World Book Day and other ways to torment mothers


Naturally the letter got lost somewhere between school and home, so the first I heard about World Book Day was on Facebook, where my feed was full of people alternately showing off lovingly hand-crafted costumes, and saying, ‘World Book Day?? Fuck!! What fresh hell is this??’

If I have a philosophy on parenting at all, it’s that you should do with them the stuff you’re good at (in my case: reading, going to the cinema), and hand over the rest to other people (baking, crafting, pretty much everything else). Making costumes sits in the latter category, but luckily it turns out that H&M is way ahead of me on the costume-making front. And graphic novels count, right?

But after seeing several articles about WBD, all detailing the lengths mothers go to to reproduce Hagrid and Cat in the Hat outfits, I had an about-turn and decided that shop-bought superhero costumes were a cheat too far. As far as I was aware, no one had sent out a list of rules (or maybe they had, in the letter I never got), but I felt obligated to make my own:

‘Spiderman doesn’t count.’
‘But Ciaran at school’s got a book about superheroes, and it’s got Spiderman in it.’
‘Still doesn’t count.’
‘I hate you.’

It actually got quite a lot more heated than that, when I forced him into a knight’s costume (this seeming more acceptable somehow, until he killed it by skipping around the room, shouting, ‘I’m Mike the Knight!’)

This was one of those entirely unnecessary rows, which come as a result of the pressure mothers put themselves under to appear, if not perfect, then at least slightly better at this than they really are. It’s like at the school cake sales, when you maybe don’t spend an evening frosting chocolate cake, but feel endlessly bad that you haven’t. Admittedly, these days it’s more acceptable to bring in a six-pack of doughnuts from the Co-op than it used to be. But even that seems passive-aggressive, with its ‘I’m so much busier than you are’ undertones. It’s felt like a long time since a cake could just be a cake.

Similarly, World Book Day seems like just another hoop that mothers have to jump through. One of my oldest friends, Richard, went on Facebook to say what a great idea it is, and how it’s inspired a generation. True enough. But I bet he wasn’t the one sorting out the fucking costume.

Anyway, guess who won the argument?


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