I somehow missed the memo about dressing up for World Book Day. There was one. Many, in fact. Yet somehow I found myself at 3.15 yesterday with less than a day to create an amazing and imaginative costume for Ziggler to wear at nursery. And it was Choir Night, an’ all.
No, it did not have to be amazing or very imaginative. Yes, I did suggest a number of convenient possibilities. The mermaid from… oh, you know, numerous stories about mermaids? As you know, we have an award winning costume in our dressing up box on that theme. No, Ziggler didn’t fancy that this time. Dogger, out of erm, ‘Dogger’? That didn’t meet with approval either. Fox in socks – a character who’s been causing much hilarity in our house of late? Nope. Ziggler had a very clear idea of what she wanted to be. Her current favourite book is Dinosaurs Galore and her favourite dinosaur therein is the Ankylosaurus. His rhyme: ‘I have armour on the top of me and armour underneath / and if you try to eat me up you’ll probably break your teeth!’ She can recite it. Armour means spikes. A costume in less than 24h is not too hard. But a costume with spikes?
Now, usually I would’ve just persuaded her down the mermaid route. But an Ankylosaurus is such a cool and funny and specific thing to want to be, especially for a girl who doesn’t usually spare the princesses. And she was really excited about being the spikiest kid at nursery and reciting her rhyme, so I caved. And, actually, in the end it wasn’t that hard (mainly because actually in the end it wasn’t that good). I had stuck on my last spike before bed time. It was a bit unwieldy being made of a cardboard box – and having spikes on it – but she could wear normal clothes underneath.
When we got to nursery she was still excited about how spiky she was. On the walk from the car (it was raining and I wanted to preserve the integrity of the spikes), she was saying her rhyme and skipping. As we walked in the door and encountered a couple of puzzled looks and a billion mermaids/princesses/other girly characters I saw her mind change and her shoulders and spirits droop. She wanted to take her mask off. She would wear it later. She should have (she said silently) come as a mermaid. She made me help her take her spiky costume off and hang it on a chair. She would, she promised, wear it later.
I have to say that bit of my heart broke. I don’t care about the costume and the loving bloody hours and hours I spent sellotaping spikes on a cardboard tabard – I really don’t – but the shrivelling of her joy was truly terrible.
In the car, I cried. I felt that she had learned that you shouldn’t try too hard, and you shouldn’t be too different from everyone else, and you shouldn’t really have your own ideas and if you do it’s weird to carry them out. Plus I admit I was worried that everyone think I made her come as an Ankylosaurus and that I’m a pushy wanna-be alpha mum. So I rang my sister Sausage.
I have forgotten the words of her pep-talk but the gist was something like this:
“Snap out of it lady. Yes, she was brilliant and funny to think of such an interesting costume. Yes, it’s sad that she felt she shouldn’t have. But a) you are projecting all sorts of feelings onto her that she may not have and b) it’s your job to turn this round and make it a great thing again. Go and get her a prize for the most original idea for a costume and give it to her after nursery. And stop making this all about you.”
She was right. I did what she suggested. Ziggler was fine when I picked her up (although I’m not sure she did show her friends the costume as she tactfully told me she had). The teachers were fake-impressed with my inventiveness. They already thought I was a bit nuts if they considered me at all, so my reputation remains unaltered. Ziggler was very pleased with her ‘prize’ (consisting of a toy which contrives to be a dinosaur, whistle, squeaker and bubbles in one and is actually quite amazing for the money).
Parenthood seems to have opened up a whole new chapter of it not being cool to try to hard. And so I have made myself two promises. I am going to do my absolute best at things, even if it makes me look like a wannabe alpha mum/weirdo. I’m not going to do things by halves, or pretend to be less enthusiastic than I am, or even worry about whether or not I’m doing loud parenting. I don’t want to teach my kids it’s stupid to do things differently, or the way you want to. I want them to take pride in their genius (tee hee) and think ‘fuck it – who cares’ about looking silly (although I don’t want them to actually say ‘fuck it’ of course). We live in the biggest city in the country, not a little village in the middle of nowhere. There’s no shame or embarrassment about being what you want to be.
The other promise? Remember, Vickola. It’s not All About You.