In which my daughter asks me for weapons, my son asks me about drugs and I regret ever teaching them to read
Being ‘International’ in both name and nature, my kids’ school has an abundance of options when it comes to choosing a global non-denominational occasion to celebrate.
Of course, the one they went big on is World Book Day (which I’m going to call WBD from now on, as it’s going to get a lot of mentions in this post).
Typical schools; always choosing books over kidneys.
When I say they went big, there was a book sale, a school-wide ‘drop everything and read’ session, a costume parade parents could stay late after drop-off for, and an assembly parents can watch if they arrive early for pick up.
All in all that’s a pretty big time commitment for one day, so it’s lucky I am currently in between assignments (‘resting’, as actors like to say), which means I’ve got some time on my hands.
More pertinently, Amnesiac, who took part in the parade and the assembly, was thrilled that I was able to go to both, which is hopefully the bit he’ll remember about the day.
“I have seen my hat.”
Yes, the annual global jamboree of last-minute late night costume-making that is WBD is upon us again. All over Doha, a few kids, some parents and (probably) a lot of maids will have been hard at work sewing, sticking and crafting ever-more elaborate costumes for the junior members of the household.
It’s like an arms race – I’ll see your Sherlock Holmes, and raise you a Gandalf – which is made all the more ironic given Qatar’s almost comical lack of decent bookshops (and no, Jarir Bookstore doesn’t count).
The theme this year (at my kids’ school at least) is The Wizard of Oz. Amnesiac’s Y3 class are being treated to the original 1939 movie, flying monkeys and all. As Kid A asked: if it’s World Book Day, why are you watching DVDs?
To which I’d normally say: fair point; but then you imagine trying to corral 20 Amnesiac duplicates all day long. Given that, I’m amazed they watch so few…
Curiously, I was only talking with Amnesiac about The Wizard of Oz just last week. I asked him if he’d seen the original version. He said no, he hadn’t, and then paused before adding: “But I have seen the Scooby-Doo version.”
I just smiled and nodded as if to say Yeah, right, which is the best response to much of what seven-year-old boys say. But I should have more faith in the little man, because it turns out he wasn’t making it up.)
Reading to my kids is easily one of my favourite bits of being a parent. I’m not quite at my sister’s level of dedication – she read all of the Harry Potter books, unabridged, to my niece – but now Kid A has all but dispensed with my services, it’s just us boys from here on out.
With perfect timing for WBD, I’m reading Roald Dahl’s Matilda to Amnesiac at the moment. It’s a love letter to the joys of reading, disguised as a kindergarten version of Carrie. I’ve never actually read it before, either, so there’s two of us who can’t wait to see how it ends.
(And if you have boy/s who love hearing their parents do silly voices, as mine does, I can heartily recommend I Want My Hat Back, Nighty Night! and or The Cat on the Mat Is Flat amongst dozens of others.)
A question of bloodsport
The build up to WBD began last week when Kid A asked me the kind of left-field question that kids specialise in. “Dad,” she wondered out loud, “where can I get a bow and arrow?”
A dozen scenarios flashed across my mind, all of which ended with someone requiring a visit to the Emergency Department.
“I want to go as Katniss Everdeen for WBD.”
I was intrigued. Why Katniss? I asked her. “Because she’s brave and loyal,” she replied.
That’s the trouble with inspirational literary heroines: they have a tendency to inspire.
Still, as positive an impact as District 12’s finest was having, I still wasn’t sold on the idea of buying my pre-teen what amounted to hunting gear.
I realised that one bow and arrow would quickly become two, as Amnesiac would doubtless ask to go as The Boring One That No One Ever Remembers Is In The Avengers from The Avengers, thereby quadrupling the potential for playground injuries / lawsuits at a stroke.
I suggested she go as someone else this time, and without batting an eyelid she said ‘ok’ and chose Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter books instead.
(As a bonus, it turns out that Luna wears a cork necklace, a prop I was only too happy to help Kid A acquire…)
Wax on, wax off
For Amnesiac, there’s really only ever been one candidate for him to dress up as for WBD: Tintin, the baby-faced boy detective.
At least it makes his costume easy, as he’s already got a cowlick which – along with his sense of direction – he inherited directly from me. Normally, Amnesiac hates having any kind of product in his hair (an occupational hazard of a trip to the barbers here) but for one day only he was prepared to let his mum loose with the wax to go full-Tintin.
But whilst he reads Hergé’s books here, there and everywhere, I was never a big fan of them, so I wasn’t very familiar with their content.
I was therefore tragically unprepared for my seven-year-old son, halfway through an otherwise uneventful school run, to pipe up from the back seat and ask: “Daddy, what’s heroin?”
Naively thinking he’d asked about the Katniss Everdeens of the world, I replied that it was a female hero.
But that was not the answer he was looking for. “So why would it be in their baggage?” he wondered, not unreasonably.
Turns out he meant heroin in the “Joey, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?” sense. Oh goody.
How to answer this? Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned the hard way as a parent, it’s that you really can give kids too much information. Far better to provide a short, closed answer and wait to see if you get any follow up questions.
So I said it’s something you’re not allowed to bring into countries, like alcohol in Qatar, which is why the men are in trouble for having it in their bags.
That seemed to do the trick, but I am now stuck wondering what else is in those 60-year-old books that’s going to pop up and surprise me in the future.
That’s the trouble with books, you see – you’re always learning things.
Still, I’m just glad my two love reading as much as they do, because imagination really is the greatest gift you can give a child.
At least, that’s what I’ll tell Amnesiac when he asks why I haven’t got him a skateboard for his next birthday.