What's wrong with wearing just something green and holding some shamrock?
As is often the way, I became aware of the trend via Facebook’s many parenting groups. “Anyone know where I can get a last-minute St. Patrick’s Day dress?” one mum implored. “I’ve left it too late.” Other more organised types filled her in on where the merch was. She was demonstrably relieved.
I thought no more of it until my four-year-old – who, as best I know, doesn’t have a Facebook account – started asking me when she was getting her St Patrick’s Day outfit. We are going old-school, I told her. We’ll wear something green that we already own, and possibly wear shamrocks on top of that. It was not the answer she wanted to hear. There was that familiar, if fleeting, look in her eyes: “I don’t want to be left out.” It had somehow become a bigger deal than I had ever realised.
On which, I’m imploring other parents: can we please not turn specially bought St Patrick’s Day outfits into A Thing? Don’t get me wrong: celebrate Paddy’s Day however you like. If you want to buy a specific outfit to do that, knock yourself out. But can this not become yet another thing in which parents will feel a strange, gnawing pressure to buy into, simply because everyone else has? Why make the job of parenting even more complicated and expensive than it already is? Why create all this extra emotional labour for ourselves?
What will be next? Personalised Ash Wednesday merch? Commemorative Last Day of School T-shirts? Insta-ready St Bridget’s Crosses?
And, really, do we need another expense to add to the ever-growing list of keeping-up-with-the-Murphys accoutrements that includes Christmas Eve boxes, Late Late Toy Show pyjamas, Easter accessories and International Book Day? Earlier this month, social media was awash with very elaborate, very considered, and very expensive Book Day outfit ideas.
(I have thought of a decent, cost-effective hack for the next World Book Day, incidentally: hand your child a big bar of chocolate and tell them they are Charlie Bucket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and that you’ll be taking no further questions.)
Anyway, what will be next, if we let Patrick’s Day outfits become A Thing? Personalised Ash Wednesday merch? Commemorative Last Day of School T-shirts? Insta-ready St. Bridget’s Crosses?
Speaking of which, I suspect that much of the special occasion clothing has much to do with the power of the social media flex. It’s a convenient opportunity for a picture-perfect Instagram brag. It amounts to little more than performative parental one-upmanship. It certainly has bob-all to do with worshipping at the altar of St Patrick.
We women have already been through this with the Wedding Industrial Complex, which grew into a behemoth beyond reasoning. Once upon a time, brides-to-be would get away with a cheeky get-together in the house with some friends, often framed around a Tupperware party. Yet we took our eye off the wheel, and now the simple act of getting married involves engagement parties, bridal showers, hen parties and the second day of the wedding. A worrying trend from the US threatens to gain traction: the honeymoon party, where guests are “encouraged” to bestow customised passport covers, flip-flops and beach towels on the happy couple. We’re now looking at a four-figure outlay simply for the experience of being a wedding guest. It shouldn’t be this complicated.
I get why retailers will take an opportunity like this to massage sales. They’re not stupid. They know that parents will glibly fork out for a cute shamrock-festooned dress if they feel it’s something that others will be doing. Landfill or carbon footprint be damned.
So can we all stick to the original script and pull out some shamrock, just as we’ve always done? Much kinder to the planet, and the pocket. Besides, Easter is just around the corner. You’ll have plenty of time to Insta-brag about the family then.