Bear with me fellow parent. I am weary and my spirit is low. I spent late into last night once again scrabbling together items in a desperate attempt to kit my daughter out for a special mufti-day outfit for school this morning. Am I the only parent who dreads letters brought home which merrily trill "this Friday we will be celebrating the end of our project on the Crimean War/our favourite authors/the Egyptian era/the role of the monarchy in 20th century Britain. To this end we would appreciate it if you would help your child sort out an appropriate costume to wear to school on the day."
It's enough to make you weep, because actually, do you know what, I'd rather not be trying to sort an outfit out for such a day (usually with very little notice) as well as do my job, run a household containing three children, plus a husband (so make that four children) and everything else that modern living throws our way.
Mum-of-two Helen agrees with me. "It drives me mad. There you are sorting through a manky looking book bag when alongside the note telling you nits are once again rife in the classroom, a scrap of paper falls out telling you the class will be celebrating man's first step on the moon in three days time – astronauts, moon clangers and NASA experts all welcome."
And on all "special outfit" days there are the children whose mothers have spent three days sourcing the material and running up the outfit, only to arrive in the playground and photograph not only their own child, but inadvertently the children whose outfits are perhaps not quite up to the mark (usually mine).
Indeed there was one memorable occasion when my daughter went into school dressed as an Egyptian slave. Not the hardest outfit and for once I felt we'd done well. Sadly my friend Doreen's son had not.
His mother had bandaged him from head to foot to create the original Scooby-Doo type mummy, which was great until the poor lad needed the loo. By 9.30am and with his mother long-gone to work, the little chap had been unceremoniously unwrapped and instructed to re-dress in his PE outfit as no-one had the time or indeed expertise to re-wrap him. Anyone for Egyptian PE?
I know it's well meant – such teachers are usually young and enthusiastic about their teaching. But they are often, ermm, childless, and therefore have no idea about the personal terror that strikes when a letter home contains the words "if you could just.....".
One of my most frustrating moments was when my daughters' school held an International Day – you could come in any costume representing any culture. I tried to be (too) clever. Chatting up my Sri Lankan friend, I cheekily asked if the girls could each borrow a sari. She went one further, offering to come along on the morning to help me dress them.
An hour later, she was still in the kitchen, a mouth full of safety pins, no-one had had breakfast and we made it to school by the skin of our teeth. To top it all, my elder daughter refused to wear the outfit once Mrs Thalma had left our house, and my younger daughter, whilst loving the look, found the sari too long. By first playtime Emma had fallen and hurt her nose, causing a lovely bloody stream to trickle all over the intricate beadwork.
So, without further ado, read on for Parentdish's top tips for how to make special-themed non-uniform days go without a hitch.
Prepare and plan: If your children are just beginning their school life, keep a close look out on the older children in the playground on special dress up days. If anyone is wearing a particularly great outfit – make a note and make a friend of the mum. You can always borrow it when your child's time comes, or just copy the idea.
Look ahead: Make a point of checking your child's book bag regularly. When your first child goes to school it's an automatic thing to do as soon as you get them home. By child three or more, you hardly remember to pick them up, let along check their bag. Advance notice is crucial.
If your child has a dressing up box and you clear it out, keep key pieces and props – they can come in very handy for dressing up days.
Google dressing up ideas – but make sure the parent-lock is on, my son and I once came across some extremely unsuitable outfit ideas for pirate day...
Do you dread dressing up days for school?
What's the most ridiculous request you've had?
Or do you stay up late into the night creating splendid outfits?