Tuesday 11 June 2013

Dressing appropriately

Luckily, my children don’t mind looking ridiculous. It’s kind of a family tradition. I was brought up regularly modelling for my Auntie’s fancy dress shop so perhaps that’s why I have never batted an eyelid when Ezra wears his pirate shorts to tennis, or Niamh decides to go to church dressed as a phoenix.

Their delight at looking ridiculous has got me off the hook many times. Like when Niamh gently woke me up at 6.30am cooing the words: “Mummy, have you made my kookaburra outfit yet…..the assembly is this morning…..” My eyes flicked open. “You get the cardboard, I’ll get the sewing machine!”

By 7.30am, she had a giant cardboard beak attached to a yellow cap, with a pair of “wings” (a large semi-circle of fabric) pinned to her t-shirt and attached to her wrists with hair elastics (Why did it take you 1 hour to do that, I hear you murmuring….I don’t know….but it was before coffee.)

I was hoping that when I had a girl, I may get some fashion advice to help me through life, but no. Well, I do get fashion advice, but I am not sure I can really follow it. “Do you think red and green together looks a bit Christmassy? I say, wearing my bright red skinny jeans and emerald green jumper. “Nooooo!” says Niamh, in a whimsical tone, “It’s always good to look Christmassy when it’s so close to Christmas.” It’s June.

It’s non-uniform days at school when they suddenly get concerned about what they wear…..but they decide at 8am, when we need to leave at 8.10am that their outfit is “just, arghh!” Perhaps they have been influenced by the fashion industry myth that “You are what you wear”; that clothes somehow express their identity…ok, so I’m not completely opposed to this, but when they are trying to express someone else’s identity (ie, their mother who has bought their clothes for them, or the “cool kids” at school who have been taught how to dress in a cool way) I get a little dis-heartened that the world of joy I’d like my kids to live in is being muted.  
Apparently, when you have a boy, they don’t worry about what they wear. At the time I was reading the article, that said as much, Ezra was squeezing on his 7th T-shirt, one on top of the other, because he couldn’t decide which one to wear. 
Of course there is such a thing as appropriateness. Ezra wearing 7 t-shirts on a 30 degree day would not be appropriate….and trying to defend myself in hospital as he’s being given IV fluids with “he was just trying to express himself!” would not be appropriate.  
Sometimes however, appropriateness is not always clear. 

Do I let Niamh go to church dressed as a phoenix

Harry Potter is a controversial series afterall, especially in some churches. Well, the costume was made by me, so it barely gets recognised as its inspiration (one mother tentatively asked “is she some sort of chick?” when Niamh wore it to school for world book day) so the occult connection isn’t an issue.  As an item of clothing, it functions well; it’s warm on a cool day, slightly waterproof, it’s neat and won’t hurt anyone. She’s happy in it. All is well. 

So when we’re in the car on the way home, I was surprised when Niamh exclaimed “I am not wearing this to church ever again!” I could feel my brow furrow, which mean-spirited old lady commented to make Niamh feel this way? Then she continued “…the beak got in the way when I was trying to drink the communion wine!”

So appropriateness wins in the end…without any fuss or tantrums….they work it out eventually, even if they look a little ridiculous on the way.


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