There are things I love about having school-age children.
I love the sight of my two oldest kids getting off the bus in the afternoon, excitedly running to greet me. I love field trips. As exhausting as it can be to be stuck on a bus with a group of very rowdy elementary kids, I still get just as excited about a field trip as I did when I was kid. And I love class parties. Usually that just means sending a box of Capri Suns or holiday-themed paper plates. But I loved class parties when I was in school, and I love my kids get excited for them, too.
What I do not love, however, are themed dress-up days.
During my childhood of the 1980s, the only day you were supposed to “dress up” to school was the Friday before the Iron Bowl. You wore Alabama or Auburn gear, and if you didn’t dress up, it wasn’t a big deal.
Now, however, between September and January, I need a calendar just to keep up with what each of my three kids are supposed to wear on each day.
When football season starts, there’s “spirit Fridays” for kids to wear their favorite team colors. In October, “Red Ribbon Week” comes around for kids to dress up with different themes each day. One day, they are supposed to dress like they are from another decade. (Thank goodness for the tie-dyed T-shirts leftover from vacation Bible school.) There’s pajama day, princess/super hero day, future career day and “nerd” day.
Then there’s dressing up as someone from the 1950s for the 50th day of school, donning a Native American or a pilgrim costume during Thanksgiving week. By Christmas, the costumes change to reindeers or snowmen or Santa, or any of the holiday gear, and dressing like a centenarian for the 100th day of school in January.
A friend recently posted on Facebook her child’s school list for holiday-themed costumes, which included not just one “reindeer” outfit day, but two.
I know dressing up is fun for the kids. But hasn’t it gotten a little out of hand? For the sake of parental sanity, would it be so bad to limit it to only one week a year? Or make the costumes children-led, so they can wear whatever kind of costume they want?
I was rushing around at a Halloween costume store last month minutes before closing time, trying to find an kid-sized FBI costume for my first-grader to wear on “future career day.” There was a SWAT team costume and an Army costume, but no FBI. With no time to order anything on Amazon - not that I really wanted to buy anything to begin with - in desperation I bought a fake plastic police badge for my son to wear around his neck, a pair of kid-sized aviator glasses and we borrowed an FBI hat from a neighbor. Luckily, our easy-going boy was happy with it.
The next day, the kids were supposed to dress up in “vacation” gear, but I didn’t have anything, unless my son wanted to go to school in his swim trunks, a beach towel and a T-shirt. I asked him what he wanted to do. He shrugged, and said he’d rather wear his normal clothes anyway. He really didn’t care about dressing up to begin with.
Sometimes, I think we as parents put more pressure on ourselves to make things perfect for our kids than we need to. I wonder if all the dressing up is more for the parents than it is for the kids.
Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.