parent opinion

'The one instruction from schools that drives me crazy about our children's costumes.'

Parents, how many times a year are you asked to come up with a costume? Easter hat parade, Book Week, career day, dance concerts, Halloween, and school Christmas concerts, just to name a few such occasions.

The notification usually comes in the form of an email or a letter home, stating that the fun event is coming up and your child needs a costume – usually of a certain theme. “But”, says the letter writer, clearly aware that as a busy parent you don’t have the time or money to be making and/or buying fancy costumes, “just use what you have at home.”

The school/dance academy/kindy/whatever institution making the demands is now absolved of all the responsibility for the stress and inconvenience the need for a costume (times however many kids you have) creates. Because, Betty-f*cking-homemaker, you clearly should have everything you need at your fingertips.

I’ve spoken to all the parents (OK, I’ve spoken to like, three), and they all agree that the ‘just use what you have at home’ costume is bullshit. There are several reasons for drawing this conclusion:

1. The costume needed is never the Spider-Man costume your child already has.

They always need something with some creative flair; not a commercially available dime-a-dozen outfit that kids actually consider cool and want to wear.

Instead, it will be an often oddly specific themed thing, like ‘orange octopus living in deep sea cave with purple suction cups’ but remember JUST USE THE ORANGE TENTACLES AND PURPLE SUCTION CUPS YOU ALREADY HAVE.

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Kelly's three children dressed up for Halloween. Image: Supplied.

2. Not all parents are creative geniuses (or want to be).

Yes, some parents are incredible unicorns like Maria from The Sound of Music, prepared to make entire wardrobes for seven children using nothing but a curtain. These people can reach into their recycling bin and turn some smelly milk bottles and a Nutri-Grain box into an astronaut complete with a jetpack and helmet, but I, for one, cannot.

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Not only that, but I also… don’t want to.

3. There is an assumption that there are certain things everyone has, which they most certainly do not.

I’m thinking specifically of the ‘just use what you have at home’ costume my daughter needed for her dance in the school Christmas concert this year. The costume consisted of a sports jersey, sports shorts, socks, and runners.

Sounds simple, but we’re not a sporting family (Australian sporting culture be damned) and don’t own sports jerseys, which means we had to set about finding someone not in the same class to borrow off, or buy one as a last resort.

4. And what about the minimalists?

I’m not one yet, but I strive to throw out/give away/donate every item that gets in my way, which doesn’t leave a lot for creative costume making.

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Kelly's son Alfie dressed in his "Australian Christmas" outfit. Image: Supplied.

5. It encourages a level of toxic competitiveness. 

There’s a lot of pressure on parents, from schools, from their kids, and from other parents to ‘one-up’ each other and make sure our kids have the biggest, best, and brightest things. We all know it’s bullshit, but that doesn’t stop the guilt setting in when we see our kid wearing a Hello Fresh delivery box next to the kid whose mum was clearly up until 4am sewing on seeded pearls or something.

So here’s the thing: ‘use what you have at home’ doesn’t work. Parents end up stressing and having to buy bits and bobs for the costumes anyway. So please excuse me when my kids show up to Book Week dressed as Super Mario, Spider Man, or a Power Ranger, because I’m done with the competition and the caring.

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