Really? Is that necessary? Apparently. I was inspired to write this post by several things, but the two that stand out are as follows:
- 1. I bought Elijah a pair of Gap pants that convert into shorts from the thrift store a couple months back. They had some signs of use (little bit of “dirty hand” stains around the pockets & a couple spots here & there), but otherwise they looked really good and only cost me fifty cents! When William saw them, the first thing out of his mouth was, “it’s nice to see that someone who bought their child Gap pants actually let them get near dirt”. I agreed, because that’s not a pair of pants that *should* have been dirty, but then we’re stereotyping people who shop at The Gap…not that I feel bad for doing so.
- 2. Back in May of this year, another unschooling parent wrote a really AWESOME post about children being free to express themselves through their clothing, hair & so on…even when bystanders in public give you (the parent) the stink-eye.
So, here I am writing about this as well. Elijah has a fond love for costumes, Halloween, dressing in monochromatic schemes, stripes, crazy color/pattern combinations — inherited honestly from me — and has no shame in going out with pants on backwards or shirts on inside out AND backwards. He tends to live in pyjamas or similar clothing…round these parts they are called “life clothes”. I’ve gotten some really nice comments about his clothing. I stressed out about dirt & stains for a tiny bit, but realized that it doesn’t matter if people are happy. Dirt often leads to happiness, you know.
I remember reading about Valerie’s daughter and her ink that she made…the ink hand prints all over a dress that Valerie had made for her.
“The dress was now covered with handprints in bright purple. As she ran into the room, the women gasped and said, “Oh no!” while my smile could not have been bigger. I could see by her face that she had something to share with me and was proud. Laurie said, “I made INK, Mom! I found these purple berries and squished them together and we can paint with it!” I said, “Would you show me how to make it when we are finished in here?” She grinned big and said, “Sure, Mom!” She ran back out to the yard.
The other children watched with their mouths open. They had been certain that Laurie was going to get into trouble and surprised that she not only did not get into trouble but also was encouraged to make the ‘ink.’ The women were also amazed that she was not in trouble for ruining her dress. The fate of the dress never occurred to me until I saw the looks on the women’s faces and was asked, “But what about her dress?” I replied, “But she made ink!…”
I can imagine what my mother would have done…what my grandmother would have done. Oh, my. I’ve learned that I really don’t care. I don’t want Elijah to damage his clothing to a point that it isn’t wearable, but even that might be okay depending on the circumstances. I mean it would be bad thing if he took a pair of scissors and cut up all his clothing, but if he took a pair of scissors to a particular shirt or pants or outfit to make it his own or alter it for his needs, then that’s a good thing. He has to have clothing to wear, but it is his clothing AND I can’t buy but so much at any given time. I really can’t imagine him shredding his entire closet of clothing, but I’d say that something will get shredded before the year’s end…and the sky won’t fall because of it.
I think I’ve said before that I usually find that the dirty kids with messy hair, faces & clothes are the happier children in a room or on the playground. It’s those poor “Sunday best” children that I want to rescue or the “we perfectly match mum & dad” and “can I have some seltzer water for this stain” (I kid you not, this came from the mouth of a 5 year old…I’m not even sure that 5 year olds should know what seltzer water is, let alone know to use it on a stain).
I brush off the looks people give us. And I say us, because I still dress like I did in middle & high school: if it’s close to the bed, not covered in something, doesn’t smell like hell or a revolution and I can get it on, then it’s clothing and wearable. I don’t care what other people think. Elijah has every right to dress however makes him happy, which until recently was no clothing at all — thankfully, he didn’t mind getting dressed for public or company.
Every year we make a disc of pictures for the family and last year we decided to make a video too. Elijah has a “theme song” because of his unique sense of style, Everyday (is Halloween), by Ministry. So, we spliced & diced footage & stills to make him a music video. It can be found here (it is a .VOB file, so some of you might not be able to play it in your browser, but will have to save it and play it with whatever DVD program you have on your computer).
I don’t really know what to say about radical unschooling and clothing…it seems so simple to me. I know that some parents on a few lists have expressed concern because they feel like since they spend their money on the clothes that they should get a say in how their children are dressed or because they have to be “seen with” their children, they should dress a certain way. Eh…really? I don’t dictate how other people can use the things that I buy them, I might tell them the intended purpose of something if it’s not obvious, but once it’s theirs, it’s theirs. I don’t tell my husband how to dress, though he’s been known to ask me if I am seriously wearing what I have on! I’m happy to be seen with my son, regardless of how he might be dressed, his hair might look and so on…he’s awesome and anyone willing to talk to him would figure that out.
I tend to view clothing as an extension of a person’s body, an adornment if you will. I don’t believe ANYONE (not even your parents) should have control over your body, much less be able to tell you how to dress in your day-to-day life. It’s different if you are required to wear certain clothing for a specific activity where safety might be a concern or needing to wear a special uniform for a certain job and so on…these are usually situations that we place ourselves in and are willing to accept the dress requirements, otherwise we avoid these situations or try to change the requirements.
I say, just poke those bystanders right in the stink-eye.
I’d love to have links to other blog posts that talk about unschooling & clothing or parents who don’t place more value on certain styles of clothing for their children over other styles and so on. Here’s a couple posts that I have saved over the past year or so that mention clothing, “life clothes” & unschooling:
Fantastic Quote from Frank
“2. What do your children wear to [UN!]school?
I thought this was a homeschooling quiz! We wear what Fergus calls “life clothes,” [That phrase was actually first used by Marty Dodd with Fergus in Corvallis, Or.!] sometimes know as pajamas. Or shorts. Or whatever we feel like wearing. I usually at least put on some underwear before I come downstairs from my room. Otherwise the girls, if they’re up, make rude noises at me.”
Some other boys who LOVE stripes AND pyjamas
Another great “life clothes” quote found here.
“We spent the last two weeks shopping for appropriate clothing for the event, because as most of you know, my kids are more the “life clothes” kind of people than the “fancy clothes” kind.”
Where “life clothes” got its start
And the post I linked to at the beginning of this post.