Belfast Telegraph

Lose the pyjama drama and be a proper robe model for your kids

By Jane Graham

I admired the diplomatic language deployed by Kate Chisholm, head teacher at Darlington's Skerne Park Academy, who made headlines this week when she sent a letter to parents requesting that they "take the time to dress appropriately in daywear that is suitable for the weather conditions" when taking their children to school.

She meant, of course, that slow-moving, lazy-ass human sloths were regularly turning up in the primary school playground in pyjamas, dropping their kids off without having even washed the crusty sleep out of their eyes first.

Allegedly, some even attend school meetings and assemblies in the same, somnolent state, shambling in like dead-eyed, semi-conscious zombies, sliding their Ugg slippers along the floor until they slump into a seat and gaze blearily at the bouncing children in front of them.

I'd imagine they enjoy feeling proud of their kids when they see them belting out Christmas hymns, or putting their heart and soul into shepherd number two. So, doesn't it occur that it might be nice for their offspring to feel something other than embarrassment when they see their parents in the audience?

I'm generally pretty liberal about people's approach to their own existence; I'm instinctively a live and let live kind of girl. But I find the abandonment of self-respect which this trend depends on rather depressing. I've heard the argument that a preference for making a daily effort with one's appearance is nothing but vanity and a kowtowing to others' prejudicial notions of value. But those of us who take a little time to get ready every time we leave the house know this is nonsense.

Dressing up, making up - for women, especially, it's about increasing our confidence, adding to our power, giving us strength. And ensuring people listen when we talk and take note of what we say.

It might not be fair that we command more respect when we cut a dash, but as long as that's the reality, there's simply no getting round it. And you can't cut a dash sloping along the street in a onesie.

It pains me to write about "setting an example"; it's a phrase with an unavoidably preachy, hectoring hue. But it's kind of unavoidable here.

Some kid who's struggling at school, disheartened about their academic ability, or playground popularity, is unlikely to feel buoyed and emboldened by a mum who turns up looking like some sucker who gets sand kicked in her face.

If life already grinds that child down, the result of your pyjama airing is likely to be either an urge to disassociate from the loser in the PJs, or a surrender to the same, sloppy, unaspiring, instinct. In other words, to be disowned or to become an excuse for giving up.

Getting dressed, brushing your hair, sprucing up your pillow face - these acts require effort. Which is the most basic of requirements for living a decent life.

If you are a natural contrarian, who bristles when head teachers tell you how they'd prefer you and/or your child to dress, pyjamas are not the way to go. There are better ways to continue ploughing your own furrow.

Personally, I'm a fan of inappropriate, borderline-dangerous footwear - usually leather boots with vertiginous heels. I also like scarlet lipstick.

Unlike pyjamas, these things - though not playground norms - make me feel invincible. And hopefully my kids can feel that, too. The point is not to bend to the school's whims, but to stand tall in your own skin. More than any other age-group, children cherish their heroes.

It's hard to inspire your own when the icon you most resemble is Wee Willie Winkie.

Google answers a taxing question

With just three days before the deadline and automatic fee, I still haven't tackled my tax return.

It's hard not to miss those thousands as they sail out of your account into the pockets of a government you have no faith will use them for good.

If I could be assured they would go towards paying better wages to junior doctors, or maintaining school librarians, I'd feel better about it.

I'm slightly cheered, however, by the example of Google this year - it seems I can just pay a small percentage of what I owe, then suggest we "draw a line" under the whole awkward business. Bingo!

Danes not great for robbing needy

It was with a shiver that I read the Danish parliament has backed a proposal to confiscate asylum seekers' valuables to pay for housing and food costs.

There is a discussion to be had about the best way to deal with the flow of refugees from grotesque circumstances in their own countries, but when powerful people grant themselves leave to seize the belongings of victims of war, genocide, or famine - the moment they cross the border - humanity itself is at stake. The humanity of both the government and the refugees.

Coincidentally, this policy was announced the day before National Holocaust Memorial Day. We must pause for thought.

Belfast Telegraph

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