Ah it’s the time of year. And irony of ironies that World Book Day this year falls the same week as International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day. What a triumvirate.  

One year, we absolutely smashed World Book Day. (I say ‘we’ – it was me, I did it and yes I do want that glory). If World Book Day were a sport, kids going as characters from a book that isn’t mainstream earns extra points. If the book has a moral tale, and not one that our parents’ generation taught us, you’ve hit the jackpot. That year my kids chose characters from books they genuinely loved; they excitedly pulled on their costumes and they stood out in a sea of Hermiones and Harrys.  Mabel went as a character from a brilliant feminist kids’ book ‘Not Just Good for a Girl’ (and this had nothing to do with having an 80s Kylie wig from a raucous 30th that worked perfectly for the character’s hair). I’d sourced Buster’s outfit from a charity shop and he won best costume. We still talk about it. 

Following this absolute triumph, it’s all been downhill. We’ve had Elsa and superheroes, we’ve had rows about whether a character is technically from a book, we’ve had melt-downs when they’ve felt the pressure of choosing, we’ve had WBD eve about-turns that left me scrabbling about in our Stag and Hen Do fancy dress box of yore – ‘are you sure there’s not a book you love with a character that wears lederhosen? And neon pink leg warmers? No?’. 

A few years back I remember a post from an influencer that had very young kids saying how sad it was that people put their kids in Disney costumes for World Book Day. Genuinely, and with all due respect, fuck off. It might be that the kid will only wear that, it might be that they can’t afford another costume, it might just be that the parent is exhausted and doesn’t need another thing to do. I’ll tell you what none of us needs, and that’s a guilt trip that we’re not doing World Book Day right. Come at me about my sub par cooking, you are right if you suggest that sometimes my priorities are messed up and I’m distracted when I should be present, but for the love of god, this bit is meant to be fun.  

Lest we forget that World Book Day is a charity event that was set up to encourage young children to read, and their mission is to give every child a book of their own. And we take this lovely thing and turn it into another thing that women are supposed to do, and can be judged for. 

And it is women. I would bet my house that in at least 90% of cases it’s women that have tried to ascertain what their child can go as, cobbled together outfits, and either had the foresight to find, borrow or buy items ahead of the day itself or spent the night before trying to retrofit whatever they have in the house in to an outfit that the kid deems acceptable.  

Some schools have navigated all this by suggesting kids come in pyjamas. I’ve heard of schools do ‘decorate a potato as your favourite book’, which I would love to see.  

And I suppose if you’re still struggling with some sort of guilt/inadequacy, or even if a parent at the school gate comments on the fact your kid is in a costume that is not technically a book, first of all do the Friends thing behind their back where you bump your clenched hands together, because it is really satisfying. But also, there is a lot of fucked up shit happening in the world and our kids get to go to school and celebrate reading; there’s this random day that people have enough time to lose their shit about.

It’s all part of the rich tapestry of parenting my friends. Exasperating, ridiculous, not something your 20-year-old self could have contemplated giving a second thought about and largely unimportant. 

And in a few years, they’ll be at secondary school and it’s a non event and there’s this pscychotic little part of your brain that despite the pain of World Book Days of the past whispers ‘remember how cute they were?’. THAT is parenthood. 

Steph x

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