This week’s column, first published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 3rd December 2013.
The gospel according to Family Matters: And so it was decreed in the first week of November, that lowly parents everywhere be sent out in search of tea towels, old coat hangers, and the papier mache heads of assorted farmyard animals.
‘Thou shalt find these laying in the dressing up box’, declared the primary schools, ‘and if not, thou shalt simply visit Tesco, Asda, or any other leading retail establishment worth its festive salt.’
Ah, the season of the nativity. Cue tears of emotion (the parents), tears of the over-wrought (hopefully not the parents), and tears of the pre-school sibling, who you will have to bring with you, as it is practically the law that no matter how many nursery sessions they attend during the week, the school nativity will fall when they are due to be at home with you. It is also the law that said younger sibling weep, shout or defecate throughout the entire performance, no matter how many chocolate santas you proffer from your bag of bribes.
It’s a funny old thing this dressing-up business, because whereas it was once confined to December, it now seems that most of the academic year is spent with parents procuring all manner of costumes, whilst their children walk around sporting the vaguely unhealthy glow that only an especially stubborn face-paint can leave behind.
So far this year, my daughters have been: Elmer the Elephant, a Roman, a Victorian, an alien (who knew it was so tricky to attach a papier mache red-veined eyeball to a hair-band, I ask you?) and now, a star.
That’s a lot of costume changes, and a lot of money if not done carefully, but if it adds to our children’s enthusiasm for learning, then who are we to complain? After all, this is when the mums come into their own; if you don’t have a life-size donkey’s bottom to wrestle out of your wardrobe, one of your friends surely will.
My eldest daughter, India, started junior school this year, and had I known that last December was to be her final foray into the land of the nativity, then I would have made more of an effort. I am unsure as to what this effort would have entailed – perhaps less of the dainty tissue dabbing and more of a hysteria-tinged hawking into a hanky? But I would certainly have milked the moment for all it was worth.
Luckily this year I do have Amelie’s Year R production, and her turn as a star, to look forward to. I fear that the days when my children still enjoy sporting a costume with gusto are numbered, and so I intend to savour every sticky, sparkly, farmyard-bottomed endeavour whilst these irreplaceable moments still exist. I shall make sure to pack my hanky.