Last week, I posted this picture of my 4-year-old son trying on new pre-school clothes for the upcoming school year.
Naturally, I thought he looked like the most stylish toddler on the planet, worthy of his own photo spread in Vanity Fair – doesn’t every mother feel that way? I shared a pic of him in the H&M changing room on my Facebook account so all my friends and family could see how freakin’ cute my little prince looked.
But the reaction I got from some people shocked me.
When you look at the photo, what do you see? My first thought was, “What’s not to love? He looks like a miniature version of a Mad Men copywriter with his shirt and tie, or an ultra-modern hipster (albeit young hipster) with his skinny jeans. Why let the girls have all the fun with fashion when boys can look equally cute with a little creativity, am I right?”
Which is why I was particularly floored when Facebook commenters called my son’s outfit “dangerous” and not “playground friendly” for pre-school.
It turns out, it was his choice of tie got some mom friends of mine in a tizzie. Comments ranged from “Sorry to ruin the fun but the outfit and tie do not look practical for him on the playground,” to “Super stylish!!! But it will limit the preschool play ability” and “Is he going to preschool or auditioning for a fashion magazine?”
A little dose of constructive criticism never hurt anyone, but I was a bit surprised to hear that anyone would think the outfit limited my son’s ability to run with classmates during his recess break.
First, because it’s a $4 accessory tie that clips from the back, and second, because I don’t see how this outfit is any different than the dresses and sandals most mothers dress their daughters in for the first day of school.
The conversation got me thinking: Are children’s accessories really THAT dangerous? Should I second guess letting my son wear a tie to the first day of school or are we getting a little too paranoid as parents? For sanity’s sake, I’m hoping it’s the latter.
Ties have been a controversial accessory on the playground in the past, despite the fact that many private schools include them in their required student uniforms. Some school districts in the U.K. banned them after a boy was hospitalized for a prank involving the act of “peanuting,” which is when a child yanks another child’s tie hard, pulling it tightly around his neck. Another school banned ties because there were deemed a safety risk when students would wear them “too casually.” There have also been schools that have raised concerns about ties catching fire in science lessons, getting trapped in technology equipment or ties getting caught when students are running amok during recess.
But while I’m all for taking the right precautions for my kids’ health, you’ve got to be kidding me when my son’s outfit is considered a mortal threat on the playground. I refuse to be one of those over-protective parents who can’t sleep at night unless my children’s perfectly pre-packed school lunches are completely GMO-free and our refrigerator is fully stocked with fat-free organic soy milk. When I strap them in their car seats, it’s so complicated that it feels like only a corporal sergeant with twenty years of military experience could unbuckle them out.
People, this is childhood we’re talking about, not war. Just like helicopter parenting, there’s a difference between being physically hyper-present and just plain absent when it comes to being realistic.
In other words, like any parent with natural fears, I care about my child getting hurt on the playground, but I’m not going to overly obsess about it. I mean, what’s next? Kids can’t wear shoelaces because they might come untied? Heaven forbid if little Jack trips and falls and comes home bruised because of the dangers that come with unlaced shoes. The horror!
I’m a firm believer that it’s my responsibility as a parent to teach my children that risk is a part of our existence. To give my son the freedom to play and learn from the occasional bump and bruise, rather than try to keep him in a bubble. And I’m pretty sure he’ll do just fine in pre-school, despite the frission of possible danger that comes with wearing a tie.