Admittedly, there weren’t a lot of rules in my house growing up. The lines in the sand were often blurry and constantly shifting. But one area that was always non-negotiable related to my clothing: School clothes were school clothes and play clothes were play clothes, and never the two shall meet.
There were separate drawers—the few outfits that were in good repair, stain-free, and presentable resided in one part of my bureau and were strictly for school; the clothes with rips, questionably blemished, or that still fit but barely so lived elsewhere. I never would have even asked to wear a pair of my play pants to school or my school pants out on an after-school roller-skating tour of my neighborhood.
As I grew up and grew older, right or wrong, I hung onto this notion: Work clothes are work clothes and weekend clothes are weekend clothes. Invariably there is some overlap, but for the most part there are discernible distinctions. I would feel very odd at work in one of my old oversized sweaters that has seen its share of yard work, basement-cleaning, and the occasional nap. Similarly, often the moment I get home from work, all things wool and constricting are immediately swapped Mr. Rogers-style for fleece and cotton.
And I have surely passed this along to my children. While I tend to be fairly flexible regarding what they wear out to play, I am staunch that what they wear to school be a step up from their after-hours loungewear.
As I write this, though, I am realizing how incredibly small this must seem in the grand scheme of all things.
Honestly, who cares?
But while my fashion maven days are on temporary hold, I still care about how I present myself in the world outside my home. And while I don’t want my children to become so overly concerned with their appearance to the exclusion of everything else, I also don’t want them to think it’s okay to give zero consideration to how they go out in public and what the effects of their choices, again right or wrong, may be.
Which is why, for the first time, I am having considerable qualms about the ubiquitous dress-down day. For professionals, this often means jeans at work. For high school students, it may mean a relaxation of the dress code, perhaps letting students wear hats. For elementary school students it invariably means a pajama day—or a variation on this tireless theme.
When children are young, even I, one who, personally, could never go out in public in sweatpants let alone pajamas, find this charming. A classroom full of preschoolers or early elementary-age children in their Star Wars and/or Dora pajamas is nothing short of adorable. But once students are of a certain age, it strikes me as awkward—even unnecessary.
Tomorrow, Oscar, who is in the fourth grade and every day looking less like a boy and more like a young man, has been invited to wear his pajamas to school to help raise money for a very worthy cause.
I asked him what he thought about that.
He told me he’d feel “weird” wearing his pajamas to school but that he wanted to contribute to the cause.
Then he stopped and said, “Wait, I can donate and still dress for school, right? I can give the dollar and just wear my regular clothes.”
I told him he could—stopped short of saying he should.
And he told me—simply and without fanfare–that’s what he planned to do.
Tonight I arranged my son’s school clothes, as I do every night, and put a pair of fleece pants next to his usual sweater and jeans. He will make the final decision in the morning, determine how he wants to present himself to the world.
How we present ourselves to the world . . .
Maybe it’s not such a small thing after all.