parent opinion

'Exactly what happened when our school made the Book Week parade a competition.'

There is nothing more dread-inducing for parents than Book Week. Every year we know it is coming, that it will happen, and yet every year we live in denial, pretending that it’s months away, until the last minute when we scramble in a haze of frustration, exhaustion, and parental guilt, to find a mildly book-related costume that fits the bill.

A message came up in my school Mum chat group this week from one of my girlfriends, it read:

“Just for the record, before I became a parent, I was so judgey about lacklustre parent efforts for book week. Now, I hate book week.” 

The rest of us responded with laughter emojis, deeply understanding her sentiments. 

Then we spent the next three days messaging each other with requests for belts, striped t-shirts, and blue ties as we scrambled to assemble last-minute costumes.  

My eldest son is in grade three and for the previous three years, he has gone in shop-bought costumes that have been rotated between cousins and friends, because luckily every school does their official ‘Book Week’ day on a different day of the week. 

Watch: Things people say before they have kids. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

Thus, in synthetic, cheap, unbreathing costumes he’s been in succession - Harry Potter, Superman and Where’s Wally. 

But over the weekend we received an email from the school that didn’t explicitly say that shop-bought costumes were off the table, but also kind of said shop-bought costumes were off the table.

The email indicated that three winners would be chosen for each year level and that the parade judges (yes, there are Book Week parade judges at our school) would be looking for homemade costumes, preferably from recycled materials.

Great, I thought (well, actually I thought a word starting with ‘F’, but I won’t repeat that here).

Thanks, School (I actually deeply love our child’s school, except for guilt-inducing Book Week emails).

Because we all know it won’t be our kids staying awake until 11pm for the next three nights crafting cardboard, painting sticks, and pulling bottle tops out of the recycling. 

No, after a long day of work, grocery shopping, cooking dinner, supervising homework, coaching soccer, and getting kids to bed, it will be Mum and Dad working late into the night to create a Book Week costume that meets the judges’ high standards. 

And yes, I do know that I could’ve said ‘stuff it’ and sent him in the Harry Potter cape again and drawn a lightning bolt above his eye, but that Mum-guilt, alongside my slightly competitive spirit got the better of me. 


So Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights were spent tearing up boxes to craft zombie arms and mixing blue and yellow paints to create the right combination of greens for a Minecraft Zombie.

It looked amazing.

My son was deeply impressed, and I felt like a professional parent for the first time.

The Minecraft costume. Image: Supplied.


He kept saying, “I bet I’m the winner for my year” and I kept saying “It’s not about winning darling, it’s all about joining in and encouraging a love of reading”, all the while secretly imagining the pending glory and the joy and smugness I would feel when I shared the tale of my Book Week award-winning costume far and wide. 

I didn’t win. 

I know I should say ‘he didn’t win’, or it didn’t win, but this was meant to be my victory, and the defeat felt personal.

Instead, the glory was claimed by an incredible giraffe, a glorious Frida Kahlo (a student dressed as Frida Kahlo with a recycled cardboard book around her head – so clever), and a divine paper bag princess. And they all really were amazing, I wish I could say differently, but I can’t.

So instead of throwing myself on the ground in a fit of exhausted (three late costume-making nights) rage I instead revelled in the realisation that Book Week was over for another year. 

And then another joyful realisation hit me – I can reuse the costume for Halloween!

Cate Gilpin is a Mum of two, based in Meanjin (Brisbane). By day she works for a not-for-profit, and by night she is a freelance writer who likes watching a lot of British murder mysteries.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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