Dolly's blog: Trick or treat
When I was a kid, this time of year was all about bonfire night. Bonfire night was special, partly because it was the only event of significance between summer and Christmas. Heeding the government safety ads about not blowing yourself up in the garden, we’d head off to the big community display on Woolwich Common. If we were lucky, we were bought a glow-stick which we’d prize long after it stopped glowing. A few days later we would get a little paper poppy for Remembrance, then we bedded down until Christmas. Simpler times.
These days, the big deal is Halloween. Not the ancient pagan festival (I have no objection to pumpkins) but the full-blown American version which necessitates buying cheap costumes from the supermarket then, in the name of fun, sending kids onto the streets to demand sugar in return for not doing something unpleasant. I can’t work out if that’s begging or blackmail but I really don’t agree with it.
Simultaneously there’s also Children in Need to contend with. This year, the school turned that into a week-long extravaganza of daily events requiring parental involvement. Cake sale, bring-and-buy sale, bring money to school to buy merchandise day (not its formal name) and culminating in mufti day. That used to mean wear your own clothes and even I can cope with that. Now, with a weeks notice, they have to wear spots and ears. Am I the only parent whose children have neither spotty clothes nor ears? Apparently not, because arriving in the playground the kids were nearly all wearing outfits purchased from the Children In Need aisle in our local Tesco.
Even Remembrance seems to be morphing into a retail event. Yet another letter came home from school requesting yet again that the kids brought in yet more money to buy yet more merchandise. This year we also had to submit a story (with photo) of a relative who’d served in the Great War. Great idea, but that’s basically parent homework on top of everything else. The ‘everything else’ (just for that week) included, but was not limited to, letters about a cricket tour, bag-to-school, reserving tickets for the school play, confirming pick-up arrangements and yet another consent form. I’m mega conscientious but in the end I just gave in; the school secretary had to hand me a copy of the consent form literally as the play started. I’ve done nothing about the cricket correspondence.
Autumn has morphed into an events extravaganza and the net result as a parent is relentless. And expensive. And morally questionable.
Remembering our fallen and raising money for disadvantaged children are unambiguously good things. What I object to is the incessant merchandising and the events overload, particularly if you have kids in more than one school.
The reality I fear is that, under the banner of charity and fun, we’re really just being encouraged to spend money on cheap, disposable, consumer tat to keep retail figures up in the lull before Christmas. Money has been raised for good causes, but think of all those costumes, bear ears and slap bands languishing in landfill for the next thousand years. I feel under siege and it doesn’t feel remotely fun.
Here endeth the rant.
After 19 years of fee earning, Dolly now works in a management role in a London law firm. Working four days a week she has three children aged 11, 10 and 7, a wonderful (though often absent) husband and a charismatic dog who keeps her sane.
Category: A Citymother's Diary