year above, was less pliable and I had to beg some white jeans off a friend. They both agreed to tinsel, only middlest would wear wings.

I have only had a livestock request (sheep) once. And after a lot of time and cotton wool I can only say that the recent, if too late for me, boom in novelty onesies is every parent’s blessing.

Perhaps the worst of all will be days ‘left entirely up to you’. World book day is a classic example of this. Go as any book character. Please for the love of God narrow it down a bit. The stress of three of those costumes nearly un did me one year.

And my final bit of advice. Never volunteer. Unless you can rake up your own costume. And look good in half a bed sheet and your sandals from circa 1980. In the rain.

Eldest’s last hurrah dressing up wise is a WW2 evacuation. Luckily he did this in year 3. So upstairs somewhere I have a battered, small, hard suitcase, a flat cap, a knitted tank top, grey shorts, a ‘granddad’ shirt and a gas mask box. Of course he wore all this when he was about a foot shorter but hopefully no one will notice. Make do and mend after all.