Character day at school can be a chore. Come as your favourite (insert author here) character. Well, usually that means parents digging through wardrobes and drawers trying to find something that’ll do, followed by persuading your children they look great when, in fact, they look ridiculous.
This year the instruction was to come as a character from a favourite bedtime book. Or, as a get out clause, they could go in their pyjamas, but that’s a challenge right there isn’t it? It’s as if the school is laying down the gauntlet. They’re saying that if we can’t be bothered to rummage through the cupboards, just send them in their pyjamas. Well that’s not happening. Not in my house. I’ll not have them call me a . . . what’s that? It’s about my daughter, you say? Oh, yeah. Right. Of course it is.
Coming back on topic, my daughter is well past the bedtime stories stage and she didn’t want to go in her pyjamas so she decided to go as Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. Well, that’s pretty straight forward, isn’t it? The film was out not long ago, so there’s some good visual reference material but . . . what is it that makes Katniss stand out? Visually, I mean – I’m not talking attitude, here.
She has some kind of complicated thing going on with her hair but, you know, I’m a bloke, I can’t be expected to get involved with that. I can barely tie my own shoelaces, how am I ever going to plait hair?
So what else? Oh yes. The bow and arrow. My wife suggested a toy one from the dress-up shop but, well, no daughter of mine is going with a toy. She’s not going in there with some flimsy thing suitable only for a hobbit. Oh no.
And, for a moment, I was ten again. Remember those days before iPads and playstations when we used to entertain ourselves by making . . . stuff? The days when it wasn’t weird for a boy to have a penknife? These days we’re too worried they’d use them for stabbing each other outside the school gates, but back then we used them for digging, for getting bits of potato out of our spud gun (remember those?) and for whittling. We’d go down to the woods and use them for sharpening sticks and making effective, ranged offensive weapons. We weren’t satisfied with just a knife, we made catapults and spears and bows and arrows. Ah, happy days.
Or was that just me?
Anyway, I had great fun the other day, choosing a good bit of wood and making an AWESOME bow, and both my children were suitably impressed – ‘You made that?’ – making me feel like a proper Dad ‘n’ everything.
We tested it out in the garden with some arrows made from bamboo garden stakes and it worked a treat. Fantastic. My daughter was pleased with it and she looked great as Katniss. There was a real sense that she was excited to dress up and go to school looking like one of her heroes.
But making that bow just reminded me how different things are these days, and it made me wonder if it’s the softening, romanticising effect of time and age or . . . well . . . do children in this country feel the same sense of freedom these days?